Have The Eagles Done Enough In Free Agency?
Just two-and-a-half weeks into free agency, the Eagles roster has a much different flavor than the one that suited up to take on the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship game. But if the Eagles were not to make another move until the draft in April, will the Eagles have done enough in free agency?
What exactly does "enough" mean? This has to be looked at from a number of different angles.
What have the Eagles accomplished so far in free agency? For starters, they are a lot younger or green as one might say. Pardon the pun. According to an NFL study of the 2008 opening day rosters, the average age and years of experience of the Eagles players were 26.58 years old and 4.42. With the loss of veterans such as Brian Dawkins (13 years in the league), Tra Thomas (11 years) and Correll Buckhalter (eight years), the Eagles' average age and years of experience will be reduced in 2009.
Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily.
When the Colts won the Super Bowl in 2006, they were the third-youngest team in the league. The Giants were the eighth-youngest in 2007 and had a number of rookies playing key roles including cornerback Aaron Ross and tight end Kevin Boss. The Steelers, this past season's champs, were older than the Eagles in age, but went through a purging of older vets in the previous off-season which included guard Alan Faneca and linebacker Clark Haggans.
How are the Eagles going to replace those long-tenured vets? Along the offensive line, the Eagles inked Stacy Andrews to a six-year deal on the second day of free agency. Andrews gives the Eagles a number of options with his versatility to play guard or tackle. While the draft could provide another piece of the puzzle here, the Eagles already have a formidable offensive line in place.
At safety, the Eagles are going to give Sean Jones a chance with a one-year deal. Jones had 14 picks over the last three years, the third-most among NFL safeties, but a knee injury early in the 2008 season kept him from reaching his potential. The Eagles are also high on last year's fourth-round draft pick, Quintin Demps, who got more and more involved with the defense as his rookie season wore on.
The Eagles certainly didn't make the splash they did when free agency kicked off in 2008. It was then that they signed the best defensive player to hit the market in cornerback Asante Samuel and followed that up with some added firepower for the defensive line in end Chris Clemons. But after forcing just 19 turnovers and producing a modest 37 sacks in the non-playoff year of 2007, the Eagles had a glaring area of improvement. This past season, the third-best defense in the NFL created 27 turnovers (not including another two more on special teams) and notched 48 sacks.
Between the talent on the free agent market and the developing players already on the Eagles roster, there wasn't a huge hole to fill in this year's free agency. Of course, there remains work to be done. The Eagles must ask themselves whether any remaining question marks on the roster can be filled in the draft. The Eagles need to bolster the depth at running back. Same at tight end. And even with Jones at safety, another one will probably need to be added.
So while the Eagles may have used free agency to get younger, an overwhelming majority of the starters for 2009 got to experience the run to the NFC title tilt last season. And with 12 draft picks, there is plenty of ammo to acquire talent from the college ranks or trade for a veteran. Over the next few months as the draft unfolds and the team convenes for the post-draft mini-camps, we will learn if the Eagles used their time and money in free agency wisely.