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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Philadelphia Eagles: Free Agency Vs. The Draft, Part 1

What positions do the Eagles need to focus on as the off-season kicks off officially with the NFL combine followed up by the opening of free agency? Well, that depends on where you stand. Running back, wide receiver, tight end, safety, defensive line, fullback, offensive line are all areas that need to be addressed. That in no small part will happen during the NFL Draft in April, but it could also happen when players become available at the end of the month. Who will they target, well that depends too. In the past, the Birds have valued some areas more than others, hence the fact they have had one Pro-Bowl receiver (T.O) during Andy’s tenure.

Offensive Tackle should be a major concern for the Philadelphia Eagles. Their two starters, Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan are without a doubt getting up there in age and there are no guarantees that either one will be back in green next year. On top of that, their back ups leave too much to be desired. Winston Justice was something of a revolving door when he played in 2007 and has done nothing to prove he was worth trading up for in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft. Shawn Andrews was supposed to be the heir apparent to Jon Runyan and has become a dominating guard in the meantime. His desire to play the game has now been called into question over an iffy back problem. At this point I would hope the Eagles are not relying on this guy coming back, and if they are, not at the tackle position. That essentially leaves two open bookend spots.

In free agency there is not much they can go with. Jordan Gross, a potential free agent of the Carolina Panthers could be a route the Eagles might turn. They signed Runyan as their first big free agent signing from Tennessee all those years back so it is not out of the question if they push hard after Gross. Otherwise, there are not that many better options than Thomas and Runyan. Free Agency’s only other decent offers would be Vernon Carney of Miami, Cincinnati’s Stacy Andrews, and the Steeler’s Max Starks, and one or two of these guys will probably re-sign with their current team. I would say with some sense of confidence that if the Eagles do not get the top guy on the market, they will try to re-sign both Thomas and Runyan and move to picking up a top notch player with one of their two first round picks.

This years draft seems to have a few tackles with first round potential. Unless the Eagles move up, I think the top couple of players will be off the board when the Birds’ first pick at 21 is on the clock. Michael Oher from Mississipi is a possibility but it is really too early to tell who might still be there. If there is a player the Eagles really like and really want, I would expect them to move up. They have a history in doing so. Just a few years ago, they moved up and took Andrews, so instead of having to pay two first rounders, they’ll slide up 6 or so spots and get their guy.
When the free agency flurry begins, the Eagles are almost certain to be players, and I would imagine if Jordan Gross is available, he’ll get a call from Philly. Either way, the Eagles will hopefully not set themselves up to having to play Winston Justice and in turn a back up QB when McNabb gets killed. They are too smart to let that happen unless they out-think their own genius. But if Gross isn’t available, Philly fans will have to wait until April to see which direction the franchise will move.

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