Free agency hasn't even officially started, and already the roller coaster is roaring. Up and down and all around our stomachs go as free agency opens and the league year begins on Tuesday. Remember the rules of free agency, please: We're a long, long way away from seeing a finished Eagles roster.
Free agency is the first of many steps, and not one transaction is to be wasted. There are no such things as "camp bodies" that we know from the old days when rosters ballooned to over 100 players and Training Camp lasted six weeks and the attrition rate from twice-a-day tackling taxed every team. NFL teams carry 90 players and while some players admittedly face long odds, they have a chance all the same.
So what are we to expect on Tuesday when free agency opens? If it's anything like the weekend reports, it's going to be pretty crazy, fast moving and unpredictable. And it's just the first part of the process.
Last year was a reminder for everyone, as the Eagles added some key pieces after the first wave of free agency was finished. The trade for running back/kick returner Darren Sproles was made four days after the opening of free agency. Placekicker Cody Parkey was acquired in a trade with Indianapolis late in the summer. Even though he was a role player, Chris Prosinski was an immediate contributor on special teams after the Eagles signed him in early November.
The roster is a constantly evolving. It is, really, a work of football art, and NFL personnel departments always have the challenge of building for today and keeping an eye on tomorrow.
This team has created some areas that must be addressed far beyond anything that the fertile playground of free agency can provide. While the Eagles have the means to add some prime talent and address some of the needs that head coach Chip Kelly identifies, the backbone of every franchise is the draft, and every team keeps its eyes open through the summer to add some players to the bottom third of a roster who can step up and contribute.
Patience is required for all of us. Kelly's vision is one that only he and vice president of player personnel Ed Marynowitz share and execute. The Eagles have some assets to use – they are in good shape within the salary cap and they have eight draft picks to use in April/May. Rumors are rampant. Reports are circulating. Nothing is official until 4 p.m. on Tuesday, and then and only then we'll have a sense of where the Eagles stand and what direction they are taking.
Whatever happens, and no matter how difficult it's going to be, don't rush to judgment. Kelly has his vision and he deserves time to put his plan fully in place. Clearly the Eagles have grand plans after releasing four veterans and clearing out a lot of salary cap space. There are positions of need on the defense with cornerback Cary Williams released and cornerback Bradley Fletcher and safety Nate Allen scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on Tuesday. Outside linebacker is in a similar situation with Trent Cole making the grand tour of teams after the Eagles released him and with Brandon Graham free to sign with any team on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
So there is much to do. The roster won't be completed in free agency, no matter how enticing the market may be. There is the natural urge to rush to hysteria and no matter how much you hear about being patient and letting the roster building run through its course, you are going to have a tough time. That's the fun of being a fan – having that emotional commitment and living in the moment during the offseason and in the season.
Wins or losses in free agency, Kelly is going to have moves and counter attacks and answers when none are overly apparent to those on the outside. Free agency is fast and furious and often, incorrectly, calculated in a matter of a day or two.
No, no, no. The Eagles are going to consider every roster spot from now until September, and even beyond. Each move matters. The roller coaster we feel in our stomachs is just starting, not to end until 2015 ends and we can judge the success of the roster makeover.