If the national media were high school, the Philadelphia Eagles would be the prom king of the upcoming NFL season. If you believe the hype, you might even say this year's Eagles were dealt pocket aces.
Mixed metaphors aside, the 2009 version of the Eagles might be their best offering since their Super Bowl run in 2004. It's hard to match that year's offseason where Philadelphia nabbed Terrell Owens, Jevon Kearse, and Dhani Jones, and drafted Shawn Andres, but many have the Eagles ranked at or near the top when grading this year's offseason moves.
Entering his 16th season as Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie must be ecstatic. In 1994, Lurie bought the team for $195 million. Now, the team is worth over $1 billion, and while the rest of the rich suddenly started getting poorer, Lurie's personal value pushed him into the dwindling $1 billion club, according to Forbes annual list.
With training camp about a month away, the Eagles have once again built a highly competitive team and did it without breaking the bank cap-wise. According to some estimates, Philadelphia had roughly $23 million of room to work with under the cap before re-working Donovan McNabb's contract.
Even after, the Eagles are still sitting pretty when it comes to finances.
The only major question mark is the status of Brian Westbrook. The Eagles' stud running back will miss training camp after a second surgery slowed his progress. However, he is set to return for the regular season if everything goes as planned.
Maybe that should be IF.
With Westbrook down but not out, the Eagles expect to turn to 2009 second round selection LeSean McCoy and Lorenzo Booker to carry the load in preparation for the season. The organization has high hopes for McCoy despite never taking an NFL hit, and seem to think Booker is more ready for this season than he was last year when he was deactivated for the NFC Championship Game.
While there is no question that McCoy has a huge upside, there is a big question the Eagles might face if their current path derails yet another Super Bowl run: Why not insure yourself at running back from the wealth of free agent talent still available?
Considering the NFL's team-friendly salary structure, it seems like a no-brainer that Philadelphia should insure themselves by picking up Deuce McAllister, Warrick Dunn, Edgerrin James, or even Rudi Johnson to have a contingency plan in case Westbrook's injury lingers, McCoy fails to reach expectations, or Booker fails to deliver (again!).
What's the risk? Sign one of the running backs still out of work, and if he fails or his services are not needed once the season starts, cut him. Unlike any other sport, the Eagles would not be responsible for the rest of that player's contract. Seems like it is little risk to protect the Eagles from disaster.
Call it running back insurance.
As the hype builds toward the 2009 season, this is no time to play it safe financially. Whether the Eagles spend a few million on running back insurance or not will not send the club into financial ruin, and would show the fans how serious this year's quest really is.
It's not enough to get close anymore for the Philadelphia Eagles. Sure, nine playoff appearances, five NFC Championship appearances, and one Super Bowl stop is impressive in 16 years of Jeffrey Lurie ownership, but without that Super Bowl trophy, it will never be good enough.
In poker, you can't lose what you don't put in the middle, but you can't win much either. It's time for Jeffrey Lurie to tell the Eagles to go all-in and take a small risk to prepare for anything to make sure this year's run at a Super Bowl title is not derailed again.
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