Will Eagles sign big $ safety? Don't bet on it

Will Eagles sign big $ safety? Don't bet on it
February 21, 2014, 2:30 pm
Share This Post

Jairus Byrd has 22 interceptions and made three Pro Bowls in his five-year NFL career, all with Buffalo. (AP)

INDIANAPOLIS – You want T.J. Ward or Jairus Byrd.

I want T.J. Ward or Jairus Byrd.

The Eagles definitely would love to have T.J. Ward or Jairus Byrd.

The reality is, it’s probably not going to happen.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman spoke here at the NFL Scouting Combine about the plusses and minuses of signing big-ticket free agents such as Ward or Byrd, the Pro Bowl safeties who are scheduled to become free agents in two weeks.

Although Roseman didn’t – and can’t – mention them by name, he did speak about the risks and rewards of signing the top free agents on the market.

The reward? Maybe you get Jon Runyan or Troy Vincent, they fit into the culture of your locker room, they produce on the field and they enjoy long careers on a perennial playoff team.

The risk? Maybe you get Nnamdi or Jason Babin, they throw your salary structure out of whack, they don’t mesh in the locker room and they’re gone inside of two years.

In most cases, the risks out-weigh the rewards. Roseman knows what the fans desperately want the Eagles to do, but he warns that it’s not likely to happen.

“You can’t force things,” Roseman said, talking to reporters at Lucas Oil Stadium. “I think we’ve all seen the lessons learned from that. If you do that, you’re going to make a huge mistake, and sometimes the option is just to get through the moment and do some stop-gap things – and I’m not saying that’s what we have to do at a particular position.

“But when you look at the teams that have won the championships the last couple years, they’re not perfect at 22 spots, and I think there’s a big difference between having a weakness at a position as opposed to being solid and getting through.”

It’s not that the Eagles are resigned to being average at safety. They know they have to upgrade.

It’s just that even if Ward and Byrd aren’t given franchise tags – and people around the league think both will be – is it really worth limiting what you can do at other positions and in the future just to sign one of the league’s best safeties?

“Listen, we’ve talked a lot about it,” Roseman said. “We’ve talked a lot about Brian Dawkins. We’ve talked a lot about the position, and it’s understandable [that people want the Eagles to sign big-time free agents].

“But you can’t make up great players at an integral position, and if you do and use a resource on that you’re going to miss out somewhere else, and it’s going to really weaken your team and you’re going to compound the problem because you’re going to put either money or picks into it and you’re still not going to have the right answer.

“We’ve got to find the right answers, and we’ve got to do things the right way. I know at times that may not be what you want to hear, but I think in the long run it’s going to really serve us well.”

Remember, guys like Byrd, Ward and perhaps Donte Whitner are going to be asking for contracts in the $8-to-$10 million per year range.

Is it worth it? Maybe. Those guys are game changers, and the Eagles obviously need to rework the safety position, with Patrick Chung’s future up in the air, and Nate Allen, Colt Anderson and Kurt Coleman all facing free agency.

But Roseman said it’s possible to upgrade the safety spot – any spot – without breaking the bank on a so-called A-list free agent.

“Is it A money or A-plus-plus money?” Roseman said. “And then, how does that fit into the structure of your football team?

“Again, when you talk about chemistry and you talk about rewarding your own players and you bring in somebody from another team and you’re paying them A-plus money, how are your other players going to feel?

“We’re going to build this team from the bottom up, we’re going to build this team the right way.”

It sure seems like the whole Dream Team experience of 2011 has made a profound impact on Roseman and the way the Eagles are going to operate in free agency, but Roseman did say there are situations where the Eagles would bid for a top guy.

They’ve done it before, and who knows, maybe they’ll do it again.

“I think that unique situations call for unique action, and so if there is a unique player in free agency that is hard to find other than at the top of the draft and fits all the criteria that we’ve outlined – some publicly, some privately – then you have to look at it,” he said.

“We still view ourselves as aggressive and risk-takers, and sometimes you have to take risks to get better. But at the same time, we have a process here, and we feel like if we continue to do the right things and build our team and continue to get better, then we have a chance to be a good team for a long time as opposed to taking shortuts and maybe having to cut players and/or maybe not being able to re-sign some of the players we’ve drafted who we think are going to be good players for a long time.

“We’ve got to continue to build the right way. When you look at the teams that have won championships the last few years, there are no shortcuts.”