There are many important decisions the Philadelphia Eagles have to make this off season. First and foremost, they must deal with their own pending free agents. While everyone (including the Eagles front office) has their own idea situations, there are many times situations don't proceed as planned. All open positions must be addressed, but the top six priorities to me are: Left Tackle; Right Tackle; Tight End; Free Safety; Halfback; Fullback. How could the Eagles deal with them?? Here's my take.....
Left Tackle-To me this position is one of the top three in football. Most successful teams have had a left tackle who stabilized the spot for 12-13 years (Johnathan Ogden, Orlando Pace, Tarik Glenn just to name a few). The Eagles had one in Tra Thomas, but unfortunately he can't do it forever. His age, back, and false starts prove he's just not the player he used to be. I think it's time to move on....
Ideal Scenario: Sign Jordan Gross from the Carolina Panthers. I think the Pro Bowler's an upgrade from the Tra Thomas of recent years. Problem: Gross would like to sign a long-term deal with Carolina and even if that doesn't get done, they may franchise tag him again. Keep your fingers crossed.
Backup Plan: Sign Vernon Carey from the Miami Dolphins. He can play both tackle and guard spots(Andy Reid loves versatile linemen). He's 6'5", 350 lbs and turns 28 in July. Problem: Like Gross, Carey would like to sign another deal to remain in Miami. We'll see what happens the next 2 1/2 weeks.
Realistic Situation: Move Todd Herremans to LT and start Max Jean-Giles at LG. Reid would say that was his plan all along and not worry about putting out $7-8 million a year for Gross.
Worst Case Scenario: Reid convinces himself that Winston Justice is ready.
Sleeper Situation: King Dunlap wins the spot in the preseason and becomes a Pro Bowl 7th round pick.
Right Tackle-Not as important as left tackle (unless you're protecting Michael Vick or Matt Leinart) but a steady offensive line is a dream of most coaches and Jon Runyan epitomizes that. His recent surgery concerns me though, at the age of 35. Of the two FA tackles I would prefer to keep Runyan. He's a warrior, leader, doesn't miss games, doesn't get flagged often, and is probably second to Brian Dawkins in being inspirational for the team.
Ideal Scenario: Resign Runyan for two years and he fully recovers from his surgery. He's confident in his recovery but we'll see what happens.
Backup Plan: See Vernon Carey above. Or, sign Stacy Andrews from the Cincinnati Bengals and line him up next to his brother (Shawn) to form a formidable right side. Problem: Andrews recently had surgery as well and is currently rehabbing his right ACL. Even though he's almost eight years younger than Runyan, too much of a risk for someone who doesn't know the system.
Realistic Situation:The Eagles decide to give last year's fourth round pick, Mike McGlynn, his shot. Scouts say his mean streak is similar to Runyan's. Another possibility is to move Shawn Andrews to tackle and putting Max Jean-Giles at RG.
Worst Case Scenario: Runyan is resigned and his knee is re-injured in game six, shaking up the line in the middle of the season (and past the trade deadline).
Sleeper Situation: The Eagles draft Phil Loadhaldt (Oklahoma) in the third round and he becomes a staple at RT for 12 years.
Tight End-The Eagles' red zone deficiencies are linked partially to the lack of production from this position. I expect the Eagles to relieve themselves of misery and say goodbye to L.J. Smith and possibly Matt Schoebel as well. Brent Celek is good, but we really haven't seen him when game planned against and his blocking is suspect.
Ideal Scenario: A trade for Tony Gonzalez. At 32, he's still getting it done. The future Hall of Famer would be a dream come true for McNabb. Problem: While Gonzalez will produce next year, how long after that? At what cost would it take to bring him to Philly?
Backup Plan: Draft Brandon Pettigrew (Oklahoma St.) with the #21 pick. He's known for his blocking as well as his catching. Problem: The draft is too unpredictable. Will he make it to #21? If so and the Eagles draft a lineman, I doubt he makes it to the #28 pick.
Realistic Situation: The Eagles trade a third round pick for Gonzalez and draft Davon Drew (E. Carolina) or Ryan Purvis(Boston College) in the fifth round, making the depth chart Gonzalez, Celek, Drew/Purvis. Not bad at all.
Worst Case Scenario: The Eagles franchise Smith again and tell the media he still has the potential to put up Gonzalez/Gates numbers.
Sleeper Situation: Celek works on his blocking and evolves into the top TE in the NFC East.
Free Safety- Brian Dawkins is the face of the franchise, is the longest tenured Eagle and he played in his seventh Pro Bowl on Sunday. He's not ready to retire so the Eagles should be ready to resign him. An entire fanbase is waiting to see how this pans out.
Ideal Scenario: Dawkins gets resigned for two years, allowing him to retire an Eagle like he deserves. Limit his role to non-passing situations and allow Quintin Demps to develop more (and make sure Demps forgets about the highlights against Larry Fitzgerald and Tim Hightower).
Backup Plan: Sign Oshiomogho Atogwe from the Rams. Nobody can replace BDawk, but like I said, you always need a backup plan and the Rams 2008 leader in INTs (5) is the best alternative. Problem: He's not Brian Dawkins.
Realistic Situation: Same as the Ideal Scenario. I cannot see the Eagles NOT resigning this guy.
Worst Case Scenario: Demps is thrown into the the starting lineup with J.R. Reed or Sean Considine signed to be his backup.
Sleeper Situation: Demps proves to be the ballhawk he was scout as at FS. He must work on his tackling (would've prevented Hightower's TD) but the Fitzgerald TD must be forgotten. Fitz lit up Pro Bowl corners in Hawaii this weekend.
Halfback- Brian Westbrook needs help in the worst way. Correll Buckhalter is good, but the Eagles need to get younger. Lorenzo Booker? No comment, just cut him please.....
Ideal Situation: The Eagles sign Brandon Jacobs from the New York Giants and draft Donald Brown in the second round. You have depth, a power back to share the load and change the pace in Jacobs, and Westbrook's eventual replacement in Brown. Problem: Jacobs is very likely resigning with the Giants and even if he doesn't, he wants a Marion Barber type contract which I don't see the Eagles considering. As for Brown, I don't see the Birds drafting a RB in the second round.
Backup Plan: Draft Beanie Wells in the first round. Have you seen his highlights? He'll enter the league like Adrian Peterson (Vikings). Has size, speed and he doesn't go down on the first hit (or first three hits). Problem: One, he probably doesn't drop to the #21 pick. Two, are the Eagles really going to draft a HB in the first round?
Realistic Situation: Draft Javon Ringer (Michigan St.) or Rashad Jennings (Liberty) in the third round and Arian Foster (Tennessee) or Tyrell Sutton (Northwestern). Either way, you have both a big, power, between the tackles rusher and a smaller, speedy, thirrd down-type running back. For some reason, I see the Eagles going down this path.
Worst Case Scenario:The Eagles resign Ryan Moats, leaving them with a depth chart of Westbrook, Moats and Booker.
Sleeper Situation: Booker shakes off last season and actually produces in 2009 with 400 yds rushing, 2 TDs, 35 rec, 3 TDs.
Fullback- This position is underrated by the Eagles, but essential to any West Coast offense. Converting Dan Klecko (a competent DT in my opinion) was a disrespect to the position to me.
Ideal Situation: Sign Leonard Weaver from the Seahawks. He has great size and he's a true fullback and not an experiment at the position. Problem: Another team that actually values the FB position is likely to sign him before the Eagles even consider him.
Backup Plan: The draft is full of FBs who should be available in the sixth and seventh rounds. Brannan Southerland (Georgia), Quinn Johnson (LSU), Travis McCall (Alabama), Jorvorskie Lane (Texas A&M), Eric Kettani (Navy)...Any of these guys I believe could contribute immediately. Problem: There really isn't a problem, just excuses and stubbornness from the front office.
Realistic Situation: While drafting a FB in the sixth round is realistic, going with Kyle Eckel is a strong possibility as well.
Worst Case Scenario: Tony Hunt shows up to Lehigh with a book titled "How to Block and Pick Up Blitzes for Dummies" in his hand and makes the team again.
Sleeper Situation: How well do we really know Eckel? He may very well be the answer at fullback. Reid may need to actually play him more.
Those are the most important positions for the Eagles to address, but there are other upcoming free agents, as well. While these positions aren't top priority, I think it would be best to replace this players with the best available player if necessary.
Nick Cole: C (RFA)- While Cole filled in well down the stretch in 2008, he is definitely replaceable. I see the Eagles offering a restricted tenure and I don't see anyone offering Cole a big payday. If he gets an offer sheet from another team, let him go. Possible replacement: Sign Jason Brown from the Baltimore Ravens. He could even challenge Jamaal Jackson(who's inconsistent) for the starting spot. More than likely Cole stays.
Hank Baskett: WR (RFA)- Baskett was terribly underused by the Eagles this year. Even if the Eagles offer a one-year tenure, I think a team out there that values his fade route will send him an offer sheet. Possible replacement: Said it before, I'll say it again. Draft Ramses Barden (Cal Poly-SLO) or Darius Passmore (Marshall). Barden is more physical but Passmore has a little more speed to go with his his height. Either one or a low end offer to Baskett is a good possibility.
Joselio Hanson: CB (UFA)- Hanson is a steady nickel back and that's great to have if you're playing the Cardinals, but it's also a very replaceable position. I see Hanson resigning with the Eagles for 2-3 years. Possible replacement:Draft Jairus Byrd (Oregon) or Domonique Johnson (Jackson St.) in the second round. Both guys have good size and hands for interceptions. An even stronger possibility is getting Jack Ikegwonu ready, being that he's considered the sleeper pick of 2008.
Sean Considine: S (UFA)- He stank as a SS and his special teams play didn't convince me that he's a necessity. Please don't entertain resigning him. Possible replacement: Use the second round pick on Patrick Chung (Oregon) or, if he happens to drop that far, William Moore (Missouri). Either guy adds depth to the safety spot and gives other options in the future.
This is my take on how to handle the Eagles expiring contracts. LET'S GO EAGLES!!! BE PREPARED!!!