The NFL lockout is finally about to end – allegedly – and that means it’s time for teams to get down to business. And the first priority for the Eagles, even before the inevitable Kevin Kolb trade, should be signing free agents – their own, undrafted rookies, and veterans from other teams.
With that in mind, the Eagles should have about $20 million in cap space to work with, per Jeff McLane, according to a source.
The salary cap hasn’t actually been finalized, but projections put it around $120 million after all is said and done and the lockout is over. With about $100 million in salaries on the books, the Eagles will definitely have some room to make moves.
A chunk of that cap space will go to their own drafted rookies, with another small portion going to the group of undrafted guys the team invariably brings in every year. But with a general rookie salary pool in place, the draft picks are pretty much accounted for. So regardless of when the picks sign, the Eagles will already have an idea of how much they will have to dedicate there. And with that out of the way, it will be time to coax open those always tight purse strings.
The focus will primarily be on signing veterans as well as retaining their own free agents, such as middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, with the requisite compensation hinging both on what the market is bearing as well as what free agency rules are in place after the lockout. For example, if Bradley is considered an unrestricted free agent his price tag will be considerably higher – despite his question marks – rather than if he’s restricted.
No matter how the rules are set, the Eagles are already on record saying they will be aggressive in free agency.
“It’s a good, aggressive plan,” Reid said back in May. “When they say go, we’re ready to go. It’s a matter of that time coming forward. We’ll attack what we feel is important. . . . We’ve got a pretty well-thought-out plan. It doesn’t really matter what the time is.”
The Eagles most immediate needs right now are at cornerback and defensive end. They have pretty much nothing opposite starting corner Asante Samuel. And with defensive end Brandon Graham possibly missing a good part of the season, possibly all of it, as he recovers from an ACL tear and later microfracture surgery on his knee, the talent pool behind Trent Cole is barely one step above jabronie.
Signing free agents at these positions is the Eagles only option right now.
At corner, the big name available is Nnamdi Asomugha, who will be an unrestricted free agent no matter what. Other potential free agent targets could be Pittsburgh’s Ike Taylor, the Redskins’ Carlos Rogers, and my favorite of the bunch when considering talent and age, the Bengals’ Jonathan Joseph.
For defensive end, the Eagles will have some options as well, with the Vikings’ Ray Edwards and the Panthers’ Charles Johnson likely becoming available. They could also look to bring back the Titans’ Jason Babin, who excelled in Tennessee under the Eagles new defensive line coach Jim Washburn.
If the plans for ending the lockout play out as predicted, free agency is slated to start on July 28. It won’t be long after that to see if the Eagles stick to their plan.
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