With the lockout now in the rear-view mirror of football fans, it’s business as usual for NFL fans. Training camps are open and most of the top free agents have been signed. In a non-labor dispute year, most of the high profile player transactions occur in March. The ongoing labor dispute put free agent signings of any kind, player trades, as well as the signing of draft picks on hold until just last week.
Several teams got off to a quick start once the moratorium on player transactions was lifted.
The New England Patriots completed trades for Washington Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco on the same day. Some fans were ready to proclaim them as the winners of the offseason, in addition to being the Super Bowl favorites.
Many of those same people are quickly changing their minds after what the Philadelphia Eagles have acquired in such a short time.
After Michael Vick’s performance during the 2010 season, it was inevitable that Kevin Kolb was going to be on the trade block. Out went a player once anointed as Donavon McNabb’s successor and in came cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Kolb’s replacement? Former Pro Bowl quarterback Vince Young. The former Texas Longhorn won’t see much playing time unless Vick is hurt, but he gives this big play Eagles offense another intriguing option.
Then came another Tennessee Titan, defensive end Jason Babin (who was an Eagle during the 2009 season) and Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. Both additions will strengthen a defensive line that already includes Trent Cole and Mike Patterson.
If that wasn't enough, Ronnie Brown signed a one year, $1 million deal to be a backup for LeSean McCoy. Even if Brown never runs a Wildcat formation with Vick or Young, he will still be one of the better second-string running backs going in to the 2011 season.
While those additions have improved their roster and made them a Super Bowl contender, the real reason for all the hype surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles was the signing of Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
Asomugha was the most sought after free agent heading in to the offseason. During the first couple days of free agency he was being heavily pursued by the Houston Texans and the New York Jets. Houston dropped out of the race after signing Johnathan Joseph from the Cincinnati Bengals. For a while it seemed like he was heading to the New York Jets to form the NFL’s best cornerback duo with Darrelle Revis.
Instead , for the second time in eight months, the most sought after free agent spurned the Big Apple for the City of Brotherly Love.
In December it was Cliff Lee who signed with the Philadelphia Phillies over the New York Yankees. His addition gave the Phillies by far and way the best pitching staff in Major League Baseball.
The addition of Nnamdi Asomugha gives the Eagles the best set of cornerbacks in the National Football League, assuming Asante Samuel remains on the team.
Samuel has reported to training camp, but he could still suit for another team this upcoming season. At least for the moment, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is the best backup cornerback in the NFL.
After all this talent to their roster, the Philadelphia Eagles have received all sorts of labels. Many are already calling them the Miami Heat of the NFL, something that Jason Babin has already proclaimed on Twitter.
After signing, Vince Young called the Eagles a “dream team."
Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has taken a more skeptical view referring to them as the “All Hype Team.”
There will certainly be no shortage of attention for the Philadelphia Eagles going in to the 2011 NFL season, but none of those labels seem fit for the team.
The Miami Heat’s addition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh last summer instantly turned the team in to the most polarizing in North American sports and helped dramatically increased the NBA’s popularity. The league had record TV ratings this past season and the 2011 NBA Finals had more viewers than the most recent World Series.
The attention that surrounds the Philadelphia Eagles right now is making a lot of headlines near the end of summer; however this will not have a substantial impact on the NFL’s popularity.
More fans might follow the Eagles this year and watch their games, but the NFL has already secured its place as the most popular sports league in the US. All of the talent the Eagles have added will not have nearly the same impact that the Heat have had on the NBA.
Also, the same level of scrutiny and hatred that surrounds the Miami Heat is nowhere near what it will be for the Eagles. The Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets are probably disliked by more football fans right now than the Philadelphia Eagles. Michael Vick is despised by a lot of football fans, but most of his dislike predated this offseason spending spree.
While there is a lot to be excited about on this team for fans in Philadelphia, Vince Young’s “dream team” declaration is far from reality.
The offense is entertaining to watch and could being the highest scoring offense this season, but it is not fair to compare them yet to the St. Louis Rams' Greatest Show on Turf or the 2007 New England Patriots.
The additions of Babin and Jenkins have improved the defensive line, but the front four is not going to be the Steel Curtain or the Purple People Eaters anytime soon.
Samuel and Asomugha could be the starting corners for an NFL dream team. They might be the best cornerback duo since Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes suited up for the Los Angeles Raiders.
Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent were a productive duo at Veterans Stadium, but neither was ever the kind of player that Samuel or Asomugha are.
The Eagles current projected starters at the linebacker positions are extremely weak for a team with Super Bowl aspirations however.
Philadelphia is far from a dream team. The term dream team should only be reserved for a collection of talent like the 1992 US Olympic basketball team. Even that team wasn't perfect unless you think the selection of Christian Laettner was justified in retrospect over the likes of Shaquille O'Neal and Reggie Miller.
Rob Ryan’s “All Hype Team” statement reflects a lot of fans' sentiments, especially amongst those with teams in the NFC East. However, the Eagles' offseason moves are different than many of the ones that Dan Snyder’s Redskins or Jerry Jones’ Cowboys have made in recent memory.
The Eagles already have young core group of players going in to the offseason. Their additions were done to put the finishing touches on a team trying to win the Super Bowl. The latter two often acquire talent that makes headlines in the offseason and doesn’t translate to success on the field.
A good comparison for the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles are the 1994 San Francisco 49ers.
In the 1994 NFL offseason the San Francisco 49ers signed five defensive players coming off Pro Bowl appearances. The most notable was Deion Sanders, followed by future Hall of Famers Rickey Jackson and Richard Dent, Ken Norton Jr. and Charles Mann. They also signed Gary Plummer (a good player who never made the Pro Bowl) and drafted Bryant Young, a four-time All Pro.
While this Eagles team isn’t coming off two consecutive NFC Championship game losses to the same team (the Dallas Cowboys), they are an already talented team whose offseason additions are taking them from contender status to championship front-runner.
Of all the name labels this team could have, "Super Bowl favorite" is one that hasn't been said enough.