Now that Super Bowl XLIII is in the books and the offseason is officially here, let's take a look at some of the key dates to mark on the calendar that will go a far way in terms of shaping the 2009 Philadelphia Eagles ...
Feb. 8 - Pro Bowl
OK, most people view the Super Bowl as the end of the football season. But for those that want one last fix, there is the annual all-star game which will be held in Honolulu for possibly the final time. Free safety Brian Dawkins is the lone Eagles representative as cornerback Asante Samuel dropped out for injury reasons.
Feb. 18-24 - NFL Scouting Combine
The Scouting Combine is a four-day job interview for players who hope to improve their standing in the upcoming draft. For the players, they have to go through measurements, exams - including the infamous Wonderlic test, interviews with the teams and, most important, the workout itself. In the workout, the players are timed in football drills (without pads) and compared against their peers. For the teams, it's the chance to interview the players and get to know them on a personal level. It's also an opportunity to witness the players perform the drills and get a good look at them first-hand instead of on game tape. The Combine provides players from small schools the chance to compete on a level playing field. It gives the teams a way to sort out players who might be very close to one another. And it gives the players the chance to boost their draft stock, which can provide a bigger signing bonus and job security.
**Here is a list of the players** who have been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.
Feb. 19 - Tag Deadline
This is the deadline for teams to assign either the franchise tag or the transition tag on a soon-to-be free agent. If a player is given the "exclusive" franchise tag, this player is not free to sign with another club. As compensation, an "exclusive" franchise player is offered either the average of the top five salaries at that player's position for either the previous year or the upcoming year or a 120 percent raise from his previous year's salary - whichever of the three is greater. A player can also be handed a "non-exclusive" franchise tag, which allows him to negotiate with other clubs. If a "non-exclusive" player signs with a new team, the old team can match the offer or receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.
If a player is given the transition tag, he receives either the average salary of the top 10 players at his position or a 120 percent raise, again whichever is greater. A transition player can negotiate with other teams and the old team has the right to match the offer. But if a transition player signs with a new team, then the old team receives no compensation in the form of draft picks.
In numbers released by the NFL Players Association, the highest franchise tag number this year is at the quarterback position - $14.65 million. The lowest franchise tag number is for punters and kickers which is $2.48 million.
Last year, the Eagles used the ""non-exclusive"" franchise tag on tight end L.J. Smith. Each team can only use either the franchise or transition tag once per year. The team has the right to designate a player with a tag and remove it at a later date. The Eagles did that with defensive tackle Corey Simon in 2005.
Feb. 27 - Free Agency Begins
Teams can begin to negotiate with players whose contracts have expired. There are different levels of free agency. An unrestricted free agent has four "accrued" seasons in the league and his contract has expired. He can sign freely with another team with no compensation due to the old club. A restricted free agent has three "accrued" seasons and his contract has expired. A restricted free agent can negotiate with other teams until April 17. If a restricted free agent signs an offer sheet with a new team, the old team can match it. If the old club chooses not to, it is potentially eligible to receive draft picks as compensation depending on the level of the original qualifying offer from the old team. For example, the one-year tender offered to cornerback Joselio Hanson last season would have garnered a second-round pick for the Eagles if Hanson had signed elsewhere.
What is an "accrued" season? It is six-or-more games on a club's 53-man active roster, injured reserve or physically unable to perform lists.
**Here is a look at the 10 Eagles** scheduled to become free agents.
April 25-26 - NFL Draft
Here is where the Eagles will build for the present and the future. The Eagles are well-positioned to take advantage of this year's annual selection meeting of college players. The Eagles own each of their draft picks in all seven rounds. Their first pick will be at No. 21 overall, but the Eagles have an additional first-round selection, No. 28, courtesy of the trade last year with Carolina. The Eagles also have an additional fifth-round pick from Cleveland and an extra sixth-round pick acquired from Minnesota. The Eagles may also receive compensatory selections, additional draft picks, for the loss of free agents last offseason. These compensatory selections are announced about a month before the draft.
**Here is a look at the order of selection** for this year's draft.