In previous years it was fair to expect that the best teams in the league treated free agency as a chance to hit a need spot here and there, but that the real backbone of roster was the NFL draft. That remains true to a degree in the big picture. We will judge this Eagles 2011 rookie class not by how it performs this year, but how it looks two, three and even four years down the line.
Free agency is going to be a different animal this year. I expect there to be a free-agency period, and a frenzied one at that. With hundreds of players on the streets it is going to be a buyer's market. Teams are going to be aggressive, and the Eagles have already indicated that they have that mindset.
Instead of one or two pieces in free agency, then, teams are going to look for more. The Eagles are in the fortunate position of having a playoff roster, one that is young and improving. They also have the chance to get a whole lot better because of a favorable cap situation, a plethora of options in free agency and a clearly-defined list of areas to address.
It is, then, with great anticipation that I look forward to free agency. Whenever it gets here – and it just can't be soon enough – the Eagles have an opportunity they haven't had in years and years: They have needs and they have cash and they have the chance to get this roster up to Super Bowl caliber in the speed-signing days that free agency promises to be.
More than in any year, then, free agency needs to be big for the Eagles. The franchise has generally been judicial in free agency and has hit on as many targets as any team in the NFL, but this year things are different. The hit ratio has to be high, and immediate.
PREPARING FOR A LOT OF WORK AHEAD
Think about the chaos that will happen from an athletic training staff perspective, and be thankful that the Eagles have Rick Burkholder and his staff, voted best in the NFL by their peers in 2010. Once business opens, each and every player has to take a complete physical prior to any kind of practice. The Eagles also have about a dozen players who have had surgery, so that group must go through more extensive testing.
Prospective free agents are likely to have had a background check already, but there could be some cases in which Burkholder and his staff must go the extra mile.
And if there is going to be a training camp away from the NovaCare Complex – I still believe that if the CBA is done within the next week or so the intention will be to go to Lehigh University – then the athletic training staff has to set up shop at Lehigh.
Once practice begins, well, it could be that players are going to have more nicks and nagging injuries than usual having not had the benefit of football-related activities and treatments throughout the offseason months.
It's going to be a ton of work in a very compressed period of time. Fortunately, the Eagles have a great staff in place able to handle the load.
WILL EAGLES ADD A VETERAN QB?
I've spent time thinking about a lot of "what-if" scenarios and certainly the prospect of trading Kevin Kolb has been discussed. So what if the Eagles trade him? It's clear the Eagles like Mike Kafka, who really would have benefited from the offseason to throw and work in the system and improve. But I also think the Eagles would add another quarterback, perhaps a veteran presence. Who would that be? Who fits into the role of backup here? For the fun of it, let's discuss from my perspective …
- Donovan McNabb. The thinking out there is that Washington will try to trade McNabb or, if that effort fails, release him. Would McNabb be right here as a backup? He knows the system. He knows the coaching staff and the players. All good. But no way. No how. I don't see it, not for a minute. Andy Reid does not need a circus. In a very short time span to get ready for the regular season, Reid wants his players to have as few distractions as possible. Good luck to McNabb. Great guy. Was a wonderful Eagle. But it's over.
- Vince Young. An intriguing name. A young quarterback with a lot of talent who regressed significantly in Tennessee. Now Young is at a career crossroads. I believe that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson would get the most out of any player, including Young, but there isn't much time to get him up to speed in the system and iron out his mechanics.
- Jake Delhomme. Who knows if he is going to stay in Cleveland? Delhomme probably feels he can be a starting quarterback in the league and I'm sure he will look for that opportunity. I didn't see Delhomme at all in 2010, but his profile is one that I like: Veteran guy, leader, can learn a system pretty darn fast.
- Tarvaris Jackson. In a similar category as Young, Jackson is on the outs in Minnesota, it appears. The kid has talent and has shown flashes of being pretty good.
- Marc Bulger. Can he still play? Or has Bulger just taken too many hits over the course of his career? I like the idea of a veteran and his name has been floated in scenarios with Arizona and Miami, to name two.
AND, FINALLY …
Some quick hitters from me, football and non-football …
- How many veteran players really look forward to training camp? For many of them, well, let's just say jumping right into training camp isn't going to be the most pleasant of times.
- I watched the NBA draft and a minute or two of the NHL draft and neither comes close to the drama and the pageantry of the NFL draft. The NFL does it the right way. That's why the ratings are so strong. That's why the NFL draft is such an event.
- There is exactly one player on the Eagles' roster who really doesn't need a lot of practice. I've actually spent time thinking about this. And you know who that is? Long snapper Jon Dorenbos should able to step off a bus and be ready to go. I'm sure he's in good shape and I'm sure he has done his work in the offseason. It's good to have a veteran Pro Bowl long snapper on this roster.
- I've done my share of movie watching this summer, including the superhero-themed ones. X-Men, the third in the series, was excellent. Terrific. Two thumbs up. Green Lantern was not nearly as good as I hoped it would be but, hey, I enjoyed. Haven't been blown away by a great movie in a long, long time, though.
- The Eagles won the Robert P. Levy Award from the Philadelphia Sports Congress on Tuesday at the Annual Wanamaker Awards Luncheon, and Eagles Youth Partnership executive director Sarah Martinez-Helfman did a wonderful job accepting on the team's behalf. I just hope it means as much to you as it should at the work the Eagles do in the community and with their environmental efforts. As proud as I am to be part of an organization that does it right on the field – and I know, I know, the ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl has not yet been attained – I am every bit as proud at the work the entire organization does to make a difference for the world off the field.