We’ve hit a little dry patch in between the combine and the free agency, so now is as good a time as any to empty the old notebook. My goal is to make this feature a regular part of Birds’ Eye View during the NFL offseason and possibly into the coming season.
1. Moving Asante Samuel will be trickybut the Eagles, at this point, have no other choice. It was blatantly clear that the cornerback’s bait-and-switch style did not mesh with the Eagles’ less-blitzing defense. I’m not sure how Samuel ended up missing the final two games of the season when he appeared to be on track to play in the penultimate game against the Cowboys, but his absence allowed the Eagles to envision how their cornerback tandem for 2012 would look with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie opposite Nnamdi Asomugha. Samuel’s age (31) and his salary ($9.4 million) will make it difficult to move the Pro Bowl corner, but the Eagles did have offers last summer. In fact, they had one deal in August with the Lions, but it fell apart at the last moment.
2. The Eagles are still a ways off from making significant changes in scheme, but the rumblings coming from the NovaCare are that with Samuel likely gone the corners will play more man-to-man press coverage next season. It makes perfect sense with both Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie more comfortable playing that way.
3. Adam Schefter's report from last week that DeSean Jackson was available for trade did not come from the Eagles, I was recently told. The ESPN NFL reporter essentially said as much when he was asked about it on the radio. It makes little sense for the Eagles to float a trade rumorwhen they’re trying to negotiate an extension with a player they still hold rights to. More than likely an agent with a name that rhymes with “Brew Brosenhouse” tossed a monkey wrench into talks when the Eagles failed to match his estimation of Jackson’s worth.
4. Jaiquawn Jarrett came to the Eagles ballyhooed as a big hitter. But through all of training camp, the preseason and the regular season, the rookie failed to deliver what could accurately be described as a punishing blow. It’s hard to play fearlessly when you’re still grasping the finer points of a defense, but Jarrett had another issue: He had yet to develop physically. As much as they tried the Eagles couldn’t pack weight onto the 22-year old. He entered the season listed at 6-foot, 196 pounds, and looked thinner at season’s end. This offseason, needless to say, is an important one for Jarrett. Because he doesn’t have elite speed he has to be a half-thought ahead. So the film room needs to become a second home for the Temple product. But Jarrett has to spend just as much time in the weight room if he wants to be sculpted into an NFL safety.
5. Jarrett and some of the Eagles’ other young players face certain obstacles in their offseason preparation. Before the new CBA teams were able to hold voluntary workouts as early as mid-March. Two years ago, almost every Eagles player, save for a few veterans, showed up for workouts. This year, under the new deal, the workouts aren’t scheduled to begin until mid-April. That means Jarrett, for instance, can’t receive on-field instruction nor can he watch film with a coach for another six weeks.
6. The practice limitations probably affect Michael Vick the most. As I’ve written elsewhere, this is the most critical offseason of the quarterback’s career. It will be Vick’s first full offseason as a starter in six years. He’s stayed local for most of the last two months and has been a regular down at the NovaCare Complex. But Vick and various other Eagles have essentially been restricted to the weight room or the trainer’s room if they’re rehabbing. They can confer with coaches, but it makes you wonder if lines are being blurred between how much coaches can and cannot do with their players.
7. With the Eagles expected to have a considerable amount of salary cap room – the cap figure will be set next week – now would seem the right time to extend LeSean McCoy. The running back has obviously made himself into one of the premier players at his position and it would behoove the Eagles to lock him up now if they want to avoid what could eventually become an expensive proposition. Sounds simple enough. A deal, though, will ultimately come down to negotiating McCoy’s worth. Down in Baltimore, Ray Rice – who had every bit as good a season as McCoy – is set to be franchised because he reportedly wants Adrian Peterson-type money (7 years, $100). For the Ravens, placing the tag on Rice at a $7.7 million figure is a no-brainer. McCoy has said all the right things in regard to his contract, but he will have to balance long-term stability vs. a future big payday if the Eagles dangle an extension.
8. The success of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandezof the Patriots had nearly every NFL reporter from a city outside of a Boston writing a story at the Super Bowl about the possibility of their hometown team utilizing two tight ends the way New England did this past season. There was one problem with that premise: No other team has two tight ends as good as Gronkowski and Hernandez. The Eagles have a good starting tight end in Brent Celek, who rebounded nicely from a down season in 2010. His backup, Clay Harbor, is solid, but he doesn’t project as someone that could fill the Hernandez role if the Eagles pass out of two tight end sets more often.
9. The term “high motor” has become short hand, in the parlance of Birds fans, for the Eagles’ drafting of undersized defensive linemen. The team is aware of the perception (truth?) so much so that I think they’ll do their best to avoid undersized defensive end like Marshall’s Vinny Curry.
10. While there aren’t as many top-tier defensive ends in this year’s draft, there are a slew of talented defensive tackles that should go in the first few rounds. A lot will depend on what the Eagles do in free agency, but I sense they will take a defensive tackle first in the draft. They didn’t draft a single one last season or in the 2009 draft and took only Jeff Owens in the seventh round of the 2010 draft. The last defensive tackle the Eagles took high in the draft was Trevor Laws in 2008 in the second round. Laws’ contract is up and despite efforts to extend him last season I don’t think he’s back. That creates one opening. Derek Landri is a free agent and as much as I think the Eagles want him back his return isn’t a done deal. Cullen Jenkins, after taking a pay cut, will return. But he’s 31 and Mike Patterson, who is coming off brain surgery, will be 29 by the start of the season. The Eagles do have some youth at the position. Antonio Dixon is a restricted free agent and the Eagles are expected to tender the 26-year old, but he is coming off a triceps injury and didn’t exactly look comfortable playing in Jim Washburn’s system before he was injured. Cedric Thornton is a wild card. He spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad, but the Eagles liked the 6-4, 309-pound 23-year old so much that they upped his salary to keep him when another team tried to pluck him from the practice squad.