First, more on Dawkins. There is a lot of speculation about whether he will retire as an Eagle and whether the Eagles will retire his jersey number. To the first part, I say this: Brian will let us all know on Saturday. He's a class act and it's going to be an emotional time when he steps into the NovaCare Complex on Saturday morning. I know there will be a lot of tears, a lot of cheers and long walk down memory lane.
It's a special time to welcome Dawkins back into the family, to be a member forever. This is a unique group of recent retirees, a generation of Eagles from the late 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s that won a lot of games, went deep into the playoffs many times and shared a Super Bowl experience in 2004.
Dawkins was the lightning rod for that group, and his celebration on Saturday -- broadcast live here on PhiladelphiaEagles.com -- will be memorable.
But this is also the most important week in terms of building a roster for NFL teams and front and center in focus is the draft, which begins on Thursday night. The really big news, and I'm not kidding around here, is that teams can increase their rosters to 90 players, an increase from the previous 80-man limit. This is huge.
How does it change the way Andy Reid and Howie Roseman conduct their business? What kind of pressure does it put on the scouting department, which is sure to extend its post-draft signings and, thus, increase its chances of finding diamonds among those players not selected in the draft?
And what does it mean for the rest of free agency, which has slowed to a grind even with more than 200 proven NFL players remaining on the market? Would the Eagles add a couple of pieces, still staying within the salary cap and not taking chances with crazy bonuses, on some positions that need depth?
The game has changed here a bit, and if you think 10 extra players is insignificant, you aren't thinking correctly. There are more bodies to learn about, more players to teach and tighter, more concise practices to conduct. The preseason games are going to be even more vital to learn about the players, although I'm not sure how much projected starters are going to play in those games.
With a well-executed offseason to date, the Eagles have some flexibility within their salary cap, so adding 10 players isn't going to strain them there. Unless they unexpectedly go hog wild and sign a bunch of veterans before and after the draft, the Eagles are going to be fine from a cap standpoint.
Likely, the post-draft period will be extremely competitive, and if the Eagles prefer, they can go the veteran route to add quality depth to the roster. They can look for a specialty player here and there. They can look for that certain trait that endears a player to them.
Maybe having the extra 10 roster spots changes some late-round draft strategy, too. Maybe the Eagles will have more of a chance to add late-round picks, or trade some away, knowing they have some roster maneuverability.
I don't know what it all means. It's possible that, instead of filling out the end of the roster with non-drafted players, the Eagles turn back into the free-agency market, or work some trades with teams that will be stretched with the salary cap limit looming.
There is a great buzz building for the week ahead. It started with a bang when Dawkins announced his retirement. The excitement level is ratcheting higher every hour.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- The Asante Samuel rumors are really percolating, with the latest tidbit, from FOX's Jay Glazer, that the Falcons are looking to trade for Samuel. Very interesting. The Falcons don't have a lot of draft ammunition after last year's draft weekend moves, but they have some cap room. Stay tuned.
- Where is all of the love coming from regarding Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones, who is all of a sudden a mock draft darling to go to the Eagles at No. 15? I think it speaks to a couple of things: One, the marquee names tail off in this draft after the 13th or 14th pick and two, Jones' versatility makes him attractive to teams. He's a fine prospect, don't get me wrong, and I think anybody who can play end and tackle in this defense is a plus, but the name just isn't what I'm expecting at this point in the world of mock drafts. Why am I thinking cornerback right now?
- The big-time wild card in this draft is cornerback Janoris Jenkins, a first-round talent who, based on football skills alone, would be a top-10 selection. He's had off-the-field issues, of course, but he will be drafted in the first two rounds. Would the Eagles think about adding another highly-rated cornerback?
- I still don't have a feel for the Eagles and their plans. Do they trade into the top 10? It sounds like Jacksonville wants to move out of the top 10, but how much would it take to go from 15 to 7? I think a trade out of 15 might be more logical than a trade into the top 10. Then again, we have to see how those first six picks go. The Eagles will have scenarios in which they move up, stay put and move down in the first round.
- With that 90-man roster, teams can carry a fourth quarterback with no problem. So, yeah, if the Eagles weren't thinking of adding one during draft weekend, they can do so now. Ten extra roster spots through the summer -- remember, training camp practices include only one session in pads per day -- add so much flexibility to the roster.