Opening weekend came and went in NFL free agency, and while the Eagles made some noise re-signing their All Pro fullback and kicked the tires on a few defensive ends, they stood still and watched the frenzy swirl around them, much to the dismay of some fans. As we alluded to earlier, it's not at all unlike last year at this time when an all-is-lost feeling gripped observers, only for a flurry of movement to occur in the weeks leading up to the draft. With that in mind, we look past the mega-deals from the first 72 hours to what might lie ahead in this free agent class.
Missed out on: We were beating the drum as loud as anybody for Julius Peppers. No matter which way you slice it, he's one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. You can't really blame the Eagles for not matching the offer in Chicago though, which pays him $91.5 million over six years, including a shocking $42 million guaranteed.
The Bears are desperate. Perhaps that's a feeling the local club should share. Regardless, the two situations are hardly comparable. While it's business as usual in Philadelphia, they're searching for a means to circumvent the draft in the Windy City, where they won't be on the clock until the third round. There were no real world proposals that would have put Peppers in green next season.
The remaining options weren't nearly as attractive. Aaron Kampman was high on a lot of lists, but Andy Reid is probably weary of linemen recovering from ACL injuries ever since the Stacy Andrews debacle, as there was clearly a pay ceiling there as well. Kyle Vanden Bosh also received a double digit guarantee too, despite compiling just 7.5 sacks over the last two seasons.
Move to be made: After the initial wave, there aren't many quality players readily available, which is why teams were willing to pay such a premium over the weekend. The rest of the unrestricted free agents arguably wouldn't actually improve the Eagles pass rush much or at all. Their best case scenario would be somehow working out a deal for Minnesota's Ray Edwards. After a quiet first three years in the league, Edwards compiled 8.5 sacks in '09, and led all players in the post-season with 4.0.
Unfortunately he will not be easy to obtain. The restricted free agent was tendered at a first round level, so signing him to an offer sheet is essentially out of the question. However, the Eagles could attempt to pry Edwards' rights away for a package of picks headlined by this year's second. With Jared Allen already locked in for $72 million, the Vikings may not be able to afford to pay another young star long term at the same position, and might be willing to accept something less than a first in return.
Missed out on: Antrel Rolle could have taken over at free safety, except he instead opted to sign on with the Giants, a record contract that pays him $37 million over the next five seasons, including $15 million guaranteed. There's no question he would have been an upgrade over what the Eagles already have, although that isn't saying much.
It was somewhat surprising there was such a clamoring for Rolle, particularly in Philadelphia. For one thing, this is a guy the Cardinals outright released last week over a $4 million roster bonus. They made an effort to retain him, but that organization did not view him highly enough to hang on at all costs, which should sound a warning bell. Though he's a playmaker in center field, Rolle tends to struggle as a tackler at times, an all too prevalent issue here already this past season.
Move to be made: The top free agent at the position is still available in St. Louis, where O.J. Atogwe was tendered at the lowest level for financial reasons and can theoretically be stolen for a fifth rounder, or even less. The Rams would prefer to work out a long term extension with their safety, but an offer sheet from another club can be worked in such a way that makes it practically impossible for the home team to match. Also, if they don't work out a deal by June 1, they'll have to decide whether to pay close to $7 million in 2010, or grant him his release.
Unlike defensive end, more possibilities exist. Tendered at a second round level, Melvin Bullitt is an intriguing restricted free agent from the Colts who is strong in run support. With Pro Bowlers Antoine Bethea and Bob Sanders on the roster, Bullitt would be expendable if Sanders were able to rebound and play 16 games.
Missed out on: No question about it, Chester Taylor would have been a perfect fit. He knows the West Coast offense, can catch the ball out of the backfield, and is used to a secondary role in the offense. The Bears threw a ton of cash at him quickly though, offering a four-year contract at $12 million, steep for a reserve. As far as non-moves go, this could wind up being very minor. It's easy to say that now with LeSean McCoy healthy and Leonard Weaver re-signed, but losing out on complementary players is nothing to panic over.
Move to be made: The one caveat to that is there aren't a bunch of great moves left. Then again, while it would be wise to add a veteran runner into the mix, ideally they won't need somebody who expects a large workload. In other words, the Eagles can get away with scraping the bottom of the barrel here. The other Adrian Peterson from the Bears can play special teams, but also has experience as an emergency back, running for 510 yards and catching 51 passes in 2007. As long as they add a runner in the draft, this doesn't need to make a splash.
Missed out on: Karlos Dansby bolted to Miami where he'll make $43 million over five years, $22 in guarantees. Dansby is a do-it-all linebacker and would have been a major upgrade in Philly on paper, but some of the productivity would probably get lost in a defensive scheme that produces few stars on the outside. When you enter the complications of learning a new system into the equation, one that is not simple to grasp at that, it didn't make a whole lot of sense to overpay somebody who may not even be a good fit.
Move to be made: Truth be told, we're not sure they are planning any additions here. Their willingness to part with Witherspoon makes it clear they are pleased enough with Akeem Jordan at weakside, and the market hasn't been flooded with quality guys to fill the void on the strongside. Finding 4-3 linebackers in free agency has become more difficult in general, with roughly half the league switching over to 3-4 defenses, and so many other clubs using some variation of a Cover-2. They'll look the draft to add competition.