Five Unrestricted Free Agents the Philadelphia Eagles Should Look at
April 15 isn’t just tax day—it’s the deadline for NFL teams to sign restricted free agents to an offer sheet.
That deadline has now come and passed, meaning that any dreams Eagles fans had of landing a player like O.J. Atogwe or D’Qwell Jackson are now relegated to trade fantasies.
Oddly enough, with all of the hubbub surrounding restricted free agency and its blockbuster potential, the Birds’ signing of Mike Bell was the biggest poaching on that market.
So now, teams are left to choose out of the admittedly thin pool of unrestricted free agents. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t good players available, however, as several guys left on the list would be great fits in certain situations.
The Eagles have 11 picks in the 2010 NFL Draft. Five are in the first three rounds, and the Birds are expected to address needs at cornerback, safety, outside linebacker, and defensive end in some order—with another offensive lineman also a possibility.
No matter who they do end up drafting in those spots, there are a handful of unrestricted free agents available who fit the aforementioned molds.
These five, in particular, could be of good use in Philadelphia, either as a temporary fill-in or as a depth player that will allow them to draft heavily elsewhere.
RB Rock Cartwright
Cartwright is never going to be an elite player, and he probably won’t even be a starter wherever he goes. And yes, he’s over 30, which is seemingly the de facto retirement age in Philadelphia.
But there’s no doubting that he can be a “Rock” for the Eagles in a couple areas of need.
Cartwright was released by Washington earlier this spring and probably didn’t do himself any favors after virtually trashing the organization on LaVar Arrington’s D.C.-area radio show.
But he showed last season that he can at least be useful out of the backfield, racking up nearly 500 all-purpose yards after Washington lost both Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts for the year.
In addition, Cartwright was the Redskins’ main kick returner for the last four years. He wasn’t extraordinarily dynamic in that role, but he does hold the franchise’s single-season record with 1,541 kickoff return yards and spent time on kickoff coverage teams as well.
The three-headed monster of Bell, LeSean McCoy, and Leonard Weaver means Cartwright (or Eldra Buckley, or whoever) will ideally see very few carries.
But look at the Birds’ depth chart at KR; of the four names you’ll likely see, two (Jeremy Maclin and Ellis Hobbs) are now full-time starters, Macho Harris still could be, and the fourth is Quintin Demps.
Cartwright is, honestly, a better return option than all four of them, and given the logjam ahead of him in the backfield he wouldn’t be a “downgrade” from Buckley—who himself only got 15 carries in 2009.
For roughly $1m a year or so—he made $750K last year—Cartwright could be a huge steal.
Again, yeah, he’s 30...but so was Brian Mitchell when the Birds signed him.
S Darren Sharper
Again, Sharper is 34 and will be 35 in November. He’s two years younger than Brian Dawkins, meaning he’s a year away from hitting the age where “Weapon X” was de-commissioned.
So why not go out and get him for that year?
I’m sure by now the Eagles brass will, albeit in private and very begrudgingly, admit that they might have jettisoned Dawkins a little too early.
Signing Sharper can’t make up for that, but it can help.
Age be damned, Sharper has always been very talented and is coming off a career year. In only 14 games, he tied his career high with nine interceptions and had his most combined tackles (71) since 2003.
In short, he’s a rangy, ball-hawking center fielder who isn’t afraid to lay in some licks.
Kinda sounds like Dawkins, no?
The downside is that he’s apparently looking for a huge raise, reportedly double the $1.7m he made last year on a one-year deal with New Orleans.
But in an uncapped year, that might not be a problem for even the seemingly youth-committed Eagles.
If they can give him, say, $3m, or even $6m for two years and front-load the deal, he could be a very attractive “temporary” solution.
After all, the names on the roster at safety—Demps, Harris, Quintin Mikell, and newly-acquired Marlin Jackson—aren’t exactly huge.
Signing Sharper (or even another veteran like Gibril Wilson or Clinton Hart) would allow them to draft a couple “potential” guys later in the draft and let them develop while a veteran holds down the fort.
LB Rocky Boiman
Boiman actually was an Eagle for a time, as he was signed in March 2008 but released in final roster cutdowns.
He’s a bit of a journeyman (six franchises in eight years) and at 30 isn’t going to challenge for a starting spot anywhere.
But the Eagles boast Moise Fokou as their only current depth at the SAM, and he really didn’t inspire a lot of confidence at times in 2009.
The Birds are likely to draft at least one player to shore up the strong side but could definitely use some veteran depth behind whoever ends up as the starter.
Boiman had a decent year in Kansas City in 2008 (73 tackles and seven passes defensed in nine starts) and can also help out on special teams.
He’ll be relatively cheap, has a little bit of experience with the Philly system, and could slot nicely into a role similar to the one Tracy White filled for the last couple seasons.
WR Bobby Wade
Wade is one of those guys that you inevitably find on your fantasy team every year, that guy who fills in as your last receiver for a week or two when you’re inundated with byes.
There’s a reason for that: He’s not bad.
He’s not great, but he’s not bad.
Last season was a down one for Wade (only 36 catches for 267 yards in Kansas City), but he put up back-to-back 645-yard seasons in Minnesota in 2007 and 2008 and can hold his own as the third or fourth receiver—which he would clearly be behind DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant.
Wade can also help out on special teams, assuming he can cure the fumble-itis that has plagued him to the tune of a 17 percent fumble rate on career punt returns (13 fumbles on 78 returns). But he did a decent job on 40 dropbacks last season and also spent 2006 as the Titans’ primary kickoff returner.
He can likely be had on the cheap, and with the departures of Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown, the Eagles could use a true slot receiver in certain offensive sets.
QB Mark Brunell
Rumors are swirling that the Birds may be on the verge of signing Jeff Garcia for a third tour of duty with the team. He knows the system, and Garcia has said that he would relish the opportunity to come in and mentor Kevin Kolb.
But if that scenario doesn’t work out, Brunell wouldn’t be a bad second option.
Brunell was a starter for over a decade in the league, first with Jacksonville and later with Washington. In between, he started his career as a backup for Brett Favre and spent the last two years caddying for Drew Brees in New Orleans.
Although his Week 17 start last season for the Saints was his first game action in three years, Brunell really wouldn’t be much of a “downgrade” from Garcia in any category behind system familiarity.
He’s a solid hand and an accurate QB who knows how to win and could step in for Kolb or Michael Vick in a pinch.
The Jets have been rumored to be considering him as a potential mentor for Mark Sanchez, so Brunell’s services in that regard are somewhat in demand.
If Garcia’s not the guy, why not bring in the lefty?