In the days and weeks that follow, as the Eagles put together their roster for the 2010 season, we are going to look back at the first day of free agency and have a much better understanding of what the team had in mind when it signed fullback Leonard Weaver and then, moments later, announced it was releasing linebacker Will Witherspoon.
The Weaver signing was a no-brainer, and a terrific move. Weaver is the best fullback here in decades. He is a complete player who fits this system perfectly, who is being utilized the right way and who has a lot of football in front of him. The three-year deal is reportedly the highest in NFL history for a fullback, and Weaver has established himself as the best fullback for this system.
It really was a great move, a worthy move, and it alleviates any potential headaches around the fullback position for years to come.
The Witherspoon move came out of left field a bit, but I understand the move. Witherspoon didn't play well late in the season. He wasn't alone, of course, as the Eagles lost twice to Dallas, but the Eagles felt that with Akeem Jordan, Stewart Bradley, Moise Fokou and Omar Gaither and any other player they are going to add, the linebackers are better off. Maybe Witherspoon wasn't physical enough. Maybe he just hit a wall and couldn't get over it late in the season.
Anyway, the trade that brought Witherspoon to the Eagles in exchange for wide receiver Brandon Gibson and a fifth-round draft pick this year looks pretty empty now. Gibson would not be more than a fourth receiver here, and a fifth-round pick is recovered easily enough in other deals.
What is next for this football team? I think free agency is, largely, dead. The Eagles will add a piece here and maybe a piece there as they build some depth, but there are no difference-making players on the streets. Restricted free agency? Yeah, maybe, but sometimes all a team does when it signs a restricted free agent is negotiate a deal for the current team of that player. We'll see how creative the Eagles are in that department.
I still think there are going to be plenty of moves made, but now I'm not so sure who or how or why. Maybe it is all about the draft now. Certainly, the draft is the foundation of every roster and after the first blitz of free agency, when only a few teams -- Chicago and Detroit and Atlanta -- signed any players of substance, the league is approaching this off-season that way: Focus on the draft and don't go crazy on older, declining players in free agency.
There are clearly some needs here, and most of them are on defense. The Eagles have a good group to work with on offense, still with a few needs yes, but not nearly as dramatic as are the needs on defense. Offensively, the Eagles must add another running back or two, and they need to determine their offensive line and build some depth.
Defensively, the needs are a lot more urgent. The Eagles reportedly made a play for defensive end Julius Peppers, who ended up in Chicago with a six-year deal and an average of about $13 million per season. You can point to the entire defense -- top to bottom -- and argue that the Eagles could improve everywhere. Defensive line, linebacker, secondary. Challenge all of the positions.
I just don't see the Eagles doing that in free agency. There isn't enough left to add difference-making players on defense. Aaron Kampman, the former Green Bay defensive end? He is not scheduled for any visits and he is coming off a serious knee injury and there are questions about his health for the long term. He is a possibility, I guess, but history says a player like that may wait a day or two or three to see how the market settles. Antrel Rolle was the big name of the safeties in free agency, but the Eagles have shown no interest.
Anybody else out there? Yeah, I'm sure the Eagles have players on their radar, but nothing is brewing at the moment.
We have a long, long way to go here. The Eagles didn't come out of the gates flying. They made the right move with Weaver, no question. They made the move with Witherspoon, which now raises some questions about the linebacker positions and, looking back, the value of the trade last year with the Rams. And they probably did a whole lot of things behind the scenes that I am not aware that they did.
We haven't even talked about the quarterbacks, and for this reason: There appears to be nothing cooking with Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick. St. Louis signed A.J. Feeley, and San Francisco is reportedly looking at David Carr.
Let's see what develops here. New General Manager Howie Roseman is working with a mini-free agency, and the Eagles understood the pickings would be slim for the crop of unrestricted players. That doesn't mean there won't be moves down the line, but what it means is that the team isn't going to deliver a big splash in the first weekend of free agency.
Where do they go from here? They won't panic and they won't deviate from what is important in the blueprint. They have a long way to go in the off-season. They have to be bold and creative and build this team for 2010 and beyond.
Interesting first day. Can't say it was a slam dunk, but I didn't have my hopes up for free agency. Only a few teams dipped into the talent pool, one that really didn't have much to offer and, looking back on the history of free agency, rarely does. Still, it would have been nice to get jacked about the first day of the new year.
We have to settle back and see what the Eagles do, see how they craft what they have to work with in the off-season and build a championship-caliber roster for years to come. When we look back on this day in May, perhaps, after the draft, it will all make more sense. Right now, it is just a step into an uncertain remainder of the off-season.