Looking Back at the Philadelphia Eagles' Entertaining Offseason
Andy Reid is smiling.
But that's because he knew all along.
He knew the Eagles' front office had a game plan to get better, younger, more talented players in midnight green for another Super Bowl run.
He knew that the tight-lipped, close to the vest style of management, although ridiculously annoying to fans and media, would yield positive results.
I just wish he would have clued the rest of us in on the highs and lows of this offseason.
The End of an Era
It wasn't supposed to end this way.
I uttered the phrase over and over again once the news spread that Brian Dawkins was no longer going to be an Eagle.
It reminded me of the end of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King.
There were seven volumes of rich landscapes, characters, and plot for the entire series, but in a few chapters in the last book he thoroughly destroyed everything of value that came before. The ending was unsatisfying to the highest degree.
That's how I felt when BDawk left.
And I know Dawk had lost a step, I know the defense would survive the loss talent-wise, but still...
He wasn't the only one to pack up his gear.
Some guys I was glad to see go:
L.J. Smith, the Samuel Dalembert of the NFL: first round talent, zero production.
Or Sean Considine.
Others I hated to see leave, like Dawk, Tra Thomas, Correll Buckhalter, and with the signing of Stacy Andrews, Jon Runyan.
There's shaking things up, and there's scorching the Earth—guess which end of the scale the Eagles started the offseason out on?
Safety in Numbers
No one can replace Brian Dawkins, but if you have to have a stopgap until Quintin Demps develops more, you could do a lot worse than Sean Jones.
The Browns free agent signed a one-year deal with the Eagles, looking to either re-sign with the team to a long-term deal or showcase his talents to another NFL team willing to lock him up.
This is an interesting signing as Sean Jones is a young (27) accomplished (14 INTs since 2006) big (6'1", 225 pounds) safety who could easily start for any team in the league.
Though more suited to the strong safety position, he can play free, and it gives the Eagles another veteran presence in the secondary.
Around the same time, safety Rashard Baker was also signed to a one-year deal, though his contribution will primarily be on special teams.
The Ultimatum: Part Un
The first pick of the Andy Reid era had reached his limit.
Between being booed on draft day (kinda), to being insulted by a portly ex-employee of ESPN, to being ridiculed for having an upset stomach in the Super Bowl...
From being thrown under the bus by two teammates, then having his management draft his replacement and subsequently being benched in favor of him, he'd had enough.
He wanted assurances, guarantees that this type of behavior would not continue, that he would be the franchise QB for years to come.
And he wanted the Eagles to get better playmakers here on offense before he would consider committing long term to the team.
For some, it was about time he made such a declaration; for others it was tactically not a smart move.
Either way, it’s made everyone really key in to the situation.
How will the Eagles respond?
Em-Boldin Your Options!
Amid all the other offseason moves, there’s been the ongoing speculation around one Anquan Boldin.
On the surface it seemed like a no-brainer:
McNabb wanted more weapons.
The Eagles needed a more consistent red zone threat.
Boldin wanted out of Arizona.
The Eagles had (until the Jason Peters trade) extra picks in the draft.
However, the front office had to consider bringing in an incredibly talented, yet unsatisfied wide receiver from a team an incredible touchdown grab from being Super Bowl champs.
Last time they brought in an upset super talent, they enjoyed one year of joy and two years of fallout.
Despite how fans may feel, the Eagles were right to pass on this one.
Who Is Ocho?
Chad had been wanting out of Cincinnati for the last two years.
Can you blame him?
The Bengals not only have had a long string of futility, but took over the spot once held by the Portland Trailblazers for having the most players in and out of jail.
Plus he and McNabb are good friends (ringing any bells?), so this also seemed plausible.
This move may yet happen, and it would not be an awful one. But for now all is quiet on this front.
Braylon Edwards was also a receiver looking to move, but the Eagles need another receiver with the dropsies like Denver needs another running back...more on that later.
Brothers in Arms
The offensive line had (unofficially) lost both Runyan and Tra Thomas.
The tackle tandem had been together since 2000.
Enter the brother of the Big Kid Shawn Andrews, Stacy.
The signing didn't make the news like the 12:01 courting of Bart Scott, but for the Eagles it may have been the most important one of the offseason.
If big brother can't get Shawn back to playing at a Pro Bowl level, no one can.
Could This Mark a Shift in Philosophy?
Will they or won't they?
It was widely known that there was interest in the very talented fullback from Seattle.
What wasn't quite clear was whether the Eagles could sign the guy for what he wanted. In fact, there was a point where it was believed that the Eagles were out of the running altogether.
For a while it seemed as if Leonard Weaver would be the one that got away
When an agreement was reached, it marked the first time the Eagles had a true fullback on the roster since one Jon Ritchie. As an added bonus, Weaver is an excellent pass catcher and has some shiftiness out in space as well—a must for any back in the Eagles' system with the number of screens and counters they like to run.
Does this mean that the Eagles plan to run the ball more often or more effectively?
Should be fun finding out.
For his entire career, McNabb has had his blind side covered by Tra Thomas.
Though not always consistent in run blocking (some days downright awful at it), he was a rock in pass protection.
Often going one on one with some of the NFL's best pass rushers, Tra Thomas had been a forgotten man, which at his position is the ultimate compliment.
When Tra signed to a deal in Jacksonville, the question for the first time in 10 years became: Who would replace Tra?
The best option was one Jason Peters, the disgruntled LT from the Bills. The problem was he was not a free agent.
That's when the Eagles pulled off the best move of the offseason by trading the 28th overall pick and another later round pick this year and next to bring in Peters.
That trade with Carolina last year looks pretty good now, doesn't it?
The Ultimatum: Part Deux
There are bound to be ramifications when you sign a younger player to a more lucrative deal than the veteran.
Especially if that veteran believes (and rightfully so) that he is better than that player.
So when the Eagles re-signed Joselio Hanson to a new deal where he makes more than Sheldon Brown, feathers got ruffled.
Sheldon saw his opportunity when the disgruntled Jason Peters talked his way out of Buffalo and into a better situation and more money—although Peters' situation was entirely different.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, whether you believe he deserves more money or not, there is no denying that his timing couldn't be worse.
Down economy, coming off a less than stellar season, less than a year removed from publicly telling a teammate to shut up about his contract and play.
Add to that the fact that there are still four more years left on Brown's contract, and his ultimatum is falling on deaf ears.
Denver Strikes Again!
Before the draft, everyone had the Eagles taking Knowshon Moreno with the 21st pick.
I even included the running back on the Eagles' roster in my 16-0 slideshow:
So when the Broncos took Moreno with the 12th pick, I felt as if this was done to spite the Eagles specifically.
I mean, the Broncos signed both LaMont Jordan and Correll Buckhalter this offseason, promising them both the chance to start. But when you draft a running back that high and he's the first back taken, he's gonna be starting.
The move made no sense, especially considering that the Broncos currently have six running backs on their roster, and how woeful their defense has been the last three years.
Philly fans, this was straight up a spit in the face!
First they take Dawkins (yes, took him—did anyone else offer Dawk that much money?), then they sign perhaps the best pure running back we've had in the Reid era not named Duce, and then they take the running back EVERYONE knew the Eagles wanted.
In my opinion, that's strike three, ladies and gentlemen!
Eagles Fans...Start Your Heart Attacks!
The only time the Eagles have drafted a wide receiver in the first round was something of a disaster.
Anytime a first round pick is no longer even in the NFL just four years after being drafted, that is the very definition of B-U-S-T.
Those who don't learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.
So all logic led the world to believe that the Eagles while under Reid would never again take a WR in the first round.
In fact, the popular opinion is that unless the guy is just a stud, you can get quality receivers in the 3-5 rounds.
Jeremy Maclin was a stud in college, and it's a fact that even the tentative Eagles could not ignore.
Once you stopped choking on whatever beverage you were sipping, you had mixed feelings about the pick. That is until the second round when...
Better to Be Shady Than Good?
With the 53rd pick...
No one, and I mean NO ONE thought McCoy would slip this far.
Considered to be the most NFL-ready RB behind only Moreno in the draft, he was supposed to be a late first, early second round pick. He was not supposed to be around when the Eagles selected.
Not only did the Eagles add an offensive and special teams marvel in Maclin, but they also managed to get a guy who with some work could eventually replace Brian Westbrook.
Right now he's good enough to spell Brian Westbrook as long as he tightens up his pass blocking in blitz pickup.
The Patriots signed Jabar Gaffney after he was released by the Eagles.
The Eagles signed Asante Samuel after he left the Patriots for free agency.
The Eagles traded Greg Lewis to the Patriots.
The Patriots traded Ellis Hobbs to the Eagles.
The Patriots may be winning in the Super Bowl department, but it's certainly not because of taking advantage of the Eagles. They may have robbed the Dolphins of Wes Welker, and the Raiders of Randy Moss, but the Eagles are so far 2-0 in the player swap department. Unless Greg Lewis catches 80 balls and 10 touchdowns...
Quit laughing and keep reading!
Anyway, the Eagles not only picked up a solid corner but also an established return man.
Could Sheldon Brown have his ticket punched to the Bengals soon?
Now All That's Left...
Considering how the season ended for the Eagles last year, the Eagles made all the moves that everyone said they needed to make.
They added depth to the secondary.
They shored up the offensive line.
They got a true fullback to improve the running game and instantly got better at short yardage situations.
They brought in some more weapons for McNabb.
They added another playmaking tight end.
They took some of the special teams burden off of emerging stars DeSean Jackson and Quintin Demps.
On paper, the Eagles look reloaded and primed for a deep run into the postseason, and maybe...
Strap in for a wild ride!