The draft is coming quickly, but in the NFL, it's still open season on free agents.
With a plethora of valuable draft picks, the Philadelphia Eagles are in a prime position to grab any of the elite safety prospects. They have the trade bait to move up into the top six and secure the top rated safety in the draft—Eric Berry from Tennessee.
They could also wait to see if Earl Thomas from Texas slips to 24th overall or trade up more frugally into the top 15 to secure his services.
If the Eagles miss or pass on Thomas, they should be able to lock-up Nate Allen from South Florida with the 37th overall selection.
Any of those three prospects would be expected to start in 2010.
But if the Eagles decide to draft one of the many talented safeties in the later rounds or take a project-player like Taylor Mays from USC, they could look to free agency for a stop-gap veteran presence.
And there are two outstanding safeties still on the market.
Both Darren Sharper and OJ Atogwe are basically free agents.
Although classified as a restricted free agent, the Rams only have the right to match Atogwe's best offer (no further compensation is due). If Atogwe does not sign his tender (which he apparently will not do), he will officially become an unrestricted free agent in the summer.
The Eagles are in a great situation to address their free safety needs.
I think as a matter of preference, the Eagles will look to the draft to acquire one of the premier free safety prospects. If they fall to draft temptation they may still target a safety in post-draft free agency.
For example, if the Eagles draft a cornerback in round one (CB - Kyle Wilson from Boise State perhaps) and then draft a player that slipped out of the first round with their 37th overall selection (like DE - Carlos Dunlap or C - Maurkice Pouncey from Florida), they could miss their opportunity to land one of the elite safety prospects.
If that were the case, I could see them targeting Darren Sharper or OJ Atogwe.
Still, we must consider the fact that the Eagles have three players competing for the free safety position already.
When Brian Dawkins left prior to the 2009 season, the Eagles brought in Rashad Baker from Oakland, Sean Jones from Cleveland, Reshard Langford from Vanderbilt and Macho Harris from Virginia Tech to compete with Quintin Demps for the job.
The job is still up for grabs and Macho Harris might be heading to the cornerback competition. Considering that, I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Eagles added a proven veteran and a rookie before camp opens.
Marlin Jackson is interesting, but dispensable (ala Rashad Baker) and Demps' opportunity may very well be over if the Eagles draft a safety with one of their highly valued draft pick. That makes him dispensable as well.
The Eagles could have two completely different names on the free safety depth chart in September.
The defensive makeover is just starting.
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