OK, Andy Talked, Now What?

Linebacker Stephen Tulloch could be a target for the Eagles in free agency. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

Still mulling the fallout from Andyfest yesterday.

I must have been a little less excited about the Steve Spagnuolo revelation than some folks were. It was exactly what most of us figured must have happened. I think the Eagles knew from the get-go that Spagnuolo, given a choice, would prefer something in a new city with a no-doubt, slam-dunk top contender. Remember, Spags and Andy share the same agent, Bob LaMonte. There were no secrets there, on either end. He knew what the Eagles had in mind, they knew what he wanted. Whether they pushed hard or didn't push hard probably didn't matter. Spags was only coming here as a fallback, which is pretty much how the Eagles ended up with Todd Bowles, after he didn't get the head coaching jobs in Miami or Oakland.

Reid apparently was not going to part with Juan Castillo or Jim Washburn. Whether those factors were dealbreakers for Spagnuolo, well, I think we'd have to fly down to New Orleans, break into the Saints' practice facility and inject Spagnuolo with truth serum to find out for sure. A year from now, we'll either be lauding Andy for sticking to his plan or explaining how these loyalties ended his reign.

So, moving on, now that the great Oz has spoken, the offseason can officially begin. In three short weeks, I'll be chasing Howie Roseman and Andy around Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine. By then, presumably, Andy will have finally given some thought to whether he wants to retain DeSean Jackson, something he claims was not part of his monthlong reflection on the 2011 season.

My esteemed blog coauthor, Paul Domowitch, doesn't think the Eagles are likely to franchise DeSean. Presumably, that means they just let him walk away in free agency for nothing. I understand why Paul thinks this is likely -- DeSean's coming off a bad year, still wants ridiculous money, he's a small, frail guy who sometimes disappears -- but if it happens, I think somebody should be fired. DeSean Jackson is a 25-year-old, two-time Pro Bowl performer. Two years ago he became the first player to make the Pro Bowl as a wideout AND a returner. What NFL team ever let a 25-year-old star walk?

Yes, Jackson played in a funk for much of the 2011 season. So maybe the Eagles needed to get a deal done before that, or cook up a trade earlier, so that they wouldn't be in this situation. Franchise DeSean and then trade him? Sure. Or franchise him and keep him, if he really is happy to accept that option, as he indicated at the end of the season. Losing him in free agency would be absolutely incompetent management, in my view.

The Eagles most critically need to address the linebacking situation. We don't know yet who might be re-signed or franchised elsewhere, so pinpointing free agent targets is tough. Stephen Tulloch, the ex-Tennessee Titan who signed with the Lions last summer, COULD end up on the market again. There's a 27-year-old, 5-11, 240-pound midlle linebacker with some pop who has played his whole career behind a Wide 9 front. I would expect the Birds to address linebacking in the draft, with more than one of their picks.

I was alarmed last week when Roseman wouldn't flatly commit to paying the $7.5 million the Eagles are going to need to pay Cullen Jenkins next month to keep him here. Yeah, he's 31 years old and he got 5 of his 5.5 sacks in the first five games. Shouldn't matter. Jenkins became a leader on a defense that lacked that quality as much as anything else when the season began. He started every game, played through injuries, always set the right tone, said the right things, did the right things. He still played effectively, when he wasn't getting sacks.

Too often, Eagles management lets stats guide decisions, and leaves visceral concerns out of the discsussion. Jenkins, coming off a Super Bowl season with the Packers, played with heart and guts for a struggling team. Whenever possible, you REWARD people like that, you don't discard them with explanations about how it's smarter to pay for future performance, instead of for the past. You do it partly because the younger guys are watching, to see if all that stuff guys like Jenkins preach about putting the team first and digging deep really means anything to the people who run things.

And, the $7.5 million is owed because that's the contract the Eagles agreed to last summer. Kinda the flip side of how DeSean Jackson was expected to play for $600,000 last season. Maybe the Eagles never intended to pay the money, maybe Jenkins was a one-year rental all along. If so, they did an even worse job in free agency than we thought. After all that song and dance about their calculations and the unique opportunities the postlockout market presented, their only longterm acquisitions were Nnamdi Asomugha, who fell in their lap, and Jason Babin?

I expect the Eagles to trade Asante Samuel, and to address the safety spot either through the draft or free agency as well. I'm not as down on Nate Allen as some people are, though I find it alarming how wildly erratic he can be. Kurt Coleman is an undersized overachiever who probably isn't an every-down NFL starter. Jaiquawn Jarrett was a huge reach in the second round last year who is going to have to play his way into the discussion; I certainly wouldn't assume a full offseason makes him a useful player.

The Eagles will need to replace Ronnie Brown and Vince Young. (This just in: ANOTHER Trent Edwards sighting! For a QB nobody wanted in 2011, he sure gets a lot of ink.) But really, not that much has to happen for this to be a playoff team in 2012, given all the usual disclaimers about decent health for the key guys. A Super Bowl team? We're a long, long way from being able to see that.

But with the Giants coming off the Super Bowl, nobody is going to focus on the Eagles next summer, unless they do something totally unexpected in free agency, or trade up in the draft to draft Andrew Luck. And that lack of the spotlight is probably a good thing. They need an offseason of more hard work and less dreaming.


Couple responses to comments below: Yeah, I say DeSean Jackson is a star. Thinking I'm on pretty firm ground there, along with the folks who sent him to the Pro Bowl two years in a row. He is not without flaws, but he is a star, yes. Five players in NFL history have more than 900 receiving yards in their first four NFL seasons. He's one of 'em.

And yes, Asomugha fell in their lap. They said they thought the bidding would go far beyond what they were willing to pay. Asomugha wanted to come to the Eagles, for some reason, and took less money than he could have gotten from the Jets or Cowboys, whose courtship was much more ardent. And I would add that once he got here, he didn't play up to his rep. Jenkins, much more of a well-rounded player than Babin, actually might have been the Eagles' BEST free agent signing, in terms of playing to his potential, and contributing consistently.