The NFL free-agency market opens for business on Tuesday, but dont expect the Eagles to sweep the shelves clean as they did last year. All indications are they will be selective shoppers this time around.
Dont look for them to be in the bidding for, say, Mario Williams, although thats a nice thought. The Houston defensive end will be a very hot item and New England is among the teams checking its vault to see if it has sufficient millions to sign him. Carl Nicks of New Orleans is the top offensive lineman. Hell strike it rich, too, but not in Philadelphia.
The Eagles have a few in-house matters to take care of. Getting DeSean Jacksons signature on his franchise tender is one. Working out a new contract with guard Evan Mathis is another. Mathis played well in 2011 and proved to be a good fit in offensive line coach Howard Mudds system. He will draw interest from other teams, but he has indicated he would like to stay.
Well assume the Eagles are going to keep Jackson under the franchise tag, which means they wont be in the market for a free agent wide receiver, although that may be the best position in terms of talent with Vincent Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne, Mario Manningham and Brandon Lloyd all available.
So lets look at other free agents who would fit a need area for the Eagles. Here are 10 to keep in mind as we wait for the bell to ring and the market to open at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Curtis Lofton, middle linebacker, Atlanta
There are concerns about his history of knee injuries (two surgeries prior to last season), but he had another productive season with the Falcons. Not particularly big (6-0, 240) but a solid tackler and a force against the run. Still young (25).
Erin Henderson, outside linebacker, Minnesota
Took a big step up from special teams player to starting linebacker last season and showed a lot of promise. Good size (6-3, 245) and speed. Overshadowed by older brother E.J., but now making a name for himself. Also young (25).
Jason Jones, defensive tackle, Tennessee
Another young player (25) who has a lot of ability. Played well for defensive line coach Jim Washburn two seasons ago, but that was at defensive tackle. Last season, the Titans moved the 6-5, 275-pound Jones to end and he wasnt as effective. Playing inside, he has the quickness to rush the passer.
Stephen Tulloch, middle linebacker, Detroit
Undersized (5-11, 240) which may worry Eagles fans who are tired of the smallish defenders the team has favored in recent years, but Tulloch plays big. He led the Lions with 111 tackles last season, and he played middle linebacker in the wide nine scheme in Tennessee prior to that. The Eagles should have signed him last year, but chose to spend their money elsewhere. Now they have another chance. Tulloch is 27.
Red Bryant, defensive endtackle, Seattle
At 6-4 and 320 pounds, Bryant was the biggest defensive end in the NFL last season and the best run stuffing end in the business. At 27, he has a lot of athleticism to go with his bulk (he blocked two field goals in one game last year) and he could move inside to play tackle as well as play end. He isnt a big name but he probably will be a highly sought after free agent.
London Fletcher, middle linebacker, Washington
I know, hes too old (36), hes too small (5-10, 245), yada, yada. Ive heard it all before, but I still have Fletcher on my list for the Eagles. He has played 14 seasons and never missed a game because of injury. He ranks among the leaders in tackles every year. With his smarts and his leadership, he would be a solid short-term fit for the Eagles.
Dwight Lowery, safety, Jacksonville
The Eagles need to improve the safety position but there isnt a lot in free agency. LaRon Landry has injury issues and Oakland put the franchise tag on Tyvon Branch, so the best player on the board is Lowery. At 5-11, 200 pounds, he has the coverage skills of a corner (he played corner for the Jets) and the toughness of a safety (where he was a starter for the Jags). Will be a nice, low-cost pickup for some team, why not the Eagles?
Mike Tolbert, running back, San Diego
Shady McCoy had a brilliant season in 2011, but the Eagles dont have anything behind him other than Dion Lewis, who is tiny (5-8, 195) and unproven. They need better insurance. The 5-9, 240-pound Tolbert would be a great fit, a power runner who is also a very good pass receiver. He could give them what Leonard Weaver did prior to his injury.
Jarret Johnson, outside linebacker, Baltimore
Johnson probably will sign with a 3-4 team because thats the defense he played with the Ravens, but Im including him because he is too good to ignore. At 30, he is older than most of the players on this list, but he is consistently good week after week and I believe he could be a 4-3 linebacker if given the chance. Excels against the run.
David Hawthorne, middle linebacker, Seattle
Yes, another linebacker. Do you detect a pattern here? You may remember him as the guy who had the 77-yard interception return for a touchdown against Vince Young in last seasons debacle in Seattle. A physical player (6-0, 246) with a nose for the football. He is 27.
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