Here are five questions to get you ready for free agency.
When can the Eagles sign players?
Starting today at noon, teams can (officially) talk to agents and negotiate deals for free agents. However, players can’t sign until Tuesday at 4 p.m. In other words, there is a three-day “legal tampering” window. Of course, the worst-kept secret in the league is that agents and teams have already been talking now for weeks.
Last year, the Eagles struck fairly quickly, signing Isaac Sopoaga, Bradley Fletcher, Patrick Chung, James Casey and Jason Phillips on the first day of free agency. They let the market play out a bit with guys like Connor Barwin.
How much cap space do the Eagles have?
According to OverTheCap.com, they have about $23.5 million in cap space, 11th-most in the league. But as we mentioned yesterday, the Eagles can carry cap space over to next year when they’ll likely want to renegotiate contracts with some of the members of the 2012 draft class.
Who are some guys they might target?
We’ve got you covered here. T-Mac provided some good buzz Friday night, noting that the Eagles are expected to have interest in outside linebackers Michael Johnson and Mike Neal. McManus also heard that the Eagles would have been a player for Jason Worilds if he hit the market.
That tells me that finding an edge rusher is a priority. Johnson (6-7, 270) would give the Eagles a pair of long outside linebackers (Connor Barwin). The team has “walk-away numbers” for all the free agent targets on their list. That means they have a ceiling on what they’re willing to spend. Johnson figures to have a sizable market, but he’s a player to keep an eye on.
Here are some other targets:
Will the Eagles add a big-name safety?
I don’t think I agree with the argument that Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward would be bad scheme fits. Byrd can play in a number of schemes and allows defensive coordinators to play with a single high safety. That’s a luxury a lot of teams don’t have. The guess here is that the Eagles are not willing to make him the highest-paid safety in the league (if in fact that’s what he is seeking), so chances are he ends up elsewhere. But it will be more about the price tag not matching their evaluation than anything else.
I also don’t see Ward as strictly a box safety. That’s his strength, but from what I saw, he’s more versatile than he gets credit for and has the ability to match up with tight ends or play deep. If Ward doesn’t see the market some expect and teams see him as one-dimensional, the Eagles could pounce. But again, the price has to be right.
What about the offense?
Most of what we’ve written about has focused on the defense, and there’s a reason for that. The Eagles re-signed Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper already. They also extended Jason Kelce and Jason Peters. The offense could play a game tomorrow with the current offensive personnel and be in good shape.
Having said that, don’t rule out that side of the ball completely. The Eagles’ actions will tell us a lot about what they think of Todd Herremans. It would not be a shock if they added a starting-caliber guard or at least someone who could compete for that spot. It’d be a plus if the guy had some versatility to play another position on the O-Line.
Backup quarterback is a possibility, although I think they might just roll the dice on Matt Barkley (I realize I’m in the minority here).
And don’t rule out wide receiver completely. The team will likely keep five or six on the roster when they cut down to 53 next summer. Right now, they’ve got DeSean Jackson, Maclin and Cooper. Behind those three are Arrelious Benn, who’s had injury issues, and Damaris Johnson, who made no impact last year.
The Eagles could certainly add some mid-tier guys for depth and competition.