The Eagles are wasting no time in free agency addressing their primary need, the offensive line. They will have highly-regarded and highly-sought right tackle Stacy Andrews in for a visit later in the day on Friday. He boarded a late-morning plane and is expected in to the NovaCare Complex later in the afternoon. Andrews will be made available to the Philadelphia media on Saturday at 11:30 AM.
Andrews is a massive 6 feet 7, 342-pound mountain of a man who played the 2008 season under the franchise tag in Cincinnati. An enormously gifted player who can line up at right guard and right tackle, Andrews is a logical candidate to man the latter position, given the current configuration of the Eagles' offensive line right now.
Late in the '08 season, in the 15th game in fact, Andrews suffered a serious knee injury and underwent surgery in early January to repair two ligaments in his right knee – his anterior cruciate ligament and his medial collateral ligament – and will be given a rigorous physical examination by the Eagles during his visit, which could extend into Saturday.
Andrews is the older brother of Eagles offensive lineman Shawn Andrews, and a reunion would probably be a welcomed event by Shawn, who had a difficult 2008 season, both physically and emotionally. Shawn did not participate in training camp while suffering from a bout of depression, and then his 2008 season lasted just six quarters before a back injury sidelined him for the rest of the year.
Should the Eagles get a deal done with Stacy Andrews, they would have a chance to form an absolutely gigantic right side of the offensive line, with Shawn at right guard and Stacy at right tackle.
All of that is, of course, pending the results of the physical examination the Eagles will put Andrews through Friday and into Saturday. Even with his injury, Andrews is coveted by many teams in this free-agency period, because he is one of the more talented young linemen in the game, with his best football expected to come in the future.
"Stacy is as athletic a guy as you'll see for his level of size and strength,"" said Paul Alexander, the Bengals' assistant head coach and offensive line coach. "We knew we'd have to invest a lot of time to make up for his lack of football experience, but we think that's paying off now."
Maybe it will for the Eagles in 2009, and beyond.
Andrews never played football until he attended the University of Mississippi. He redshirted his first season at Ole Miss, and then improved enough to get noticed by NFL scouts. The Bengals made him a fourth-round draft pick in 2004, the same year the Eagles drafted Shawn in the first round.
The two have never played together and now, maybe, they will.
Stacy Andrews headlines an offensive line group that is, like the rest of free agency, fairly thin in depth. But make no mistake about Andrews; teams around the league have shown great interest because he has so many great physical skills and because he has improved so much in such a short time.
In Cincinnati, Andrews played very little as a rookie in 2004, saw bits of action the next season and then worked his way into the lineup at right guard and right tackle in 2006. Andrews was a full-time starter in 2007 at right tackle and was part of a Bengals offensive line performance that allowed just 17 quarterback sacks, a team record and second-fewest in the NFL.
The Bengals thought so much of Andrews that they used the franchise tag designation on him prior to free agency in 2008 at a time when Andrews was expected to draw heavy interest from around the league.
"Stacy has been a productive young player for us," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement released by the club when Andrews was tagged. "He has shown the flexibility to start and play well at a number of different positions on our line. This move helps us keep our core players together, and it gives us an opportunity to continue negotiating for a longer-term contract with Stacy."
Cincinnati's offense struggled in '08, largely because quarterback Carson Palmer was sidelined much of the season with an arm injury. Andrews was a mainstay at right tackle until his injury.
The future for Andrews is bright, and the Eagles hope he comes in, passes his physical examination with flying colors and then … Contract talks and the business side of things will take over then.
Offensive line is, of course, a huge need for the Eagles with left tackle Tra Thomas and right tackle Jon Runyan in the market as unrestricted free agents. Runyan has his own medical concerns and likely won't be able to pass a physical until the summer. Thomas is free to negotiate with any NFL team, but there have been no updates on the interest he has attracted.
As they have done in past years, the Eagles are jumping right into free agency. They hope to land a bookend for their offensive line, team him with his brother – while they haven't played on the same team, they have played against each other once in college and once in the NFL -- and give the offense more bulk and push up front.
There are some hurdles to clear before that, though. Andrews' medical condition is the big test, but the Eagles have done their research and have seen enough injuries over the years to feel comfortable enough to bring him to Philadelphia for a visit, and maybe more.