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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

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

One consistent thing that the Philadelphia Eagles have done during the off season is try to upgrade their O and D lines. Their offensive line needs to get a bit younger, however their defensive line is in pretty good shape. Now does that mean that they are going to stand pat? No. For the most part they need a solid defensive end opposite Trent Cole, someone who can command a double team, opening up Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson in the middle or require chipping tight end from time to time. They still might be hurting a bit from the Javon Kearse experiment, but I think it is safe to say that Juqua Parker is not the answer to optimizing the pass rush.

In 2007 they drafted Victor Abiamiri in the second round hoping that he was going to tie down the one defensive spot. He was hurt his rookie year and was part of the rotation Jim Johnson employs but has not stood out to me like a stud DE. In 2008, the Eagles drafted Bryan Smith in the 3rd round, a guy who didn’t see the field at all during his rookie campaign. What the Birds have on their hands at the moment is a logjam of average players at one position. What they need to do is dump two or three of them and get a legitimate monster.

Monsters don’t grow on trees, in real life or in the fairy tales of fantasy football. Julius Peppers in Carolina would certainly qualify and could possibly sign with another team. The Panthers want to throw the franchise tag on Peppers but they also want to keep their OT Jordan Gross as well. If they are able to sign Gross, they’ll throw the tag on Peppers. Otherwise, Carolina is in a pickle with Peppers. Other than Julius, there are a bunch of guys with a similar skill level like the Cowboys’ Chris Canty and Igor Olshansky from San Diego who has a great name but is not so much better than what the Eagles have that I would break the bank for him. The one thing that Canty and Igor have going for themselves that might look favorable by the Birds is that they are relatively young. The detriment is that neither of them particularly stand out.

There are a couple of prospects in this year’s draft that could fall to the Eagles in the first round. Aaron Maybin out of Penn State is not likely to be one of them, however there is an off chance that Texas’ Brian Orakpo could be there at 21. Will the Eagles select him if he is still on the board? Who knows for sure? My bet is that they will still look to take an offensive tackle first. That being said, if a player that they rated highly is there for the taking, they’ll take him. Tyson Jackson from LSU and Paul Kruger from Utah may be available in the 2nd round that they are more likely to be picked by Philly then, unless Andy Reid is comfortable with who he has on the roster, which is possible as well.

Tackle, tight end, safety, an offensive weapon, and a defensive end, those are what the Eagles need, in my humble and somewhat informed opinion, in that order. How each area is addressed will depend on how much stock the Eagles put on that position and how much they are willing to pay for talent. In some cases they are willing to pay top dollar. Other evidence would show that they feel that role players fit the system better in some spots. Regardless of which direction they go, action must be taken. To sit back and let the market decide which free agent they go after is putting a nail in their own coffin. They have been the market-setter before and they need to do so again. To their advantage they also have two first round picks that will enable them to move up and select one of the best in the draft, or fill two spots with players that can make an impact their rookie seasons. All should be told by the end of April, when the house of cards will be constructed, only to potentially collapse when glaring holes in the team are revealed in week one of the regular season only to become blog fodder for the remainder of the year.

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