Brian Dawkins (pictured) has been an emotional leader throughout the years for the Philadelphia Eagles. In my honest opinion, he's a future Hall of Famer. What he means to the Philadelphia Eagles as a franchise can't be measured. On top of that, he's productive with 545 career tackles, 76 pass deflections, 21 sacks and 34 interceptions.
Unfortunately, "Dawk" won't be a Philadelphia Eagle anymore.
On February 28th, 2009 at 1:56 PM, the Eagles were blindsided. Dawkins opted to leave Philly, signing a two year, $17 million contract with the Denver Broncos. At 35, he may be on the decline. However, his leadership qualities haven't lost a step.
After the Eagles lost him, Eagles fans were firing off tributes to him and it seemed like the team was on a decline.
Not so fast.
Key signings have lifted the Eagles' spirits, such as Stacy Andrews, Leonard Weaver, Sean Jones and Rashad Baker, not to mention trading three draft picks for Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters.
Also, the Eagles got three huge steals in the Draft, adding Jeremy Maclin (WR, Missouri), LeSean McCoy (RB, Pittsburgh) and Cornelius Ingram (TE, Florida). In addition to that, they added Ellis Hobbs in a trade. Oh, by the way. The Eagles added some undrafted free agents including Marcus Thigpen (RB, Indiana), Sam Swank (K, Wake Forest) and Reshard Langford (S, Vanderbilt).
Stacy Andrews, OT
Last year, the Eagles had no push from the run—game. After a solid 2007—08 season, Brian Westbrook struggled in 2008-09, averaging just four yards per carry—down 0.8 from his 4.8 YPC in 2007—08.
The Eagles will definitely benefit from the signing of Andrews. The Eagles signed the 27—year old offensive tackle to a long term contract, one that spans over six seasons and is worth approximately $42 million. While it may seem risky to sign him for that long, you can never have enough offensive line help.
Leonard Weaver, FB
A fullback? Philadelphia Eagles? This can't be right!
An undrafted free agent in 2005 out of Carson-Newman College, Weaver had a chip on his shoulder. Weaver worked to make a good Seahawks squad and became a mainstay in the Seahawks backfield. As a blocking back, he paved the way for Shaun Alexander during his legendary 2005 season in which Alexander gained 1,880 yards and scored a whopping 27 touchdowns.
Eagles fans can't expect those kind of numbers from Westbrook, but more than the 936 that he did last year is a reasonable expectation.
Sean Jones, S
After losing Brian Dawkins and also losing running back Correll Buckhalter, the Eagles would need to add a safety. They would definitely not be able to get one of Dawkins' stature, but one with 14 interceptions the last three seasons wouldn't hurt.
Jones, 27, has been productive for the Cleveland Browns in recent years, including last season when he had 56 tackles, four interceptions and one forced fumble. Jones won't fill Dawkins' role as a leader, hitter, and playmaker, but he will as a very good safety. Yes, he will.
Rashad Baker, S
No, Baker and Jones don't even come close to Brian Dawkins. However, if Jones and Baker can have some success in places horrible to play in (Cleveland and Oakland, respectively), then imagine the success they can have with Philadelphia, who have a defensive system that will be ideal for them to play in.
Baker had 24 tackles and three interceptions for the Oakland Raiders last season and we have seen in recent years how guys play when they leave Oakland (See: Randy Moss, Fabian Washington, DeAngelo Hall). After the season, we'll put Baker on that list.
Jason Peters, OT
Despite adding a good offensive tackle in Andrews, the Eagles decided to make a big move trading three draft picks, including one of their first round picks for former Bills offensive tackle Jason Peters. While Peters allowed the most sacks for any left tackle last year, he wasn't helped by an immobile Trent Edwards.
It would be disappointing if Peters allows that many sacks this year, as Donovan McNabb is much more mobile and will be able to get the ball off on short passes to new threats like Maclin and McCoy.
Jeremy Maclin, WR
The Eagles needed a big—play wide receiver. Enter Jeremy Maclin into the equation.
Maclin was projected as a top ten pick, likely to the Oakland Raiders or San Francisco 49ers. However, he kept on falling, and the Eagles made a trade to land him with the 19th overall pick.
Maclin is an underclassmen, and isn't very big (6'0", 198 lbs.), but has all the potential in the world. As a sophomore at Missouri last year, he caught 102 passes for 1,260 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He projects like a guy who can make a Chris Johnson-like impact on the field as a rookie.
LeSean McCoy, RB
Eagles fans are huge fans of Knowshon Moreno, and wanted him drafted by Philadelphia with the 21st overall pick. Instead, the Denver Broncos drafted him 12th—one of the reaches of the draft.
The Eagles decided to draft McCoy, who ran for more yards and scored more touchdowns in the first two years of his Pitt career than Larry Fitzgerald did in his.
McCoy amassed a total of 2,816 yards and 35 touchdowns. But what stands out is his receiving capabilities. McCoy will play the role Correll Buckhalter did, but get a lot more carries to take some work off of Westbrook.
Cornelius Ingram, TE
The Eagles grabbed another steal. This one was late in day two of the NFL Draft. Ingram, a Florida Gator alum, missed all of 2008.
So why is he a steal?
In the Scouting Combine, he proved his health, showing the injury didn't affect him all too much. When he is healthy, Ingram is productive as he proved in 2007, when he caught 34 passes for 508 yards and scored seven touchdowns. While Brent Celek is a good, reliable tight end, he doesn't have the blocking skills Ingram has. It's a great steal and wraps up a fantastic draft.
Ellis Hobbs, CB
With Eagles corner Sheldon Brown demanding a trade, the Eagles would need to either restructure his contract or trade him and find a new replacement.
It looks as if the Eagles have found their newest replacement.
After signing former Patriot Asante Samuel to a long—term deal last offseason, the Eagles pass defense was very good. It got even better on Sunday when the Eagles traded draft picks for former Patriot Ellis Hobbs. Hobbs, 25, had a bright year in 2008, compiling 47 tackles, three interceptions and 1.5 sacks. He also bolsters an already strong return game.
Marcus Thigpen, RB
With the clump of running backs getting drafted in the first two rounds, it's a wonder a guy like Thigpen didn't get drafted. While he stands at just 5'8", guys who stand around that height, like Ray Rice and Darren Sproles, have proven size doesn't necessarily matter.
Thigpen averaged 6.7 yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns last season for the Indiana Hoosiers. He's an athletic guy, can make an impact in the return game, and runs good routes.
Sam Swank, K
We saw the run David Akers went on in the postseason. After struggling from long distance throughout the season, the 34-year old placekicker went 9-of-10 in the playoffs, including one from 51 yards away.
However, as stated, Akers is 34. While most kickers do last long, you can't count on it, and it's a wonder Swank didn't get drafted. He had an off year in 2008, going just 11-for-17, but was 18-of-21 the year before and even made a 53-yard boot as a sophomore.
Reshard Langford, S
At 6'2", 210 lbs., Vanderbilt safety Reshard Langford has ideal build. Some scouting publications projected him as a fourth— or firth—rounder, but the Philadelphia Eagles landed him as an undrafted free agent.
In a week and—a—half of steals, this may be one of the biggest. The Eagles have some depth at safety, so Langford may not get the time he wants to play. Still he's a leader and commands respect on the field. I love his signing. I think he'll make the team and can be a backup. If Quintin Mikell or Demps gets hurt, no worries.
The Baltimore Ravens were also hit by free agency early, losing Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard and Jason Brown. However, the team has signed Matt Birk, Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr. In addition to that, they got some good early draft picks, like Michael Oher, Paul Kruger, Lardarius Webb.
They also added some key undrafted free agents, including Graham Gano, Eron Riley and Dannell Elerbe. Scott and Leonhard both made tremendous impacts last season, as Scott was a big hitter at linebacker and Leonhard had a nose for the ball at safety while also a constant in the punt return game. Yet, the Ravens made up for it.
Matt Birk, C
The Ravens received great play from Jason Brown last year at center, but he opted to leave and sign a five year, $37.5 million contract with the Rams. The Ravens decided to play it cheap, adding six—time Pro Bowler Matt Birk.
Not only is Birk more experienced and accomplished, Birk signed a minuscule three—year, $12 million contract. At 32, he is definitely on the decline. However, Birk can, without a doubt, still play.
Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said something nice when first round pick Michael Oher was introduced.
"We take care of Joe, Joe takes care of us." It started with Birk.
Domonique Foxworth, CB
The Ravens had two aging corners lined up to start going into the offseason in Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister. Wisely, the Ravens traded for Fabian Washington, 25, before the season.
This definitely isn't enough.
Samari Rolle is still a decent cover corner, but has his fair share of bad games. So the day free agency began, the Ravens signed Domonique Foxworth to a four year, $28 million contract. Foxworth is a hometown guy, as he played his high school ball 15 minutes away from M&T Bank Stadium. Foxworth, also 25, is a key component of the Ravens future.
Chris Carr, CB
After signing Foxworth, it looked as if the Ravens were done signing corners. But there is no such thing as too many cornerbacks. The Ravens decided to draft Chris Carr, the Titans nickel back/return specialist.
Last season, Carr was a key component to Tennessee's magical season, compiling 32 tackles and one interception. In 2006 with Oakland, he returned an interception 100 yards against Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
While he is a good third corner, the reason the Ravens signed him was to get some return presence. He owns the Raiders franchise record for kick return yards and after joining the Titans in 2008, the Titans special teams went from 27th in the NFL to first.
On top of that, he's 25.
Michael Oher, OT
The Ravens looked as if they would draft Brandon Pettigrew, Rey Maualuga or quite possibly, Hakeem Nicks in the first round before the craziness started.
However, the Ravens shocked everyone on draft day—trading up to grab Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher. Oher, 6'5", 309 lbs., has rare versatility as he can play right or left tackle, has a great personality, and may get the chance to start right away opposite Jared Gaither—one of the best left tackles in all of football.
Oher was definitely a good selection, and being that he's the tenth best prospect in the draft, it was a steal at No. 23.
Paul Kruger, DE
The Ravens bolstered their defense even more (if even possible) by adding Utah defensive end Paul Kruger. Kruger was the 48th best draft prospect and the Ravens got him with the 57th overall pick.
The Utah alum racked up 61 tackles, 16.5 for loss and had 7.5 sacks last year, which would equal 75 tackles, 20 for loss and nine sacks in a 16 game NFL season. When the NFL implements their 17-18 game schedule, which is possibly the future, those statistics would be even better.
To tell you the truth, I think it's a great steal.
Lardarius Webb, CB
After Chris Carr, you'd think the Ravens would be done getting corners. They had signed three corners—all 25—in the last two offseasons.
Webb is quite small, at 5'9", 179 lbs., but makes up for it in speed (4.46 40-yard dash) and playmaking ability (26.4 yards per INT return and was the only college football player ever to win player of the week on defense, offense and special teams).
Webb is a physical guy and Mel Kiper, Jr. even compared him to Bob Sanders. That may be a huge stretch for now, but his size and hitting ability is very similar. I'm not going to say that Webb becomes a Bob Sanders, but he can become the best Lardarius Webb he can be.
Graham Gano, K
The Ravens have always been good finding undrafted free agents.
Bart Scott signed a contract as an undrafted free agent and turned into one of the better linebackers in football. Jameel McClain was one of the undrafted free agents last season and is developing into one of the more promising linebackers.
The Ravens yesterday signed Gano, the No. 1 ranked kicker, as an undrafted free agent. Gano nailed 60 yarders with ease at the college football challenge and was 24-of-26 in the regular season. One word: steal.
Dannell Elerbe, LB
When the undrafted free agent process began, team GM Ozzie Newsome challenged Raven executives Eric DeCosta and Joe Hortiz to find the new Jameel McClain. They did in Elerbe.
Elerbe was the sixth—rated inside linebacker going into the draft, and the Ravens got him as an undrafted free agent. He isn't the most productive with 32 tackles and two sacks, but he's an impressive player and was even on the Butkus Award watch list.
Eron Riley, WR
While the Ravens, surprisingly enough, did NOT draft a wide receiver, the Ravens decided to nab one in the free agent process. They signed Duke wideout Eron Riley. Riley, 6'3", 205 lbs., is a very productive guy.
Despite playing for a lackluster Duke football program, he averaged 16.7 yards per catch and even had 40 catches for 830 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior. The wide receiver corps at the moment consists of Derrick Mason (35 years old), Mark Clayton (just 5'10"), Demetrius Williams (injury prone) and Marcus Smith (zero career catches), so Riley has a legit shot to make it as a No. 4 receiver.