2011 NFL Free Agency: The 5 Best Free Agent Fits for the Philadelphia Eagles
We all know the Philadelphia Eagles' front office is going to be very aggressive once free agency starts up. The Eagles are a good football team but they are still a few pieces short of being a legitimate Superbowl contender.
The Eagles have many areas that need to be addressed this offseason. The right cornerback spot was a disaster last year and their pass rush faded as the season went on. The offensive line in general failed to protect Michael Vick consistently last year as evidence by his play in his final two starts last year. All these areas and more need to be heavily upgraded in order for the Eagles to finally get over the hump and bring the Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia.
Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin and Plaxico Burress have been the most talked about free agents as of late, and for good reason. Nnamdi physical dominates wide receivers right at the line or scrimmage. Jason Babin has 12.5 sacks last year and Plaixco Burress was one of the toughest wide outs to cover one on one.
All three players will expect big pay days and may be too expensive for the Eagles to be able to sign and still fix the other weaknesses as well.
I believe the Eagles need just five players in free agency to make the jump to legit contender.
5. Steve Weatherford
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Steve Weatherford is not the big name free agent signing that most Eagles fans are looking for. He is a punter, but he is a serious upgrade. He is exactly what the Eagles need.
Weatherford's punting average isn't much higher than current Eagles' punter Sav Rocca's—actually it was lower than Sav's—but his ability to pin a team deep in their own territory is invaluable.
Last year Weatherford had 20 punts inside the 10 yard line, while Rocca had 3. Half of Weatherford's punts were downed inside the 20 in 2010. His is an elite punter who can make a big difference in a tight ball game.
Another benefit of Weatherford is that he has experience on kickoffs. David Akers is being replaced by fourth round draft pick Alex Henery. Henery is a solid kicker but he didn't handle kickoffs at Nebraska. So if the Eagles stuck with Rocca as their punter they would have someone with no experience on kickoffs.
With kickoffs now being moved to the 35 yard line, you have to have a kicker who can get consistent touchbacks. To be the only team that can't kick the ball deep in the end zone would be a huge disadvantage.
Weatherford wouldn't cost much either. I mean, he is a punter. His contract would probably be worked out between about $1.2 million to $2 million a year depending on how many teams offer him a deal.
4. Tyson Clabo
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Anytime you have a quarterback who is as aggressive as a runner but also at times as fragile as Michael Vick, you can never have too many good players protecting him. The offensive line appears to be set once we figure out who starts at center between Jamaal Jackson and Mike McGlynn. Will except for right tackle. Winston Justice didn't perform well in 2010 and was pulled in the second half of the Eagle's playoff matchup with the Green Bay Packers. He blamed it on a knee injury suffered earlier in the season, but regardless he would be a question mark going into the season.
Tyson Clabo is coming off his best season yet. He was the starting right tackle for the Atlanta Falcons and made the Pro Bowl for the first team in his career. He is only 29 years old and is right in the prime of his career.
When your in the same division as Brian Orakpo, Justin Tuck and DeMarcus Ware, having two solid offensive tackles is a must. Jason Peters has the left side on lock down but the right side was an issue throughout 2010.
Clabo won't come cheap, but he won't garner a record breaking deal either. Somewhere around a six or seven year deal between 50 and 60 million would be expected. But he would be worth every penny if he can play like he did in 2010.
Offensive line is always a very key position. You rarely see a team win a Superbowl with anything but a great offensive line. Sooner or later a weak link in your front five will come back to bite you.
3. Lawrence Vickers
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Another low profile signing, but a huge upgrade nonetheless. Leonard Weaver, the Eagles starting fullback going in to 2010, will probably never play football again. Even if he does, he won't be close to being healthy until 2012. Owen Schmitt did a nice job filling in for Weaver, but he isn't a great run blocker. The Eagles need more balance in their offense in order to improve in the red zone and short yardage situations, but also to keep Michael Vick from taking an excessive number of quarterback hits.
Lawrence Vickers is the best fullback available for a number of reasons. First of all, he is going to be really motivated. Vickers has been the Cleveland Browns starting fullback since 2007, but appears to be on his way out after the Browns drafted Stanford fullback Owen Marecic in the 2010 NFL Draft. Browns GM Tom Heckert hasn't spoken to Vickers since the draft and Vickers has said he is confused as to why the Browns didn't offer him a new deal. No doubt, he will want to prove to the Browns they made a mistake in letting him walk.
Vickers has been one of the best lead blockers in the league since he became a starter in 2007. Jamal Lewis had two thousand yard seasons playing behind Vickers, while Peyton Hillis came out of now where to rush for 1,177 yards in 2011.
Vickers is thought of as just a lead blocking fullback, but he can be a complete west coast full back when given the opportunity. He had over 1,000 total yards and 13 touchdowns in his final two years at Colorado. He rarely got touches in Cleveland, but he has shown the potential to be a good west coast fullback.
2. Ike Taylor
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Nnamdi Asomugha is the best option available on the free agent market or any market to upgrade at the cornerback position. That's the problem with Nnamdi, there will be a bidding war for him and his likely yearly average on his next deal will be at least 15 million. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would make a lot of sense too but he is still a little raw and there is no guarantee Arizona would give up their former first rounder in a trade.
In comes Ike Taylor. He isn't the flashiest corner on the market but he is a great fit for the Eagles. There is growing speculation on Taylor being brought to Philly from just last week. Last week Adam Caplan, a sports writer who is very close within the Eagles' organization spoke about the possibility of Ike Taylor being an Eagle. "According to multiple sources will show strong interest in Ike Taylor once free agency starts. With the Eagles possibly playing more zone and less man coverage based on the adjustment of the defensive line, Taylor would fit in quite well."
Taylor would benefit the Eagles in a number of ways regardless of the coverage they play. He would come a lot cheaper than a Nnamdi Asomugha or Jonathon Joseph but has a lot more playoff experience than either. He also would be just a short term solution for two or three years. Trevard Lindley and Curtis Marsh are the future of the Eagles at corner and will be expected to be starters down the road similar to the Sheldon Brown and Lito Shepard situation of 2004.
Nnamdi isn't out of the question, but I don't believe the Eagles will join in a bidding war for one player when their are several holes they need to address. Remember, they won the NFC East and nearly beat the eventual Superbowl champs with a gaping hole at right cornerback in 2010. Ike Taylor would be a huge upgrade.
1. Albert Haynesworth
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Albert Haynesworth was worthless as a Washington Redskin. No one stands to benefit from that more than the Philadelphia Eagles. Albert Haynesworth may still be under contract with Washington, but there is no way he will still be under contract. His massive contract will probably be to difficult to trade for, so he will most likely be released at some point during free agency.
The past two seasons for Haynesworth have been awful. He has seen his production disappear playing nose tackle. His relationships with Redskins coaches has completely deteriorated and his lack of effort raises some major questions about his value.
However, those are non factors as long as Haynesworth gets to play for his mentor, new Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn.
Both Haynesworth and coach Washburn have expressed interest in bringing Haynesworth to Philadelphia. The move just makes a ton of sense. During the last season Haynesworth played for Washburn in Tennessee, the defensive line posted 30 sacks including Haynesworth's 8.5. Haynesworth just opens things up for his line mates. He draws double and triple teams, creating one-on-one match ups for the defensive ends.
I believe Haynesworth would take a pay cut to play for Washburn again and his new deal would probably be more incentive laden and not so top heavy as his current deal is.
There's also the motivation factor. Playing for the Eagles means you get the opportunity to play the Redskins twice a year. Can you imagine how motivated Haynesworth would be facing off against Mike Shanahan twice a season? Nothing would give Albert more pleasure than to be able to stick it to his former coach.