Philadelphia Eagles: State of the Defense Before Free Agency
It might not be tomorrow or the next day, but free agency will have to open up at some point. When it does, we've already been told that the Eagles are going to be aggressive.
Personally, I'm glad to hear Andy Reid say that. I believe that aggressively attacking free agency is exactly what this team needs to do with their "win now" mentality.
Looking ahead to free agency, I think the Eagles have more to address on the defensive side of the ball than they do offensively. With that in mind, let's look at the Eagles defense by position before the free agency period opens.
I'm pretty excited to see how the interior of the Eagles defensive line plays under Jim Washburn this year. It's a shame that they're being restricted by the lockout. However, the Eagles have some veteran defensive tackles who are already talented and will be even better under Washburn's guidance.
I don't see this as a position of need. Antonio Dixon had a great season last year, and many think Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley will be more effective in Washburn's system. Trevor Laws should also be able to contribute in the rotation after making some nice plays last season.
With the rotation they have set in place, I'm not sure how realistic of an option signing Albert Haynesworth is. If it's going to be expensive, I can't see it happening, as they'd be better off spending their money elsewhere.
Jeff Owens looks unlikely to play in 2011, so the team may look to bring in some younger talent to compete. However, I have a hard time seeing them spending a whole lot of money at the position.
The defensive end position is an interesting one heading into the 2011 season. Last year's first-round draft pick Brandon Graham reportedly won't be ready for the beginning of the season. Maybe this will change if the season doesn't start when it's scheduled to. However, I don't like to think of that happening.
Graham's injury makes you wonder who will start opposite Trent Cole when the season begins. The Eagles have a few options, but none of them are likely to make the impact they're looking for.
As the roster stands now, Juqua Parker or Darryl Tapp would likely be the contenders for the starting position, but there's no real standout who will clearly be the guy.
In free agency, there are some guys who could potentially come in and have big impacts right away. Jason Babin and Ray Edwards are two names that seem to swirl around the Eagles community a lot. I'm not sure if Babin would like to come back to Philadelphia, but he had a great season with Washburn in Tennessee last year. Edwards is a guy who I think can definitely make an impact, but may come with a price tag bigger than the Eagles are willing to pay.
There will be some cheaper options out there, and I can definitely see the Eagles making a play for someone at the position. The amount they're willing to spend will be the interesting thing to watch.
Coming into the 2011 season, the starting middle linebacker seems to be the only real certainty among the linebacker corps. Jamar Chaney, the Eagles 2010 seventh-round draft pick, will fill the spot in the middle after playing well down the stretch last year.
Although the Eagles could potentially let Stewart Bradley walk when free agency opens, I think it's hard to do because of his ability to play in the middle. He'll move to the strong-side with Chaney starting in the middle, but he can bounce back into the middle if anything would happen to Chaney.
I think Greg Lloyd could be a great depth guy in the middle, but I have trouble believing that he'll be able to stay healthy.
Health may also be a consideration for the Eagles when it comes to Bradley. If they chose to let him go, they could bring in a guy like Barrett Ruud who has recorded over 100 tackles the last four seasons.
The Eagles added two speedy, high-motor linebackers in this year's draft by selecting Casey Matthews and Brian Rolle. Both guys should immediately be special teams aces, but may serve a role defensively as well.
A lot of what the Eagles will do with their outside linebackers will be based on whether or not they bring Bradley back. If he returns, he'll play the strong-side and a large number of players will compete for the weak-side. The list could potentially contain both Matthews and Rolle, as well as Moise Fokou and Keenan Clayton.
If Bradley is let go, they could potentially do a few things. They could leave Fokou on the strong-side and have a competition for the weak-side with the current players on the roster. They could also sign a free agent to fill the opening on the weak-side. Finally, they could bring in a free agent for the strong-side and, again, have a competition on the weak-side.
As I said, it's all going to stem on the Bradley decision. If they choose to let him go, I think a veteran player like Manny Lawson or Rocky McIntosh could be a potential target to come in and help the younger players.
I'm not a fortune teller, but I fully believe that the Eagles will sign a corner before they do anything else in free agency. We have no idea who it's going to be, but I think the first few steps of Andy Reid's "aggressive plan" deal with which corner they want.
Clearly, the Eagles have one starting corner in Asante Samuel right now and desperately need another guy who can step in and play at a high level. The Eagles were absolutely destroyed in many games last season based on one corner not being able to play well. This varied each game, and that's why the Eagles are so desperate for a starting corner.
There's been plenty of speculation about Nnamdi Asomugha. He's clearly the best option out there, and he'll clearly cost the most money. He won't be the longest-term option available, but I've mentioned the "win now" mentality multiple times, and he gives the team the best chance to do just that.
If the Eagles want to save money or another team gets to him first, there will be other options. The Eagles could potentially get a player like Jonathon Joseph or Brent Grimes, who are a bit younger but still very talented.
I fully believe Reid when he says they will be aggressive with free agency and I think they will likely sign a corner on the first day. This is their biggest need, and after filling it, they'll have a much better idea on what they can do with the remainder of free agency.
For the second consecutive year, the Eagles drafted a safety in the second round of the draft. Nate Allen was the selection in 2010, and Jaiquawn Jarrett was the guy in 2011.
The Eagles are hopeful that both are in the starting lineup when the season starts, but there are no guarantees. Allen will be fighting to get back from a torn patellar tendon injury, and Jarrett may have limited time to learn the Eagles defensive scheme before the season starts.
Drafting Jarrett likely means the end for Quintin Mikell, and it seems the Eagles may have to bring in a veteran player to mesh with all of the younger players and add depth.
I'm not sure what type of direction the Eagles will go in terms of adding another safety. They won't be looking for a guy to start and won't be looking to type up a lot of money at the position. A player like Gerald Sensabaugh or Roman Harper could be a possibility.
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