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Friday, February 13, 2009

The Philadelphia Eagles: Free Agency Vs. The Draft Part Three

Back in 2003, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted L.J. Smith out of Rutgers to replace Chad Lewis, one of Donovan McNabb’s favorite targets early in his career. Since that day, Philadelphia fans have been waiting for his breakout year. It hasn’t come thus far, and it probably won’t come as a member of the Eagles if it does at all. Last year, the Birds slapped the franchise tag on Smith, giving him a one year salary of 4.5 million, mainly because they didn’t have any better options. Tony Gonzalez was rumored to be available, just like he is now, but I don’t believe the Eagles had any serious interest in the All-Pro Chief. By the end of 2008, Brent Celek, a 2nd year player out of Cincinnati proved he could find the crease, get open on pass plays, and hold onto the ball, something with which Smith was just to inconsistent.

I fully expect the Eagles to play the Celek card for next year and let L.J. go find himself a new home. Brent is not a game breaker by any means, nor can he block as well as the team would like, but he is serviceable enough to be a productive member of the offense as could be seen during the course of last season. Matt Schobel, third on the depth chart is a take him or leave him player, but I would rather hold on to him if the Eagles are going to pick up someone through the draft and no one through free agency. Otherwise, guys like Schobel are a dime-a-dozen and can be replaced rather easily. The best Tight End in free agency is Owen Daniels from the Texans, but he is a restricted FA and the Texans will probably resign him. The next guy on the list is the Titan’s Bo Scaife, who is a nice player, but for the money, I’ll stick with Celek.
Oklahoma State tight end, Brandon Pettigrew, appears to be the stud in this year’s draft.

Whether he is or not, no one can tell. Kyle Brady was a big time prospect at one point too and he was a touch under average. Regardless, I don’t think he will be available when the Eagles pick at 21, and I don’t thing there is any way they would trade up for him. In fact, I’m not sold on the idea that they would take him anyway, even if he did fall to their spot. After Pettigrew, the next batch of guys is a rung down the ladder. I do think they will be able to pick up someone like Jared Cook in the second round. Cook has good ball skills, but like Celek, can’t block. Pettigrew is by far the best blocker of all the top tight ends available in the draft this year, most of the other potential draftees being considered as below average blockers. But again, I must reiterate, it would be nothing of a surprise if he ends up in Philly next year.

When the Eagles selected L.J. Smith, they passed up a guy named Jason Witten, and since then Smith has found himself the 4th best tight end in the NFC East. The Eagles at one time identified that position as important enough to spend a high draft pick on it, and I think they need to have that priority again. Brent Celek can catch the ball, but you cannot have him on the line to run block. For that you need a guy like Brandon Pettigrew and that type of player is hard to come by. However, if he happens to find a home at the Linc, it would be a nice addition to the squad.

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