Philadelphia Eagles fans have been frustrated with the team's lack of activity during the 2010 free agency period. With several obvious needs apparent to the fanbase, the Eagles brass has elected to pursue only a few low profile free agents.
At the same time, the team has released and allowed several other players to depart, increasing the number of roster spots that need to be plugged.
It seems universally acknowledged that the Birds need help at linebacker, defensive end, and safety. Other less glaring, but still important team needs include cornerback depth and the interior of the offensive line.
Although many of the top unrestricted free agents have already landed new homes, the Eagles may be looking for some second wave bargains.
Needless to say, fans were hoping for the team to move more aggressively in the free-agent market in order to improve the roster and position the team for success in 2010.
How big an impact could a high level free agent make on the current team? In order to provide some backdrop, I took a look back through the team's history to assess the free-agent signings that have most positively impacted the Eagles.
What follows are the 10 best free agent signings in franchise history:
Unlike this year, the Eagles jumped into the free-agent waters quickly in 2004 by signing Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse to a record contract. "The Freak" was to provide the team with a game changing defensive star that would help propel them to the Super Bowl after three recent near misses.
Kearse never did live up to those expectations, but did provide a presence on the defensive line that required opposing defensive coordinators to account for him in their game plans. His first two seasons in midnight green were steady, albeit unspectacular, before suffering an injury in 2006 that kept him out of most of the season and comprised his play the following year.
Although he contributed a somewhat meager 7.5 sacks in the 2004 regular season, Kearse surely had a hand in the Eagles ascension to the Super Bowl that season. Conversely, in terms of return on investment, the Eagles clearly did not attain the yield they had envisioned.
Accordingly, many would view Kearse as a total bust considering his paycheck, but he is mostly included here simply because the Eagles finally cleared the hurdle to get back to the Super Bowl after he joined them. The 2004 team came the closest to grabbing the ever elusive Lombardi Trophy for Eagles fans.
When the Minnesota Vikings released Herschel Walker following two lackluster seasons after paying a king's ransom to get him from the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles swooped in and signed him to a deal in 1992. The team was a contender in need of a featured running back who could take pressure off of quarterback Randall Cunningham.
Walker paid immediate dividends, leading the team in rushing and overall yards from scrimmage to help the team to a 11-5 record that season. Overall, he rushed for 1,070 yards, accumulated 1,348 yards from scrimmage and scored 10 touchdowns.
His rushing totals dropped off over the next two seasons; however, he played a much larger role in the passing game. In his three seasons in an Eagles uniform, Walker accounted for 3732 yards from scrimmage. Additionally, he set a record in 1994 by being the first player to record gains of 90 yards or more three different ways: rushing, receiving, and returning.
After four years in Pittsburgh, including the last two as a starter, the Eagles signed Carlos Emmons to replace longtime defensive stalwart Willie Thomas at outside linebacker in 2000. Emmons played an integral role on one of the league's top defensive units over the next four seasons.
During his tenure with the club, the Eagles recorded a 46-18 record and made three trips to the NFC championship game. In 2003, team players elected Emmons as the defensive MVP.
Emmons was beloved by fans, teammates and coaches for his great work ethic and overall toughness. Overall, he turned in four very solid seasons at strong-side linebacker on some very good Eagles teams.
After a lackluster 2007 season that was marked by an uncharacteristically poor defensive unit under the direction of Jim Johnson, the Eagles acted quickly to lock up All-Pro cornerback Asante Samuel when he became a free agent.
A major factor in signing Samuel was to increase the number of takeaways that had disappeared despite their attacking defensive style.
In his two seasons in Philadelphia, including the postseason, Samuel has intercepted 15 passes and returned two for touchdowns. During that period, the Eagles have returned to the top of league rankings in both takeaways and total defense.
Eagles fans often are frustrated by the smallish cornerback's lack of run support and soft tackling, but Samuel has clearly made a difference with his coverage ability and great anticipation. He has been selected to represent the NFC in the Pro Bowl both seasons in an Eagles uniform.
In 1996, the Eagles went against current organizational practice by signing seasoned veteran Irving Fryar as a free agent. The wide receiver, who grew up in the Philadelphia area, rewarded the team with a pair of stellar seasons.
Despite being on teams lacking a bona fide NFL caliber starting quarterback, Fryar registered the best overall performances of his career. His first two seasons for the Birds also rank amongst the top individual performances in team history.
In 1996, Fryar helped the team advance to the postseason by grabbing 88 passes totaling 1,195 yards. He also found the end zone 11 times in the regular season.
He followed that up with 86 receptions and 1,316 yards a season later. At the age of 36 with lackluster quarterback play in 1998, his production fell off and the team elected not to re-sign him for the following season.
Fryar was recognized for his superb performances in 1996 and 1997 by his peers as he was elected to his fourth and fifth Pro Bowl squads. Perhaps Andy Reid and company would be wise to use this as an example of how selectively signing veteran free agents can pay big dividends.
After choosing to allow Herschel Walker to walk after the 1994 season, the Eagles gambled by signing the outspoken Ricky Watters when he could not come to terms with the San Francisco 49ers. Waters had his controversies during his Philadelphia tenure, but was highly productive over those three seasons.
The talented running back was a workhorse running the ball and a threat in the passing game. During his stay in Philadelphia, Watters posted some of the best rushing and total yards from scrimmage numbers in team history.
In 1995, he rushed for 1,273 yards on his way to 1,707 yards from scrimmage and 12 visits to the end zone. He improved upon those numbers the following season by rushing for 1,411 yards, accumulating 1,855 yards from scrimmage and scoring a team-leading 13 touchdowns.
Watters contributed another fine season in 1997, but began to wear out his welcome by clashing with offensive coordinator Jon Gruden and building his reputation as a "me first" player.
Fairly or unfairly, an incident that season became permanently attached to his reputation when he failed to extend his arms to catch an important pass to avoid getting hit by defenders in an exposed position.
Later when questioned about it, Watters made his infamous response "for who, for what?" This situation pretty much assured his exit at the end of the season.
The Philadelphia organization has been plagued by shaky field goal kicking that has ranged from okay to downright miserable throughout its history. The team solved that with the "under the radar" signing of free agent David Akers during the 1999 season after he was released by the Washington Redskins.
Over the past 10 years, Akers has been one of the top kickers in the NFL and has easily become the best in team history. Four times, the left-footed specialist has been selected to the NFC Pro Bowl squad and was named first-team All-Pro in 2001.
During his career in midnight green, he has become the team's all-time leader in scoring, field goals, PAT's and accuracy. Overall, Akers has provided the type of reliable, accurate kicker necessary for winning teams.
After eight solid seasons playing for the Houston Oilers, defensive end William Fuller was signed to a three-year contract by the Eagles at the age of 32 prior to the 1994 season. It proved to be a wise move as Fuller had three of the best seasons in his career.
The fierce pass rusher disrupted opposing offenses by racking up sacks and forcing fumbles. While in a Bird's uniform, Fuller accumulated 35.5 sacks and forced 12 fumbles.
For his efforts, the defensive end was elected to three consecutive Pro Bowls and received several league-wide honors. The Eagles defensive performance dropped off considerably over the next few seasons after his departure.
Upon becoming the Eagles head coach, Andy Reid quickly identified that he needed to shore up the team's offensive line. With the team's investment in young quarterback Donovan McNabb, the Eagles signed Tennessee Titan Jon Runyan in 2000 to protect his right side.
Runyan fulfilled that role very well, continuing his streak of never missing a game. Regardless of the physical toll that he took in the trenches, the right tackle suited up and started 192 consecutive games, including 144 over his nine Eagles seasons.
His mental toughness and personality served as a great role model on and off the field. Besides being a tremendously reliable and solid performer each and every week, Runyan was a high character team leader as well.
Although Runyon was elected to only one Pro Bowl team, he was recognized throughout the league as a top-tier performer. He was surely a key contributor to the Eagles success throughout the decade.
The Eagles continued their aggressive posture in pursuing free agents once again in 1996 when they signed young Miami Dolphins cornerback Troy Vincent. The emerging star quickly became a team leader and a key component of the Eagles defense for the next eight seasons.
Vincent was recognized around the league for his coverage skills and was elected to the Pro Bowl five consecutive seasons while playing for the Eagles. In 2002, he was named first-team All-Pro and recognized as the "NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year" for his work off the field.
The eloquent cornerback was also big and physical enough to be very effective in press coverage and run support. Unlike many at his position, he was a solid tackler with well rounded skills.
Before the term "shutdown corner" became a regular part of NFL vernacular, Vincent played that role in an Eagles uniform. He particularly flourished in Jim Johnson's attacking defense that relied on its cornerbacks to single up in man-to-man coverage.
Since the advent of free agency in the NFL, the Eagles have added some players who have made a significant impact to the team. Overall, the organization has been very selective and targeted in its approach.
The team was most aggressive and successful in 1996 and 2000 when it signed a pair of impact players in each respective offseason. In 1996, it was Irving Fryar and Troy Vincent. Then, four years later, they signed Jon Runyan and Carlos Emmons.
Further dissecting the top 10 free agent additions, half of them contributed no more than three impact years. Conversely, Akers, Runyon and Vincent went on to make substantial contributions with the club for extended periods of time.
Most of the big-name unrestricted free agents have signed elsewhere in 2010, but it is still possible that the Eagles will attempt to sign a more established player than they have thus far. Marlin Jackson and/or Mike Bell could make a meaningful contribution this season; however, it is highly doubtful that they will be the difference makers that the team clearly needs.
Is there a William Fuller, Troy Vincent or Jon Runyan still out there?