There’s a good chance the NFL lockout will finally be over this week and even if it doesn’t end this week, the end is in sight. That will give NFL teams just a few weeks to cram in an entire off-season’s worth of work, so there should be plenty of preseason excitement even before the preseason games begin.
With that in mind, here is a list of the Eagles’ priorities, in order, when the 2011 offseason finally kicks off:
1 – Jump through the window. That window will last 72 hours because that’s how long teams have to sign their own formerly restricted free agents before all-out free agency begins. After 72 hours – that’s three days for those of you who are too lazy to do the math – any team can sign them and their old team can’t match the offer or get compensation. Best of all for the Eagles, some of the top names in that group play positions where the Eagles need the most help, defensive end and cornerback. Two of those cornerbacks are Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of Arizona (rumored to be part of a possible trade package for Eagles’ quarterback Kevin Kolb) and Johnathan Joseph of Cincinnati. And one of those defensive ends could be Charles Johnson of Carolina, who was fourth in the NFC in sacks last season with 11½. Johnson would look pretty good lining up on the same d-line with Trent Cole, who had 10 sacks in 2010.
2 – Trade Kevin Kolb. Some observers believe the Eagles will hold onto the fifth-year quarterback because any draft picks they get for him in a trade will be for 2012 and that won’t help in 2011. They also point out that the Eagles could need Kolb this season if starter Michael Vick gets injured. That’s a legitimate concern, considering Vick’s freewheeling style of play and the fact that the Eagles’ offensive line is average at best. But Kolb’s value will never be higher than it is now and that’s why the Eagles should trade him now. Nobody really knows how good Kolb is because he’s played great in some games and not-so-great in others. If he has to play a lot for Vick this year and the not-so-great games outnumber the great games, no team will be willing to give up top draft picks or players for him next winter.
3 – Find somebody to replace Kolb. There is a good chance Vick will get hurt at some point, so there’s also a good chance the Eagles’ backup quarterback will see action this season, whether it’s for a quarter or two or a game or two. And those quarters and games could decide whether or not the Eagles win the division or even make the playoffs. So the Eagles have to acquire a quality veteran QB who can come in and learn the system quickly. That happened twice in recent memory, when Donovan McNabb was the starter. In 2005, the backup was Mike McMahon, who was terrible and the Eagles missed the playoffs. It happened again the next season, but this time the backup was Jeff Garcia, who was terrific and the Eagles made the playoffs and even won a playoff game. A capable veteran backup QB must be a top priority.
4 – Make a big splash. That means doing something the Eagles don’t do very often, which is throw big money at a big-time player. And the biggest name coincides with their biggest need – cornerback Nmandi Asomugha. If they can’t get the cheaper Rodgers-Cromartie, then the Eagles need to focus on wooing Asomugha from the other teams that will court him, which is just about every team in the NFL. But the Eagles can offer him a couple of things most other teams can’t – a legitimate chance to win a Super Bowl and an opportunity to play across from another All-Pro CB, Asante Samuel. Asante and Asomugha – that has a nice ring to it.
5 – Take a gamble. Everyone knows defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth can be a jerk, and an underachieving one, at that. But when he’s at his best he is the best and he also plays a position where the Eagles need a lot of help. It’s been a long time since they got consistent pressure up the middle and a properly motivated Haynesworth would give them that. And the Eagles just happen to have the one person who has been able to motivate the moody DT, d-line coach Jim Washburn, who pushed Haynesworth to the Pro Bowl when both were with Tennessee.