With the exception of a potentially major addition at linebacker, the Eagles aren't expected to make a huge splash in free agency. The front office already invested a sizable portion of their available cap space during last year's spending spree, and must put funds aside to re-sign some of their own players (DeSean Jackson, Evan Mathis), while possibly extending others (LeSean McCoy).
Besides, the Birds don't have as many front-line needs as a year ago. On offense, their core is only one season removed from setting the franchise scoring record. On defense, the front four features multiple Pro Bowl-caliber players, and the secondary has more starters at cornerback than the coaches know how to use, with a group of improving, young safeties pushing each other behind them.
But free agency always presents a prepared organization the chance to improve its team in one or multiple areas, and 2012 is no different. With the right additions, the Eagles can settle issues on the back end of their depth chart, and with any luck, put themselves one step closer to piecing together a complete roster.
QB Jason Campbell
Michael Vick's penchant for injury is no secret, and it's difficult to get comfortable with the current crop of relievers. Entering his third season, Mike Kafka has attempted 16 career passes in the NFL, so we have little to no idea where his ceiling is. He's joined by Trent Edwards, a never-was who spent 2011 out of the league.
To be fair to those guys, you never want to rule out success for a player who was never given a chance. Kafka obviously hasn't had much opportunity, and Edwards's development may have been stunted by his environment.
However, if Andy Reid shares our concern for the unknown, Campbell offers a clear upgrade at this point. The former first round pick of the Washington Redskins has started 70 games over the last six years, and hasn't posted a passer rating below 84 in a season in the past four. He hasn't gone above 86 either, so he's no star -- but he is a professional. Campbell is a consistent performer who played in a west coast offense, has some mobility, and limits his turnovers.
RB Mike Tolbert
The issue with back-up running backs and the Eagles is they are seldom used. Last summer, they added Ronnie Brown -- somebody good enough to be drafted second overall and be voted to a Pro Bowl -- and proceeded to hand him the ball a whopping 42 times. Some of that was McCoy's doing, but this has been a recurring theme for years, going back to Correll Buckhalter. Plus, the team has talented second-year back Dion Lewis, who may be in line for more touches.
Tolbert would make for an excellent complement to Shady though. At 5-9, 243, he's strong in short yardage, and has a nose for the goal line, rushing for 19 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He's also a viable receiver out of the backfield, catching 54 passes for 433 yards and two TD's in '11. Finally, he's solid in pass protection, so he can be used on all downs in practically any situation.
WR Plaxico Burress
We know Plax wants the Eagles, but do the Eagles want Plax? There's been no indication management has any interest in the eighth overall pick in the 2000 Draft, even though he might be worth considering.
The offense is still experiencing its share of struggles in the red zone. The Eagles committed eight red zone turnovers last year, and DeSean Jackson was ineffective when the field shrank. At 6-5, Burress still excels inside the 20, catching seven out of his eight touchdowns in 2011 once the Jets were deep. If Burress is willing to accept a reduced role, it might not hurt to provide Vick a big, proven target.
C Mike Pollak
Jason Kelce solidified himself as the club's center for years to come in his rookie season, rendering Jamaal Jackson and nearly $2 million in salary an unnecessary luxury, one the team could choose to part with. A former second round pick by Indianapolis, Pollak failed to carve out a permanent spot in their starting lineup. He's played in Howard Mudd's scheme, and should be available on discount.
DT Jason Jones
The Eagles surely would like to bring Derek Landri back after his strong season, and there seems to be some belief they could choose a tackle early on draft day, but Jones makes a ton of sense as a low risk/high reward signing. When Jim Washburn was in Tennessee, Jones was a player on the rise, notching four sacks in seven games in '09, and becoming a starter the following year. With Wash out of the picture, the Titans tried moving Jones to defensive end last season, where he didn't make much of an impact.
Jones should be interested in reuniting with Washburn in an attempt to get his career back on track, and the Birds might create the space. Even if they re-sign Landri, Jones might be a better fit in the wide nine than restricted free agent Antonio Dixon, whose strength is lining up at nose. The Eagles could make Dixon a reduced qualifying offer, perhaps tempting another team to trade a low draft pick as compensation for signing him away.
S Brodney Pool
While there is some disappointment over the state of the Birds' safeties, the fact is there are not a lot of moving parts there. Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett are second round picks -- Allen played well in spurts last season while recovering from a torn patellar tendon, and with a shortened offseason to bring rookies up to speed, Jarrett deserves the benefit of the doubt. Kurt Coleman is serviceable as well.
That said, it's admittedly an inexperienced group that has struggled with consistency, so bringing a veteran into the mix to stabilize the unit would be wise. Pool isn't fantastic, but he's not a liability in any phase of the game either. He started 18 games in relief of the Jets' Jim Leonhard over the past two seasons, and 77 total in a seven-year career. He won't be playing baseball in 2013.
KR Ted Ginn
Ginn never amounted to much as an NFL receiver, but he is an explosive kick returner, something the Birds have lacked for far too long. Ginn returned both a kick and a punt for touchdowns for the 49ers last season, and five of his six career returns for score were in the last three seasons. This would get DJacc off the punt team without sacrificing his explosiveness, and give them an actual threat on kickoffs for the first time since Brian Mitchell.