Could the Eagles, already committed long-term to Asante Samuel, pursue another star cornerback – i.e. Nnamdi Asomugha -- if and when free agency happens? The “sign Asomugha!” camp might have received some encouraging news from Eagles president Joe Banner Tuesday.
Banner was asked about the idea floated by many, including me, that the Eagles wouldn’t commit huge money to another corner with Samuel already on the roster, especially with needs in other areas. Banner, speaking in general about free agency, poked a hole in that theory.
“If we went or didn’t go in any particular direction it wouldn’t be because of the balance of the cap at that particular position,” he said, noting that the Eagles have committed more money to other positions in the past than other teams might deem prudent.
Reading between the lines, Banner didn’t rule out a bid for Asomugha, or another star at cornerback, though there’s also nothing there that says the Eagles are going to pursue the All Pro. Banner wouldn’t comment on individual players because free agency isn’t yet open.
Talking in general about free agents, though, Banner said he expects the Eagles to be in good position to take advantage of the NFL’s shopping period. The Eagles, he said, have more cap room than most teams, multiple people who can negotiate complex deals in what may be a tight window (likely referring to himself and general manager Howie Roseman) and he expects the Eagles to be better prepared than most for what is likely to be an unusual free agency period, whatever shape it takes once a new CBA is signed.
“There may be opportunities to get some great players that can make a difference at large salaries. There may be an opportunity to get some guys that are very good players but, because there are so many free agents at once, are very good values and we’re going to try to be in a position to take advantage of whatever we think will help us the most.”
Sounds like the Eagles are open to making a splash, but also hope to fill out the roster with some good buys. The team is preparing for a variety of free agency scenarios and a potential buyers’ market. Depending on the free agency rules in the new CBA, there may be up to 500 players available, Banner said.
“If there’s truly 500 new free agents, there’s no doubt there are going to be some value opportunities. There just aren’t that many teams with that much cap room with that many needs to absorb that many players at once,” he said.
Banner noted that despite the cap room the Eagles have, they committed at least $19 million to Michael Vick and David Akers by using the franchise and transition tags on those two and have many of their own free agents to account for. Even if the team lets some of those players go, they will have to pay for replacements to fill out the roster.
“It can be misleading how much room you have,” Banner said.
Also, it’s unclear who exactly will be available. The number of years of service that it takes to reach free agency – four, five or six – is likely to be subject to CBA negotiations. Other teams still can use the franchise or transition tags to retain players.
On other issues not covered in today’s franchise tag story:
-- Asked about committing long-term to Vick despite defenses improving against him down the stretch, Banner made a telling comment that pointed at the Eagles offensive line play.
“There are other aspects of the unit that (Vick) doesn’t control that, you know, will be areas that we’ll try to get stronger around him, that will have an impact on him. Hiring a different offensive line coach with just a different set of ideas who's a really smart guy may contribute positively to all that.”
-- Banner said injured Eagles rehabilitating during a lockout will not be allowed any contact with the team, though the Eagles are trying to set the players up with independent rehab facilities where they can stay on track. Could the NovaCare medical facility attached to the Eagles offices count as an independent site? The Eagles have obviously looked into it. Banner said the team is awaiting a ruling on the question.
-- Players can keep their health insurance if a lockout begins, but would have to pay for it themselves, Banner said.
-- Banner shed some light on the lengthy defensive coordinator search, saying Andy Reid had Juan Castillo in mind early in the process, but waited to hire him until he could find a strong replacement on the offensive line. Banner said the team has an unprecedented strength on the coaching staff: “I don’t know that there’s ever been a time when you’ve had two consensus, literally, the best offensive and defensive line coaches in the, league on the same team at the same.”
If Castillo wasn't hired, the Eagles would have interviewed coaches who participated in the Super Bowl, Banner said.
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