The 2011 NFL Draft gave the Philadelphia Eagles several opportunities to fill the holes on their roster, and the front office responded by giving a major boost across their offensive line. However, the team will still need to rely on free agency and trades to put on the finishing touches on what could be another playoff-bound roster.
Although it is still unclear as to when the NFL lockout will be lifted and operations will resume to normalcy, speculation regarding which players the Eagles will target continues to run wild.
In order to get a better idea of which players the Eagles have in their sights, we should first take a look at their biggest needs. Here are the top five.
Obviously, wide receiver is far from the Eagles' most important need, with players like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper on the roster. However, there is a sharp drop off after those four.
Chad Hall, the team's fifth receiver, simply doesn't have the size or speed necessary to fit the Eagles' needs. Andy Reid experimented with Hall throughout the season, working him into gadget plays and trying him at the running back and kick returner positions. In all positions, Hall had limited success.
The Eagles have already brought in former Giant Sinorice Moss to compete with Hall, but decided against adding any young talent through the draft.
In order for the team to have insurance at the wide receiver position, as well as additional help on special teams, they'll need to add another young prospect to the mix.
After Ellis Hobbs suffered a season-ending neck injury during Week 7, the return positions went sharply downhill. While DeSean Jackson filled in more than admirably as a punt returner, the risk of using the team's top receiver on punt returns was simply too great to have him out there every time.
Rookie Jorrick Calvin doesn't appear to be the answer at the kick-return position. He only averaged 21.6 yards over 32 kickoffs and fumbled once before landing himself on injured reserve with back problems.
Fill-ins Gerard Lawson and Chad Hall didn't bring much to the table either, and the team failed to return a kickoff for a touchdown all season. The Eagles will likely have room on the roster at the wide receiver or halfback positions, so look for additional competition to be added there.
With Kevin Kolb sure to be out the door as soon as trades are allowed, the Eagles will be down to two quarterbacks on their roster. Since the team will need insurance in the event that Michael Vick gets bitten by the injury bug again, they will seek to add at least one other quarterback to the mix this offseason.
Doubts remain as to whether second-year man Mike Kafka will be ready to take the reins as the No. 2 quarterback, so there is a good chance that veteran will be brought aboard.
Veteran free-agent Marc Bulger will likely be snapped up by a team looking for a stopgap starter, but players like Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Leinart or Troy Smith could be good fits.
Ernie Sims was a disaster last year and will be departing via free agency. With another one-and-done linebacker off of their team, the Eagles will be looking for a veteran who can solidify an otherwise very unstable linebacker corps.
The team did boost the depth at WILL by drafting Oregon's Casey Matthews in the fourth round of this year's draft, but he projects more as a special teams contributor at this point. Last year's fourth-round pick, Keenan Clayton, could also be in the mix, but he may not be starting material just yet.
The Eagles have previously stated that they want a 2012 first-round pick and a veteran player in exchange for Kevin Kolb, and a starting WILL linebacker could fit their demands. Currently, their most likely trading partners are the Cardinals, Seahawks, Redskins and Dolphins, so it's possible that the Eagles' new starter is on one of those rosters.
Ever since his release by the Oakland Raiders, Nnamdi Asomugha has been mentioned in conjunction with the Eagles. The results of the 2011 NFL Draft have done nothing to quiet those rumors, since the Eagles waited until the third round to add a cornerback.
Although Curtis Marsh may progress to the level of starter someday, he currently projects as little more than a third or fourth cornerback on most teams' depth charts. Acquiring a talent like Asomugha would allow the Eagles to enjoy the best cornerback tandem in the NFL while their younger prospects learn and develop.
Another interesting idea that has been tossed around among Eagles fans is that the Cardinals will offer up Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and a draft pick in exchange for Kevin Kolb. The idea certainly makes sense, since the Cardinals chose cornerback Patrick Peterson with their fifth overall pick and failed to upgrade their woeful quarterback position.
Regardless, the Eagles have shown through the draft that they are not finished re-tooling their cornerback position. Either scenario seems likely at this point.