The NFLPA and NFL officials have not disclosed details regarding their recent attempts at negotiation – but we know they are negotiating… OK they claim to be negotiating… Still it is not known whether or not there will be an NFL season, how abbreviated that season might be or what effect this labor strife will actually have upon whatever remnant of the 2011 NFL season there is should there be one.
None of that has deterred the Philadelphia Eagles from contemplating some very intriguing potential free agent moves. The Eagles are said to have an aggressive plan in place and are waiting to take action as soon as the trade and free agency period begin… whenever that might be…
Previously my readers have heard me vehemently extol the virtues of trading backup QB Kevin Kolb (see “Kolb: Destination Anywhere” 2/14/2011 and “Draft Day Deals Simmering” 3/24/2011) prior to the 2011 Draft for at least one if not two early picks. The labor situation prevented that because no player trades could occur – but there may not have been a lot of takers for a “Kolb-for-first-and third-round-picks” deal anyway (Arizona, Cleveland and Seattle were all speculated viable options). Most readers are also very familiar with my cries to find a way to bring aboard $18M free agent marquee cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (“Nnamdi Asomugha Eagles Lynchpin” from 1/14/2011). Believe it or not, I’m not discussing either of those potential moves today.
One of these names was brought up as early as January 2011 (“Washburn Brings Defensive Hope” 1/21/2011) as I’d posited that Coach Washburn might want to reunite two of his former defensive standouts from Tennessee. One of those names was a former Eagle prior to being cut and signing on with the Titans (Jason Babin). Another former Washburn pupil was a $100 million dollar bust in Washington. Yet another marquee name joins the rumorama that passes for NFL news in these days completely bereft of NFL news. According to a recent report, that plan could involve two high-risk, high-reward reclamation projects in DT Albert Haynesworth and WR Plaxico Burress.
Hey, let’s not kid ourselves, look how well the Michael Vick Experiment worked out for all involved! Low risk, high reward. These two players might not come aboard quite as easily… or at such a bargain price.
Yahoo Sports, quoting an Eagles source, says that new Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn “is convinced he can get the most out of Haynesworth. He wants him badly.” Haynesworth thrived under Washburn in Tennessee, but has fallen since parting ways with the coach. He has also had his share of off-field trouble. The 6-foot-6, 335-pound Tennessee product is still under contract with Washington. However, the marriage with the Redskins has been a rocky one, and it is very feasible that he will be cut or dangled for a trade once the league year begins. Obviously the Redskins would prefer a trade so they might garner some value in return but no self-respecting NFL team would trade for such a peripatetic contract – or player unless some concessions were made.
Pursuit of the enigmatic soon-to-be 30-year-old Haynesworth would fall in line with Yahoo’s report, which paints the Eagles as a team ready to throw caution aside and stock up for a heavy Super Bowl push. A physical specimen like Haynesworth is exactly the type of gravity-shifting force needed in the Eagles defensive trenches. If Haynesworth would be interested in a fresh start with the Eagles rather than face another season in Mike Shanahan’s doghouse, Philadelphia might ask Coach Washburn to lure back both Haynesworth and Jason Babin. Meanwhile the free agent market could garner Nnamdi Asomugha to pair with Asante Samuel (or a certain Mr. Cromarte) in the defensive backfield.
“This is the year,” the aforementioned source told Yahoo Sports Michael Silver (according to reports). “We think we have a great shot to win it, and we’re loading up and going for it.” Sounds pretty declarative to me.
There certainly seems to be an acknowledgment within the NovaCare walls that the current regime’s legacy is at stake, and that only a championship will cement their desired place in Eagles history. Given their 5 NFC Conference finals and lone Super Bowl appearance, it would not be shocking if the organization made a final push for the goal line in the waning clock of the Andy Reid era. [Former defensive coordinator Sean] McDermott succeeded legendary and departed Jim Johnson but now works in Carolina. Meanwhile most of the Andy Reid coaching tree have found success elsewhere (Jon Harbaugh in Baltimore, Leslie Frazier and Brad Childress in Minnesota, Steve Spagnuolo in St. Louis and now Pat Shurmur will re-join Dick Jauron in Cleveland). Coach Mudd and Coach Washburn were not hired to be groomed as Reid’s successors; they were brought in to punch the ball over the goal line. No one is certain that Juan Castillo as new defensive coordinator will work as planned but after 17 years of teaching and coaching dating back to the Ray Rhodes Era he deserves a chance to show what he can do.
Stallwart kicker David Akers has seen the end of his Eagles days (with the drafting of Alex Henery) but veteran Reid favorite Brian Westbrook is talking about returning to the Eagles Nest. No word yet on Brian Dawkins or Reggie Bush but Westbrook in a diminished and specialized role (third down RB) seems a tough pill to swallow for an Eagles legend. Rookie Dion Lewis is on board behind former Pitt teammate LeSean McCoy, who will carry the load – but Westbrook knows the playbook and blocking schemes. The chance to finally get that elusive Super Bowl victory in midnight green may even throw ego to the wind right along with aforementioned caution.
Twelve seasons is a long time to wait but what a great way to go out. Ask John Elway how it feels to leave the game and retire an unquestioned champion…
Does The Plan include Plaxico Burress, who was recently released from prison wearing a Phillies hat? Perhaps…though the parties would have to debate over the price tag. According to the report, Reid “loves” the idea of signing the 33-year-old wideout. First the Eagles would be wise to shore up their incumbent flamboyant receiver, DeSean Jackson, lest he possibly fly the coop seeking more money. We want DeSean, Jeremy Maclin and Bradley Cooper to be in town for a long time – and “Coop” wouldn’t be the only young receiver that may learn a few things from veteran Super Bowl champion Plaxico Burress. Several other NFL teams (San Diego, Indianapolis, Kansas City, St. Louis) are in a better position to offer Burress more money and potentially a larger role in their offense. Should he come to Philadelphia, Burress would be a large-target third receiver in a West Coast offense – one that features the short pass – but also one that has struggled in the Red Zone.
If there is any sort of 2011 season, it will be somewhat abbreviated. The “offseason” would be curtailed as would training camp in order to preserve as much of the regular season schedule as possible. There would not be much time to sort through some 500 free agents available - including Nnamdi Asomugha - for the Eagles’ shopping pleasure. While the trade prospects with Kevin Kolb regarding draft picks would have to be modified (trading for Kolb could be dicey with an abbreviated preseason and no guarantee that Kolb would remain with the receiving team if they failed to work out a contract extension). Maybe the Eagles resign to keep Kolb as Vick’s backup or go with Mike Kafka and sign a free agent veteran (Vince Young, Jake Delhomme, Kellen Clemons to name a few). Don’t underestimate the value of a solid QB in today’s NFL. Even after the 2011 Draft, at least 10 teams (including Minnesota, Arizona, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and ironically Washington) would have trouble not rating Kolb ahead of their existing talent pool on the depth chart.
While the Eagles came out of the draft with none of the marquee names, they did add a lot of depth and address as many issues as possible based on available talent. Danny Watkins steps in to add offensive line help along with Vandervelde and Kelce. The linebackers got an infusion of youth courtesy of Casey Matthews, Brian Rolle and Greg Lloyd (not that Greg Lloyd) while both Jaiquan Jarrett and Curtis Marsh will provide depth and speed in the defensive backfield. All solid additions that will contribute.
This team is not finished yet – possibly not by a long shot. Expect a whirlwind couple of weeks as soon as the gun sounds to begin free agency… just don’t hold your breath waiting to hear it…
2011 Draft Selections:
1st: Danny Watkins (OG) Baylor
2nd: Jaiquawn Jarrett (S) Temple
3rd: Curtis Marsh (CB) Utah St
4th: Casey Matthews (ILB) Oregon
4th: Alex Henery (K) Nebraska
5th: Dion Lewis (RB) Pittsburgh
5th: Julian Vandervelde (OG) Iowa
6th: Jason Kelce (C) Cincy
6th: Brian Rolle (OLB) Ohio St
7th: Greg Lloyd (ILB) UConn
7th: Stanley Havili (FB) USC
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org