The Eagles have their plan for free agency. They've made their lists and they've factored in the players they think will be retained by their current teams. It won't be surprising which players are actually free agents when free agency begins if a team correctly predicts the market.
What to expect, then, when free agency begins are March 11 at 4 p.m.? The list of players expected to become unrestricted free agents at that time looks pretty impressive now, but the names are going to come off the board rapidly between now and then. Teams are more interested in locking up players they know fit into their system rather than invest in the "risks" of the market.
The Eagles know all of this, of course. They know who is going to be there in two weeks, give or take a name or three. They know their targets right now, and they aren't going to whisper and make them public.
If the team sees a player on the market who can upgrade this roster, the Eagles are going to try to make the upgrade. At the same time, they're going to try to retain some of their own unrestricted free agents to be, and they're going to look into extending some contracts of young players on the roster and they're going to continuing preparing for the May 8-10 NFL draft.
This is a busy time. It's a crucial time. And the action starts in two weeks. I've got some thoughts about the state of the Eagles and where they are as the NFL Scouting Combine winds up in Indianapolis ...
- We haven't heard any updates from the Eagles regarding any talks they might be having with current members of the roster who are slated to become UFA's on March 11. We know how challenging the wide receiver position is with both Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper on target for free agency, and it's also an enticing position in the draft. The draftniks say the depth of talent is great at the position in the draft. Beyond Maclin and Cooper, the Eagles have some other questions. Do they retain punter Donnie Jones? Where is safety Nate Allen on their list of priorities? How about special teams core player Colt Anderson?
- Just as a reminder, the Eagles are well positioned within the salary cap. They have enough flexibility to do as they would like. That doesn't mean the Eagles are going to go hog wild in free agency. To the contrary, really. I don't have huge expectations for free agency, because when all is said and done I think most of the big "names" will be retained by their current teams, either with long-term deals or "franchise" tags. The Eagles are going to be smart shoppers, and they see a player who can be a difference maker, they will go after him hard.
- Name a name in free agency? I truly can't. I don't think the safeties that fans mention so much -- Jarius Byrd and T.J. Ward -- are going to be free agents. Who else is out there on defense? This is the true test of a strong personnel department, finding those players who aren't household names and find the right fits for the schemes the Eagles run.
- Not that anyone cares, but I think Houston goes defense with the first pick overall and then takes a quarterback with its second pick. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Texans trade back into the first round for their QB.
- There has been quite a bit of talk about the Eagles addressing their depth along the offensive line, and it certainly could happen. I point to three players and wonder how they factor into the mix. Dennis Kelly was a fifth-round draft pick in 2012 and spent last season recovering from back surgery. He was on the active roster, but didn't play after a strong rookie season. Maybe he makes the big jump in 2014. Allen Barbre filled in nicely for left tackle Jason Peters at times last season and also has the ability to play inside. He' s a solid veteran. And then there's Matt Tobin, who signed as a rookie free agent in 2013 after a fine career at Iowa. The coaches speak highly of his development in his first season.
- Curious to see how Damaris Johnson factors into the equation at wide receiver. He had a promising rookie year in 2012 and a really strong preseason last year and then struggled to get any time during the regular season. Does he work his way into the mix here at wide receiver or as a return man?