The700Level’s update on NFL free agency: overrated so far

The700Level’s update on NFL free agency: overrated so far
March 10, 2014, 4:05 pm
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Free agency is set to open in the NFL at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, but already we’ve been inundated by reports that the Philadelphia Eagles are interested in this free agent and talking to that free agent. Thanks to the so-called “legal tampering” period the league instituted last year, teams were allowed to begin negotiating with impending free agents on Saturday, three days before they can sign on the dotted line.

There is little doubt the Eagles have shown interest in most, if not all of the players that popped up in reports over the weekend. Carolina Panthers safety Mike Mitchell, Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey and Cincinnati Bengals defensive end/outside linebacker Michael Johnson were among the more prominent names the club was said to have contacted already.

As league insiders have pointed out though, gauging the actual level of interest any team has in a player can be an entirely different story.

Philadelphia’s own Andrew Brandt provided some insight into where many of these reports materialize.

Time of year when NFL agents' reputations precede them. When some say "Six teams are interested" means "Two called, I called four."

— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) March 9, 2014

Also, NFL agents have another name this time of year, esp. when there are reports of interest in their client: "League source."

— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) March 9, 2014

Greg Gabriel for the National Football Post spent 30 seasons working in NFL scouting departments, including the Eagles. He was a lot more shall we say direct about his opinion of many of the rumors circulating.

Some agents are feeding writers a bunch of crap in order to help push up offers. The writers in many cases go along for the ride. #joke

— Greg Gabriel (@greggabe) March 10, 2014

I believe the local writers breaking these stories have done well to choose their words carefully and not make anything out to be more than it is. Using Mitchell as an example though, who was first reported to be a potential target by Eliot Shorr-Parks for NJ.com, why wouldn’t the Eagles show some level of interest? The Birds need at least one, perhaps two starters at safety. They should be shopping around, comparing prices on literally all of the practical options.

It’s also important to note the fact that the Eagles have talked to Mitchell doesn’t mean they haven’t or won’t speak to numerous others. With all of the help that’s on the market at this position, it’s hard to believe Mitchell would be any team’s No. 1 target. Frankly, I’m not certain he’s even an upgrade over Nate Allen.

Likewise, it’s entirely possible the Eagles haven’t reached out to certain potential targets yet because they’re waiting for a market to develop. Think Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd based on Geoff Mosher's report for CSNPhilly.com. We know the Birds don’t want to pay him the $9 million per year he’s said to be seeking, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have interest. Letting him field offers and swooping in late with a competitive number could prove to be part of a strategy.

What’s been happening so far feels a lot more like a feeling-out process than an actual event. I have to think for every free agent who’s been known to have contact with Philadelphia, there’s 10 others the organization has inquired about or at least considered internally.

We’ll see what happens when the curtain rises on Tuesday. As of right now though, I’m selling a lot more of these stories than I’m buying.

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