By: Shawn Davis
Now that the NFL season is back – without the fear of a lockout – this free agency period has been going at a frenetic pace. One which I hope forces the league to mandate free agency is structured in a small time frame (like this one) because it’s just so scintillating. Many teams have “won” and “lost” this period and I won’t list those here (Aren’t we tired of lists?) but I have to discuss the Philadelphia Eagles pursuit of some of the top players on the market.
The top prize was defensive back Nnamdi Asomugha and the Eagles snatched him out of the blue when most reports had the Jets, Texans and Cowboys as the main suitors for his services. People were salivating over the concept of him pairing with Darrelle Revis to try and make opposing teams cry at the thought of throwing against them; and the thought of it was intriguing. The move was unexpected because they had just acquired Pro Bowler Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from the Arizona Cardinals in a trade for backup quarterback Kevin Kolb. Mind you, the Eagles already have Asante Samuel on their roster so the front office is making sure to go for it all this season.
Also, they made sure to complete deals with defensive linemen Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins, all-purpose running back Ronnie Brown and backup QB Vince Young. Think they’re not going for the Lombardi trophy this year? Where have you been? If you’re an Eagles fan there is a lot to get excited about.
- I thought it was really weird for DE Jason Babin to compare the convergence of good players on this team to the Miami Heat, when no one else made that analogy. If there’s one team I wouldn’t – as an athlete – want to be synonymous with, it’s the Heat. Most of Miami’s detractors sprouted from LeBron’s “Decision” and the introduction parade that followed, concerning how many NBA titles they were going to win. Coming together wasn’t the real issue – it was how they went about it. This team has definitely taken all the attention away from the Green Bay Packers, you know, the defending champs? Too bad they don’t meet in the regular season, but hopefully they play in the postseason. (NFC title game, maybe? I’m getting chills!) Babin, you guys were getting so much attention before you said that and now you guys wear the target that was reserved for the Packers.
- For a franchise that has always been careful about team-building and drafting well, they sure went against the grain during this time of free-agent lunacy. Former Eagles QB Donovan McNabb has even noted this in an interview with CBSsports.com where he says the biggest free agent they acquired during his time was Terrell Owens. “You’re seeing Andy (coach Andy Reid) taking that chance. It’s not just taking that chance on one guy. They’re taking a chance on a bunch of guys. And they’re spending money. That’s amazing.” It is worthy of mention that when McNabb was making this team competitive by carrying the offense, fans and the media were clamoring for the front office to go out acquire some offensive talent because their defense during those years was consistently among the league’s best.
In my view, the Eagles must feel this may be their best chance ever to get the title they wasn’t able to grab when McNabb was leading them. They sure made enough headlines these last two weeks to put championship-or-bust expectations on their shoulders so it’s shaping up to be compelling television should they stumble out of the gate. In the NFC East, where the media attention and fan support can be passionate (one way or the other), they will be under the microscope every week.
Chemistry can be another issue when bringing in so many new components because their receiver/return specialist Desean Jackson wants to get a new deal; deservedly so, as he has outplayed the rookie contract he signed in 2008. It would be very hard to tell him that he won’t get a better contract when he hears reports of all the money that was spent on other players. The front office should move quickly to resolve this issue as Jackson is the guy who makes this team – along with Vick – absolutely terrifying.
They also have to deal with the uncertainty regarding Samuel. The Eagles are receiving – and are mulling – offers for his services from competing teams and they would be wise to look the other way. With many teams ignoring the tight-end position (as an offensive threat) and going to 3 and 4 receiver sets, it’s wise to keep all three Pro Bowl defensive backs. If their goal is to unseat the Packers they will need them all because Aaron Rodgers spreads the ball among: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and the returning TE Jermichael Finley, who figures to be a huge part of their attack. They should keep all three, at least this year, and see what happens at the end of the season.
All the teams in the NFL are coming to the table with their best hands but the Eagles have decided against being coy and are “all-in” as gamblers like to say.