Football's back, and it's been awhile since I've done one of these, so here are five thoughts on the Eagles as we look ahead to the upcoming chaos of this week:
1. Will the Eagles trade Kevin Kolb the minute they're allowed to? I would say yes, or pretty close to it. Everything the Birds do in free agency hinges on what they get in return for Kolb.
The popular name has been Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. If the Birds deal for DRC, cornerback is no longer a need in free agency, and they can focus their efforts elsewhere. If they don't get DRC, they'll have to go down the list and decide which cornerback they want to target. While waiting to deal Kolb presents some benefits - getting more than one team involved could create a bidding war and eventually mean better compensation - I don't see it happening here. If the Eagles go that route, and the top two or three cornerbacks sign with other teams, they'll be out of options, left with the same hole as last year at right cornerback. It's just too risky. Having said all that, Adam Caplan of FoxSports.com reports that the Seahawks still have interest. If the Cardinals believe Seattle is interested, it could give the Eagles some leverage.
2. Let's assume the Eagles get Rodgers-Cromartie in return for Kolb. Their No. 1 priority should then shift to adding a pass rusher, likely a defensive end. If Brandon Graham were in the mix, the Eagles would likely have four defensive ends in the mix: Graham, Trent Cole, Darryl Tapp and Juqua Parker. As I mentioned in Sunday's post, eight linemen saw significant playing time with Washburn last season in Tennessee.
With Graham injured, defensive end becomes even more of a need. Want to make the argument that the Eagles have enough depth to fill the need internally? I don't see it. Phillip Hunt is an unknown. Ricky Sapp has never played an NFL down, and Victor Abiamiri missed all of 2010. I'm surprised Daniel Te'o-Nesheim's name is being mentioned. Remember, look at what the Eagles do, not what they say. Last year, they didn't think he was good enough to dress in 10 of 16 games. And I'm not sure how much he could have improved this offseason with no coaching.
That means the Eagles are likely to go after a premier pass rusher. Three names come to mind: Jason Babin, Charles Johnson and Ray Edwards. Carolina may very well do everything it can to hold on to Johnson. And the Eagles could be left to decide which of the other two guys to pursue.
3. After the Eagles fill their holes at CB and DE, there really isn't a clear third need. One factor to keep in mind is what they'll do with their own players. That means making a decision on Stewart Bradley. And maybe more importantly, working out an extension with Michael Vick and possibly DeSean Jackson too. Think Jackson will notice if the Eagles throw millions at free agents and he's scheduled to make $565,000?
Meanwhile, take notice that there is NO exclusive window for teams to negotiate/sign their own free agents. Starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, teams can call any players they want and begin negotiations. Starting at 6 p.m. Friday, teams can sign whoever they want. Perhaps one of the more interesting storylines to follow with the Eagles is what they do with Bradley. Essentially, they can treat him like any other player on the open market. Bradley looked like he would be a cornerstone of this defense just a few years ago. Now, the possibility exists that he'll playing for another team in 2011.
4. It will be difficult to assess right away what kind of effect the lockout had on the Eagles, compared to other teams. Certainly, it took away the possibility of creating a bidding war on the open market for Kolb before the draft. But if the Eagles are able to get good compensation anyway, maybe that's not a big deal.
The other big factor to monitor is what kind of production we see from the team's rookies and second-year players. Danny Watkins, Jamar Chaney, Nate Allen and so on. Can these guys be effective contributors on a team hoping to compete for a Super Bowl? That really could be one of the major storylines of the 2011 Eagles.
5. And finally, welcome back. I did the best to provide content all offseason even though there really wasn't much to talk about. And thanks to everyone who read, commented, e-mailed, etc. over the last several months. Training camp is one of my favorite times of the year. The foundation for what we'll see in November, December and January is built. Players in their 30s take on rookies 10 years younger than them. Cornerbacks making $9M line up against wide receivers hoping to just make the roster. I have my own ideas on how to tackle MTC's coverage, but if you ever have suggestions or feedback, feel free to e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Tuesday at 10 a.m., teams can begin trading players and negotiating with free agents. Let the fun begin.
Oh, and in case you missed it, here's a roundup of free agents the Eagles have been linked to, along with my take on which moves make sense.