NFL fans, free agency is nearly upon us. On Feb. 27, the NFL opens the doors on what looks to be one of the most talented groups of free agents in recent memory.
The list is staggering: Ray Lewis, Brian Dawkins, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are just some of the players who might be moving to new cities.
True, Lewis and Dawkins will almost certainly re-sign with the teams that drafted them, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t high-profile names who could be moving to Philadelphia.
The Eagles need the most immediate help at offensive tackle. Both Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan are at the twilight of their playing days and are free agents. Winston Justice was drafted to be the future at tackle, but hasn’t played well in his limited snaps.
Jordan Gross of the Carolina Panthers is almost certainly a player on the top of the Eagles’ front office list. Head coach Andy Reid covets lineman, so Reid would likely jump at the chance to steal Gross from a conference rival.
The name on the top of fans’ wishlists is none other than Bengals wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh. “Housh” fueled the fire by telling a local sports radio station that he would be willing to sign with the Eagles if they are interested.
The Eagles’ fans have been clamoring for a high-profile receiver since Terrell Owens talked his way out of town following the 2005 season. Then-rookie DeSean Jackson had a great season in 2008, but he was the only consistent receiver.
After the team’s loss in the NFC Championship game, quarterback Donovan McNabb again that the team needs more playmakers.
This year’s deep and talented free agency class gives the Eagles several options to improve the team.
Here are just five players who might help the Eagles get, in the immortal words of ‘Spinal Tap’, “that extra push over the cliff.”
Brian Westbrook had an injury-plagued season in 2008. Now 30 years old, he isn't getting any younger. The solution? Give the guy some help.
San Diego's Darren Sproles was the other talk of the playoffs. With LaDanian Tomlinson missing the postseason for the second consecutive season, the Chargers turned to Sproles.
And he didn't disappoint. In two games, Sproles rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns. His speed and versatility make him a threat similar to Westbrook. Also like Westbrook, Sproles was a threat in the passing game, racking up 136 yards and a touchdown.
One thing the Eagles (or any team coveting him) will have to take into consideration is size. At 181 pounds, can he really take a beating, even as a backup, for an entire season?
It remains to be seen, but less than a year ago many asked the same question of Cal's DeSean Jackson.
What's the only thing better than complementing Westbrook with a player of similar abilities?
Complementing him with a player of opposite abilities.
New York's Derrick Ward is a player familiar with the Eagles. His bruising running style has given the Eagles fits. As part of a three-back system for the Giants, Ward compiled 1,000 yards on the ground last season.
Although he has said he wants an expanded role, this does not mean he'll leave the G-Men. But alongside Westbrook, Ward could help make the Philadelphia running game dynamic and more dangerous.
I know, I know. It's ridiculous to think that the Eagles would sign Lewis, even though he's a free agent.
Lewis has spent his entire career with Baltimore, so while it is unlikely that he would leave, it isn't out of the question.
Signing Lewis would give the Eagles a force in the middle, giving defensive coordinator Jim Johnson a wealth of linebackers to move around.
Besides, from an emotional standpoint, Lewis and safety Brian Dawkins together on the field could do wonders for an already talented crew.
So yes, it is unlikely. But we can dream, can't we?
Both Gross and defensive end Julius Peppers are free agents coming into the offseason. Peppers has publicly stated that he has no intention of returning to the Panthers, as he wants to play for a 3-4 defense.
This means that Gross will likely be franchised. But if not, the Eagles are near the top of the list of teams who would jump to sign him.
Gross helped anchor the line in Carolina, paving the way for an explosive running game which ranked third in rushing during the 2008 season.
Signing Gross would probably mean that ironman Jon Runyan would be let go, but since Runyan is nearing the end of his career and is a free agent, the move would make good business sense.
If he does become available, the smart money is on Andy Reid and company snatching him off the market as soon as possible.
For Eagles fans, every offseason is spent lusting over wide receivers the team will never sign. This exercise in futility has become a time-honored tradition in Philadelphia.
That could all change this time around.
Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh has hit free agency, sending Eagles fans into a frenzy.
And for good reason.
His toughness and attitude are a perfect match for Philly. On top of that, he has said, "If [the Eagles] are interested, I'm interested."
Fans will just have to wait until the end of the month to see if their dreams will become a reality. But all signs point to 'yes' so far, which has to make QB Donovan McNabb very happy.