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One Eye On Combine, One On Free Agency

The 40-yard-dash times provide the pre-draft scuttlebutt as the Scouting Combine steams along, and we all have a chance to inject some hype and hope and rumor intrigue to April's NFL Draft. All of that is great fodder to while away the hours until Friday, 12:01 a.m., a significant time in the world of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Because as much as all that happens in Indianapolis impacts the big-picture view for the Eagles, the next days leading to Friday are going to tell us all a lot. There is a clock ticking, people, and I know you hear it. The Joselio Hanson deal that was agreed upon on Friday evening was sure to set in motion a series of events setting the Eagles up for free agency. These things work in cycles: One player gets a contract done and then it's another player and then another player and so on.

Since Hanson's deal was announced, though, we have heard nothing. And now it's Sunday. And Friday seems like only a few hours away, and there is a lot of work to do for the Eagles.

I'm not going to believe anything I read from this point forward about "pending" deals or "discussions," nor am I going to take for granted that any player on the Eagles' list of unrestricted free agents to be will be signed prior to Friday. Yeah, that means Brian Dawkins. And that means Tra Thomas. And that means any of the half-dozen veterans who contributed to this team over the years.

There are too many scenarios the Eagles must consider before they make final decisions. They have, of course, thought through many of these scenarios in the weeks since the 2008 season ended. But every day, there are new angles to consider. Veterans are being cut around the league. Draft prospects are putting their athletic skills on display at the Combine.

And the Eagles are, no doubt, conducting meetings among themselves to determine just which route they should take to get to where they want to be for 12:01 a.m. Friday. Let's update, as best as possible, the list of Eagles scheduled to be unrestricted free agents on Friday ...

Correll Buckhalter, running back: One report out there suggests that 12 teams are interested in Buckhalter. I have to be honest and wonder about the validity of this report. Don't kid yourselves into thinking that agents are innocent here in the pre-free agency hype. All an agent has to do is call a reporter and tell him that 12 teams are interested in his client and, hey, we have a story. Buckhalter is going to get some interest, but is he going to get interest as a starting running back? I don't know one way or the other if Buckhalter will return to the Eagles next year. Quality player, great guy in the locker room, but will the Eagles look to go younger as a backup to Brian Westbrook?

Sean Considine, safety: My guess is that Considine is seeking a starting safety job and there is going to be a team out there that gives him that chance. Considine had a terrific season on special teams for the Eagles, and he played well when he worked within the defense. He wants to start. He is young, smart and there is, I think, going to be a team out there that goes after him pretty hard in free agency.

Brian Dawkins, safety: It is hard to think that Dawkins could play somewhere else, but the reality is that it's Sunday and the time is dwindling to sign Dawkins. One reader on our Discussion Boards wondered about Gibril Wilson, who was cut by the Raiders and is a player in whom the Eagles reportedly had an interest last year when he was a free agent. I don't know about that. I know that Dawkins is a quality player, a team leader, a beloved figure in the world of the Eagles. I just can't think about him playing elsewhere.

Jon Runyan, offensive tackle: Everything is on hold with Runyan until, I'm assuming, he shows how healthy he is after recovering from surgery on his knee. Runyan has a couple of months, at least, of rehab in front of him. At that point, if history serves as an accurate barometer, he will work out for any team that has an opening at right tackle and show them he can play. What that means for the Eagles is that they probably have to cover themselves and not take the chance that Runyan will recover.

L.J. Smith, tight end:No franchise tag and no whispers that the Eagles are considering bringing Smith back. So it sure looks like Smith will enter free agency. How much will a team spend on Smith, who might be the best unrestricted free agent tight end on the market? Can you imagine a huge deal?

Tra Thomas, offensive tackle:Tick, tock. The team's starting left tackle since 1998 remains a good player, a good leader. Do the Eagles sign him, or do they try to go younger and move some pieces around the offensive line and use the draft to supplement? There are no big-time left tackles ready to hit the free-agent market. Instead, Jordan Gross and Vernon Carey signed huge deals, which Thomas' agent no doubt noticed. This is a very interesting case and I don't have a feel for which way it is going to go, I really don't. Does Thomas stay or does he become an unrestricted free agent? Scary thought, yes, but that is the reality of the situation.

There are also the restricted free agency cases of guard Nick Cole and wide receiver Hank Baskett, both of which need to be resolved no later than Thursday. There are many things to consider with those players, including the possibility of long-term contracts, the level at which the players are tendered and the chance that another team could come in and make either player an offer when free agency begins.

So it is a busy, busy time, and it also a time when the window is closing for decisions to be made. Welcome to Deadline Week for the Eagles, who have a lot of work in the days ahead.

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