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Philadelphia Eagles: Philosophy for Free Agency Under Andy Reid

Dave StoesselAnalyst IIJuly 16, 2011

PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 15: Head coach Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles speaks at a press conference regarding Michael Vick at the NovaCare Complex on August 15, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)
Len Redkoles/Getty Images

What the Eagles might, could, should and will do in free agency is a subject that has been discussed to death this offseason.  We've had ample time during Lockout Hell to beat the proverbial dead horse.

Again.

Again.

And again.

The Eagles are always good for surprises when it comes to making personnel moves so there will certainly be a move or two that comes out of left field.  The only two things we can anticipate with a good degree of certainty is that Kevin Kolb will be traded and that they will acquire a new cornerback.

Of course, whom they will trade with and what they will get for him are the exciting questions about the highly anticipated Kolb trade.  And many Eagles fans are already anointing Nnamdi Asomugha as the starter opposite Asante Samuel.

However, there are numerous free agents and/or trade targets that have been linked to the Eagles in some way.  Either through various rumors or being heavily speculated on, the following players could be on their radar once the new league year starts:

Nnamdi Asomugha
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Johnathan Joseph
Ike Taylor
Carlos Rogers
Albert Haynesworth
Jason Babin
Ray Edwards
Charles Johnson
Reggie Bush
Plaxico Burress

The Holy Grail of free agency in 2011
The Holy Grail of free agency in 2011Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Those are the most popular names being thrown around in discussion about whom the Eagles should go after.  Did I miss anyone that has been discussed repeatedly?  There are other players I've seen mentioned by writers here and there (myself included) but I believe they are the "biggies."

Now, having gotten that out of the way, when it comes to attacking free agency what have the Eagles typically done in the past that can shed light on what they will do this year?  What seems to be their philosophy and/or tendencies?

Thinking back over the Andy Reid era, the most exciting year in free agency was in 2004 when Philadelphia acquired Terrell Owens (via trade) and Jevon Kearse.  At the time, we made Kearse the highest paid defensive end in the history of the NFL.  Owens' contract was "affordable," which ultimately led to driveway sit-ups in protest.

In 2006, the Eagles signed DE Darren Howard, traded for WR Donte' Stallworth, signed LB Shawn Barber and signed QB Jeff Garcia.  That was an active year, but Howard was the only player the Eagles spent a lot of money on. 

In 2007, the big moves were signing WR Kevin Curtis and trading for LB Takeo Spikes.  There were several other lower-level moves but those two were considered the big acquisitions.  And Spikes was on the cheap.

Acquired in Kolb trade?
Acquired in Kolb trade?Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Then there was 2008 when the Eagles signed CB Asante Samuel and DE Chris Clemons.  That was the year they also brought in the Super Bowl lucky charm and all-purpose player Dan Klecko.

2009 was perhaps their most active year ever in free agency when they traded for, and signed, Jason Peters, Stacy Andrews, Leonard Weaver, Michael Vick, Ellis Hobbs and Sean Jones.  Peters and Andrews signed pretty big contracts but the others were for modest money.

As you can see, it appears their pattern is to add one high-priced free agent and then supplement that by acquiring a few mid-tier players.  2009 was the lone anomaly in that we acquired two high-priced players but we also had the task of replacing our two long-time bookend tackles Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas.

Will the Eagles acquire more than one "expensive" player this year?  Everyone's first thought will be "yes" because of two reasons: The front office has let it be known that it will be aggressive in free agency, hence the "going for it" rumor that came out a while back.

Then there is the aspect of how much money under the salary cap the Eagles will be once the official cap number is decided.  They are expected to be roughly $20 million under and will be one of the teams in the best position in that regard.

Would be a great addition to the middle
Would be a great addition to the middleChristian Petersen/Getty Images

However, remember that the Eagles will take into account how much of that they'll need to re-sign their own players such as Vick, DeSean Jackson, and possibly even LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek.

What that leaves for spending on free agents is unknown.  In past years the Eagles have typically always been in pretty good shape when it comes to managing the salary cap so don't look at this year as anything that is that far out of the norm in terms of available money. 

They haven't earned the moniker of "cap champions" for nothing!

So, getting back to the Eagles' philosophy for spending money on free agents.  They put a high priority on four positions: QB, DE, CB and OT.  Right now their two biggest needs happen to be CB and DL (one could argue DT over DE this year).

The Eagles love getting value.  The phrase "low risk, high reward" is probably the company motto inside the walls of the Nova Care.  But, they are certainly not afraid to spend money on a player they feel will tremendously help the team.

This year also marks an oddity in that the free agent market will potentially be loaded with quality players—much more than in years past.  Will the Eagles take advantage of this once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity?

Ray Edwards would only be possible if they don't sign Asomugha
Ray Edwards would only be possible if they don't sign AsomughaMatt Sullivan/Getty Images

Will they detour off their pattern of adding only one prized free agent and a few mid-tiers?  Perhaps, but I'm not about to guarantee it.

Luckily, there will be options.  We all know Asomugha will be the highest paid free agent this year.  Defensive ends Babin, Edwards and Johnson as well as Johnathan Joseph will also cash in with hefty contracts. 

But the rest on the aforementioned list above will not be bank busters.  If traded for and restructured, DRC could get a big contract but he could also be left to play out the final year of his current contract and worry about re-signing next offseason.

Taking all of this into consideration while not forgetting the need to re-sign our own players, it is highly unlikely we would sign a player like Asomugha and one of those three DEs.  That would simply be too expensive and not realistic.

Here are the more likely scenarios we could see play out (picking only from the above list of players):

If the Eagles sign Asomugha, forget about any of the big name DEs.  But they could still get, and afford, a player like Haynesworth (his cap number will be around $5 million for 2011).  That would be about it.  This would be the downside to getting Nnamdi.  Burress could still be possible though.

Pretty much the same scenario if they were to acquire Joseph too.  He won't cost as much as Nnamdi but he won't cost that much less to where we could still afford a big-name DE.

If we signed Ike Taylor, Rogers or acquired DRC (and assuming he plays on his current contract for the year), we could probably still afford one of the DEs as well as Haynesworth.  Heck, we could probably also afford Bush or Burress.

So which scenario do you think would be most beneficial for the Eagles in 2011?  One of the two best cornerbacks and Haynesworth?  Or one of the other cornerbacks plus a top DE, Haynesworth and possibly Bush or Burress?

If given a choice I'd take the latter.  But would the Eagles do that?  It really depends on how they view the DE position.  With the recent news on Graham, it wouldn't surprise me if they did spend the money on a big name DE.

It also wouldn't surprise me if they didn't.  After all, they still have hope for Graham as well as faith in players like Tapp, Te'o and Ricky Sapp (and maybe even Philip Hunt).

There are a few things I can feel confident in predicting this offseason.  Besides Kolb being traded and adding a CB, I strongly believe that the Eagles will be interested in acquiring Reggie Bush and Albert Haynesworth. 

Call it a gut feeling or whatever you want, but they will be interested.  Obviously, no matter how much they're interested, it doesn't guarantee that they would land either one of them.  But if they can, I believe they will.

The last thing that is certain, is that this will be an exciting free agency period once it begins.  Numerous moves will be made all around the league and the Eagles will be a large part of that.

And of course the Eagles will also acquire players outside of those we talked about here.