First up, there is the matter of tags. From what we know -- based on the reports, of course -- teams will be able to use one franchise tag. It is not clear -- as I have read things -- if teams can use one franchise tag per year, or if there is a defined period of time here. The Eagles, of course, used the franchise tag on Michael Vick, and the Pro Bowl quarterback signed his tender. So if, indeed, there is a franchise tag, Vick is signed, sealed and delivered.
It could have gone another way, and that would be no franchise tag and, thus, a potentially sticky situation of signing Vick. Good news, then.
If there is no transition tag, as there has been in past years, then the Eagles are in a situation with Pro Bowl placekicker David Akers. Akers was tendered the transition tag, but if there is no tag, then he could be an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any NFL team. The vision, then, of drafting Alex Henery in the fourth round in April should be applauded.
If Akers wants to test the market -- and reports were that the Eagles tried to sign him late in the 2010 season, offering him a contract worthy of top-5 kicker status in the NFL, but that Akers turned the deal down -- he is likely to have that opportunity. Part of what we think we know about the new CBA includes a 72-hour window during which teams can have exclusive time to negotiate with their free-agents-to-be, so maybe the Eagles make a renewed effort here. Maybe not. I don't know the plan.
That 72-hour window would prove helpful to teams trying to retain their own players, and the Eagles have some players who have expired contracts who they are going to want to keep. Among those who could soon be unrestricted free agents -- reportedly, players who have been in the league for at least four years and who have expired contracts -- are linebackers Stewart Bradley and Ernie Sims, cornerback Dimitri Patterson, safety Quintin Mikell, running back Jerome Harrison and punter Sav Rocca.
It's a significant list -- you have four defensive starters right off the bat from the 2010 season -- but it is nowhere near as extensive as some teams have in front of them. NFL front offices will be tested mightily in the coming weeks.
Of course, everyone is going to be tested mightily. Consider the potential change here: four new defensive starters learning under first-year coordinator Juan Castillo, formerly an offensive line coach, and a new placekicker. That isn't even getting into the offense, which is going to have a shakeup along the line of scrimmage and maybe at backup quarterback.
Certainly, the reports could be off here and there. The rules we think will be in place may not be there when the deal is done. I'm certain the Eagles have thought all of this stuff through, have anticipated the scenarios and have considered whom they want to keep and who they want to move away from. Obviously, the idea of selecting Henery in the April draft was an anticipatory move. They loved Henery, the most prolific kicker in NCAA history, but they also knew they could be sitting here, right here, without a kicker if they let Henery go by.
They took Henery, and now it looks like a very, very smart move.
But who knows? We haven't even seen the kid yet. That's about the change, as is a whole lot about the NFL as we knew it.