NFL teams have prepared for this day for many months, putting together their scouting reports and formulating plans. It is the next step in a many-months-long process of building a roster and as fans await the public introduction of those intentions, the reminder from this perspective is that the fans should consider these Rules Of Free Agency as we all see what the Eagles have planned for the coming weeks and months.
1. Free Agency Is But The First Step
How many times have you gone through the first couple of days in free agency wondering why Team X made a certain move or why Team Y used restraint and stayed out of the market? I can tell you that general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly and everyone in the group building this roster has considered all of the angles.
The Eagles signed Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin prior to free agency, understanding how those players fit into this scheme and into the salary structure here. The Eagles are also aware of the market for wide receivers in free agency and they know the way the landscape looks at the position in the draft. Moves that are or aren't made now are decisions made with a mind on the future as well.
Roseman has said that the ideal situation is to go into the draft with no glaring weaknesses. The Eagles were able to move quickly in free agency last year to address several positions, and they went into the draft and stayed true to their board and had a three-day haul that proved very productive in 2013.
The point is, free agency is one step. It's an important one, true, because teams are making significant investments and trusting that the projections they make that players' skills can translate from one scheme to another. Remember, though, that free agency represents one step of several in the development of a team's roster.
2. Don't Fall In Love With Big Names
Free agency is filled with big names who have been productive players for much of their careers and fans are still wide-eyed at the big names. No, no, no. The names are not what's important here. The games are what matter. NFL personnel experts aren't evaluating the names on the back of jerseys. They are grading play-by-play performance and projecting just how a player would fit into a system.
Big names? Free agency for the fans is about excitement and headlines and ramping up for the season. Big names are signed every year, with mixed results. We've seen the Eagles hit it big in the past with marquee signings like cornerback Troy Vincent, running back Ricky Watters, defensive end William Fuller, offensive tackle Jon Runyan and cornerback Asante Samuel. Jevon Kearse was a huge signing in 2004 and had an up-and-down career here.
There have also been some big-ticket misses. The 2011 spree included cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who just didn't get untracked here after a Pro Bowl career in Oakland. Steve Everitt was supposed to be the foundation of the offensive line in 1997. Didn't happen. Chris Boniol would solve the inconsistencies at placekicker that same year, and he lasted all of two seasons in Philadelphia.
The Eagles, and every team, are looking for good football players, not headline-generating names. History proves that some of the best players you don't know a lot about -- for example, Evan Mathis and Connor Barwin here -- are signed in free agency after relatively under-the-radar careers elsewhere and then blossom when they are in the right situations.
3. Free Agency Doesn't Win Super Bowls
We are at the first rung in the ladder as teams put together their rosters, and while free agency represents a chance to improve the roster, build some depth and even add a starting player or two, it doesn't win championships alone. Every team knows that the foundation of the roster is built through the draft.
If teams can add a player or two or three in free agency to bolster the talent level on the roster, great. But the emphasis on roster building comes at draft time. The teams that draft the best, year after year, are the teams that are generally in the postseason and contending for the Super Bowl.
4. No Need To Believe Much Of What You Read
Teams are notoriously tight lipped about their intentions during this time of the year. Reporters work hard to gain any insight, but much of those tidbits come from agents. And agents, of course, want to promote their clients, the players, as much as possible and drum up any kind of perceived interest in the market.
So you read a lot of names being thrown about and not much comes true. In the current case of the Eagles, only a small handful of people know what is really happening behind the scenes. And those people aren't saying a thing.
While the Twitter feeds are hopping and the Internet is generating huge numbers of views today with fans on the edge of their seats waiting for something, anything to happen, teams are going out their business in a precise manner. Roseman has a lot of moving pieces and he loves the action, but he isn't involved in the media and the reports. He is involved in making this the best roster it can be.
All of the reports and the rumors are fun for the fans. Just keep them in perspective. It's a guessing game for the media right now. Teams, for that matter, are in the midst of many conversations. The truth is, deals come together very quickly and, at times, unpredictably, at this time of the year.
5. Keep In Mind: Trades, Waiver Wire And More
This goes back to an earlier point in some regards, but it's just another reminder that the roster is built in many ways. There are trades to consider, smart additions via the waiver wire and the draft ahead. The roster doesn't come together until the week before the regular season begins. A 90-man roster in May is narrowed to 53 in early September, and even then the work doesn't stop.
This is a fun period of time for all of us, so enjoy free agency and keep your eye on what every team in the league is doing, because all of those moves have an impact on what the Eagles roster looks like. The Eagles understand that they won the NFC East last season and are heading in the right direction with Kelly as the head coach, and that there is a lot of work ahead to reach the goal.
It's here, finally. Free agency has landed, and with it the season to build a roster to compete in 2014 and for years to come.