The pro bowl just ended, who really cares what the outcome was. Drew Brees dislocated his elbow, but it was his left elbow, so he should be ready for next season. Otherwise, nothing of note. But, football was back on my mind so I thought I'd take a look at the free agents, and who could help fill the Eagles' needs.
It looks like the Eagles will have somewhere near $12 million in cap space going into the offseason, and I think they should spend some of it. The glaring need, yet again, is help stopping the run. Defensive tackle is usually the first thing you look to upgrade when run defense is the issue, but I think linebacker is the bigger problem for the Eagles. Trotter is a man in the middle, he should be fine. The problem is on the outside. Barber, Dhani Jones, McCoy, Gaithers....you name it, they're too small. Jim Johson likes speed on the outside, linebackers wind up in coverage when blitzes come from every angle, so speed is really a necessity. What the Eagles need to do is find a way to remain stout, without leaving slow linebackers in coverage. I think there's an answer to this problem, and he's going to be a free agent, Adalius Thomas.
Thomas isn't without drawbacks. He's 30, he's going to be highly sought-after, and he's used to playing in a 3-4 defense and rushing the passer. That being said, this guy is exactly what the doctor ordered. He's played linebacker, defensive end, safety and even cornerback for the Ravens over the past couple of years. He weighs 270 pounds, and he was fast enough to cover Chad Johnson when the Ravens played the Bengals. The Eagles modus operandi was don't overpay for quick fixes for years, then T.O. and Kearse broke that mold. Last year, they overspent for Darren Howard. This year, Thomas is the prize, and they should break the bank to get him if they have to.
Other players definitely worth consideration:
Lance Briggs, OLB Chicago The Bears may put the franchise tag on him. If they don't, the Eagles could use a bonafide run stopper in their linebacking corps. Briggs doesn't fit Johnson's scheme as well as Thomas, but he's an absolutely monumental upgrade over the stiffs we have now.
Terdell Sands, DT Oakland This guy is a huge defensive tackle, 6'7", 335 pounds, he won't cost an arm and a leg to get, and he stuffs the middle of the line up. The Eagles need size at DT, and this guy would bring that to the table.
Asante Samuel, CB New England Samuel doesn't really fill an urgent need, but the guy is a stud. Roderick Hood is probably gone, so the Eagles need a third corner. Samuel is 25 and will probably command a high price in the free agent market, and signing him may mean moving Brown to the nickel spot, he's that good. Probably wishful thinking, but definitely a guy to keep your eye on.
You may have noticed that I didn't list one offensive player. The reason is that this offense is set. They don't need to go out and pay any money on the free agent market. They should try to bring Stallworth back, and they should also draft Brian Leonard in the 2nd or 3rd round of the draft, but beyond that, the offense is set up for this year. (assuming that McNabb comes back and Garcia is here just in case he doesn't make it back for the beginning of the year.) Defense is where help is needed.