Philadelphia Eagles: Full Offseason Report Card
For those who are keeping score at home, the Eagles have now signed five players who have made the Pro Bowl in their careers.
Going into the the offseason, the Eagles had a very high number of needs for a team that won their division and nearly beat the eventual Super Bowl champions. The Eagles had issues at right guard, right cornerback, red zone offense, red zone defense and a pass rush that faded down the stretch. The Eagles were able to overcome all of these areas just enough to reach the playoffs and win the NFC East, but it was obvious that they needed some upgrades if that trend was to continue.
2011 NFL Draft: B+
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The Philadelphia Eagles weren't able to draft any future superstars in the 2011 NFL Draft, but they were able to pick up a lot of solid players, and about half of them will develop into quality starters for years to come.
Danny Watkins was the Eagles first pick of the draft, the 23rd overall selection. Watkins may be old for a rookie at 26, but is a very quick learner having only played football the last four years. His ability to learn quickly and his tenacity should earn him the starting right guard spot.
The Eagles drafted three other players who could be starting in Week 1. Jaiquawn Jarrett, a safety from Temple, was the Eagles' second round selection. Jarrett is a very athletic player who has the ability to play in the box or deep in coverage. He will have to fight off second year safety Kurt Coleman, who is looking more and more like the starting strong safety every single day in training camp.
Casey Matthews, brother of one Clay Matthews and a son of another, was one of the Eagles fourth round draft picks. Matthews is a bit smaller and slower than some of the other starting middle linebackers in the NFL, but his football instincts and his ability to see a play before it happens are off the charts. His play in training camp is the reason the Eagles passed on free-agent linebackers like Nick Barnett and Stephen Tulloch. He will be the starting middle linebacker baring a major setback.
David Akers' reign in Philadelphia is over. The greatest kicker in Eagles history was not re-signed, but we all saw this coming when the Eagles drafted the top kicker from the 2011 class, Alex Henery. Henery has a big leg, but his accuracy and history of making the clutch kicks are what make him the ideal replacement for Akers.
All in all, it was a solid draft class. The Eagles got three or four immediate starters and at least nine players who will make the roster along with Greg Lloyd Jr, who will most likely be stashed away on IR this season. Just par for the course for a front office that has a history of coming up with outstanding draft classes.
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The Eagles let several replaceable free agents walk, but still have one very important Eagle that needs a new deal. DeSean Jackson is arguably the Eagles' most important player. The offense seems to sputter when he is out of the lineup, and we saw in Week 15 how electrifying of a player he can be at any moment.
Jackson is on the final year of his rookie contract and he is currently set to make a whopping $565,000 in 2011. Obviously the Eagles want to re-sign Jackson and keep him in midnight green for years to come, but they first must figure out whether to trade Asante Samuel or cut a couple of overpaid veterans like Joselio Hanson and Juqua Parker.
The Eagles currently have around $4.5 million with at least $4 more million coming off the books if they sign Michael Vick to a contract extension. Vick is currently set to make nearly $16 million from his franchise tag. If the Eagles cut Hanson and Parker, that would free up another $6 million giving the Eagles around over $14 million in cap space with Vick's contract extension as well.
Until the Eagles figure out what to do with Asante Samuel, DeSean Jackson probably won't get a new deal. You can't give a grade to a team for re-signings when they havn't yet re-signed one of their most important pieces. It will happen, it's just a matter of when, and at whose expense.
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In 2007, the Eagles spent a second round draft pick on Kevin Kolb. In 2011 the Eagles received a second round pick for Kevin Kolb. Oh yeah, and they also got one of the best younger corners in the game, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, as well. Not bad for a backup quarterback with seven career starts and a career quarterback rating of 73.2.
The Eagles also shipped out Brodrick Bunkley to the Denver Broncos for a conditional draft pick in 2013. Bunkley has been under-performing since being taken in the first round in 2006. Bunkley was on his final year of his contract, so the fact that the Eagles got something for a guy that probably wouldn't make the team in a crowded unit at defensive tackle is remarkable.
The Eagles could make a major trade involving Pro Bowl corner Asante Samuel any day now. The Eagles could and should elect to keep Asante for one year with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha, but that fact that they are still fielding offers and havn't said that they won't trade Samuel is very telling.
Free Agency: A+++
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For the Eagles, the past few days of free agency has been one for the ages. Last year, the Chicago Bears set the football world on fire by signing Julius Peppers and Chester Taylor. This year the Eagles have incinerated the football world by signing six Pro Bowl-caliber players.
Jason Babin was the first free agent signing for the Eagles. He wasn't as promising as Charles Johnson and he somehow wasn't as popular as Ray Edwards, but he fits a need. Babin is an absolute quarterback sacking machine. Babin came off his best year in 2010 with 12.5 sacks where new Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn helped turn him into a former first round bust into a Pro Bowl defensive end.
The Eagles also got an insurance policy for Michael Vick when they signed Vince Young, who has a career record of 30-18. Young has a similar skill-set to Vick, and the Eagles offense will not have to adjust much at all if something happens to their starter. Having an athlete with a cannon for an arm being backed up by another athlete with a cannon for an arm is a rarely-seen luxury in the NFL. Young has demonstrated to the Eagles that he wants to be a team player, and has shown plenty of humility by stating his willingness to take on any role, whether it's holding a clipboard or taking reps as the scout team quarterback.
The next signing the Eagles made knocked everyone either on their seat or out of their seat. The Jets and the Cowboys were the two teams bidding for cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha's services, or so we thought. When it was announced that neither team was going to be able to sign Asomugha, it was clear that a mystery team was going to win the Nnamdi sweepstakes. Just like last winter when the Phillies came out of nowhere and snatched Cliff Lee from a Dallas and New York franchise, the Eagles snatched up Asomugha from the Cowboys and Jets. The Eagles instantly became the early Super Bowl favorites, and they weren't even through signing big name players.
Within 24 hours, the Eagles made their next move, signing defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. Jenkins was a 3-4 end with the Packers, but should play both end and tackle in the Eagles' 4-3.
As if that wasn't enough, the Eagles got two stud backups to their roster, signing running back Ronnie Brown to a one year, $1 million deal and offensive tackle Ryan Harris to a similar one year deal. Ronnie Brown has proven to be a complete back and is outstanding in blitz pickup, while Ryan Harris has been a bit consistent and has some injury concerns, but is the perfect fit in Howard Mudd's offensive line scheme.
The Eagles came into free agency with several holes to fill as a borderline contender in the NFC. They came out of free agency as the team to beat despite not winning a playoff game since the 2008 season.
Obviously, it's a long season and anything can happen, but you would have to think that the Eagles have positioned themselves as the team to beat right now. It's Super Bowl or bust in Philly, and anything less would be a major disappointment.