Monday, February 22, 2010

Eagle Dreaming: Five Free Agents That Would Work, But (Probably) Won't Come

With word on the Internets today of two lovely but implausible NFL big names being potentially available, I let myself dream a little dream of them in my laundry. None of them are likely to happen in Philadelphia, but what the hey. Late February is the perfect time to dream a little dream, isn't it?

1) Vince Wilfork, 6-2, 325, 28, DT, New England Patriots. This good and big earth mover has been making the Patriot middle linebackers look less cadaverous for years, which means that he's something of a miracle worker, really. He's also one of those guys that gets enough push to play every down, which means that he's a rare value among internal players. He's also just been franchised by the team, which means he's good and bent, which isn't the worst condition for your nose tackle to be, really.

Reasons why he'd work: Until the Eagles do something drastic to stop Dallas from getting five easy yards a carry on that damned sprint draw, they aren't winning those games, and from that, the division. Unless you win the division, you can't get a bye for Wild Card Weekend, and without that, the Super Bowl is pretty much of a pipe dream. Because if we've learned anything from the Reid Era, it's that a road game in the NFC Championship does not work. (For the record, home games are also no picnic. Sigh.)

Reasons why he won't be here: The Patriots are going to hold on to him for one more bone-crackling contract drive year, or deal him for a king's ransom in picks -- and after years and years of stockpiling high picks that don't really pan out, one suspects that they are going to take a miss on that second strategy. The Eagles under Reid just don't go for the older defensive stud player; the last time they did, it was Jevon Kearse, and that was a half dozen years ago. So we've got a team that isn't going to let him go and another team that isn't going to go get him. Sigh. (Though, to be fair, the Eagles have shown a recent proclivity to go after ex-Pats -- Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbbs, Kyle Eckels. A man can dream.)

Prognosis: Personally, I can't see Wilfork anywhere but in New England in 2010. The Patriots have too many holes as is, especially after letting Ricard Seymour go to Oakland, to risk becoming a sieve against the run, especially in a division where they have to get past the Jets' offensive line for any real postseason hopes. If any team wants Wilfork, they'll back the truck up for him in 2011. Just in time for him to enter the steep decline phase of his career.

2) Darren Sharper, 6-2, 210, 34, S, New Orleans Saints. Sharper's year in NoLA couldn't have gone any better. He got a ring, raised his nationwide reputation to borderline Hall of Fame status, got a huge mess of credit for a not quite defensive turnaround, and set himself up for a nice payday now that he's an unrestricted free agent. His knack for turning turnovers into touchdowns is pronounced, and his leadership skills are unquestioned. He can also still cover and hit.

Reasons why he'd work: As last year's steadily deteriorating defensive secondary showed, there's something to be said for leadership. It's hard to imagine the Eagles with Brian Dawkins, or Sharper for that matter, laying over and playing dead the way they did in the Dallas travesties. Sharper may not be as quick as he once was, but he wasn't exposed on the fast Superdome track either, and he could buy them time to evaluate Macho Harris, and someone to push Quintin Mickell and Quintin Demps.

Reasons why he won't be here: If you aren't going to sign Dawkins in 2009, why would you sign Sharper in 2010? Sure, he's probably a better player, if only for being younger, but I just can't see the team, especially with second year defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, bringing in a strong presence like Sharper into the locker room. We also have Dawk 2008 to remind us that when a safety no longer has closing speed, he's no longer an asset, no matter what he might do in the locker room or in practice.

Prognosis: I can see why the Saints are going to be cold-hearted enough to let Sharper go. He was always a rental to them, and that organization is too smart to let sentiment rule over pragmatics. I can also see a half dozen teams sniffing him hard, and he makes a ton of sense in Atlanta. But Philly won't be among his suitors.

3) Anquan Boldin, 6'-1, 217, 29, WR, Arizona Cardinals. The longest divorce in the league might finally be coming to a head, and with the Ravens inking problem child Donte Stallworth over the weekend, maybe Q's remaining musical chairs comes down to Philly.

Reasons why he'd work: When healthy, Boldin is one of the best red zone threats in the NFL, with his physicality being a major asset on bubble screens and middle zone patterns. That's a huge win for the Eagles, who seem incapable of pounding it in from in close.

He's probably too tough for his own good, and while his hands are occasionally an issue (he's prone to fumbling more than the average WR), he doesn't drop that many passes. Boldin also is more than a sticks-moving plowhorse, as his big play ability is nearly that of a #1 WR. If he didn't have to share the spotlight with Larry Fitzgerald, he'd be more universally regarded as a top tier talent. He'd also give the team another Wildcat option, and Reid seemingly can't get enough of that timewaste.

Reasons why he wouldn't: He's 29 already, and with the way he plays, it's an old 29. He's also been grousing about his paycheck long enough to qualify as a questionable character, and one suspects that what you are really getting here is what Jason Avant will provide, seeing how Avant is still getting better, and Boldin can't help but be worse. Beyond QB, the area on this team with the most depth right now might be WR, so it makes no sense to spend money on him here.

Prognosis: If Q was ever going to be here, it was 2-3 years ago, when the need was greatest, and DeSean Jackson did not rule the roost, with Jeremy Maclin, Avant and TE Brent Celek providing more than ample backup. I'd love to have a reliable veteran in the mix here, preferably to avoid ever having to think about Reggie Brown ever again. But that's not the contract and role that Boldin will sign for in his last chance for a big payday.

4) Julius Peppers, 30, 6'7, 283, DE, Carolina Panthers. Perhaps the most intriguing possibility on the board, in that it gives the team a drool-worthy DE tandem with Trent Cole, aka the only guy on the defense that didn't embarrass himself in the last two games of the year. Peppers, when motivated and healthy, is clearly a top five talent in the league at his position, and there's something to be said for emulating the Colt mindset of having two ends that can wreck havoc on the QB. One suspects that there would also be a multiplier effect here, with DTs Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patteson seeing more single coverage and making more plays, as teams scheme to stop Peppers first. Give me a front four of Peppers, Bunk, Patterson and Cole, and I start thinking happy comparison thoughts to Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, Jerome Brown, Andy Harmon and the rest of the good time Ryan Defense Eagles. (And for the record, that line would still be better, but at least it'd be in the ballpark.)

Reasons why he'd work: Like Wilfork, he'd fill a crying need, and he's more to their scheme's liking than Wilfork, since they don't really believe in run stopping as a priority. He's also been putting up numbers for years in Carolina as something of a solo act, which points to him being able to do it here -- and could even see a spike as part of a more varied defensive scheme.

Reasons why he wouldn't: At 30, his best days and contracts are behind him, and as the single biggest name on the board in what could be the last year of football (those lockout rumors for 2011 are serious, and it's not just an owner v. player thing; it's more like what happened in baseball, where it's owners vs. other owners vs. players), he's going to have an overwhelming number of suitors.

Prognosis: As great as Peppers is, he's very streaky and prone to missing the running game while chasing the QB, and your best hope here is 2 or 3 really good years, without playing him for 4 to 5. But still, if they did land him, it'd be a massive coup. I'm not holding my breath.

5) Elvis Dumervil, 26, 5'-11, 260, OLB, Denver Broncos. A real nice speed bookend on QB rushes with Cole. Dumervil has racked up a ton of sacks (43 in 61 career games), and he's young enough that he could get better. Given the bad juju coming out of Denver and his unrestricted status, he's probably not long for Colorado. Once you start running off talent (Jay Cutler a year ago, Brandon Marshall this year), the other holdovers tend to get real nervous.

Reasons why he'd work: The Eagles have shown themselves to be all about getting after the passer, and Dumervil can do that. He's also fast enough and young enough that you suspect that, with good coaching, he could get better in coverage, as he's certainly got the tools and instincts to have more impact in that part of the game. I actually think he could become good in coverage.

Reasons why he wouldn't: It's not as if he hasn't picked up any bad habits from those terrible defenses in Denver, and like everyone else in that laundry, he hasn't exactly finished seasons strong. Another undersized guy that can't show up in January is not exactly welcome. There's also the suspicion that Dumervil is just the same kind of player that current LB Chris Clemons is, just with more playing time and a free rein to rack up sack numbers that don't really matter.

Prognosis: Possible and maybe even something you'd want, since he just might have a skill set that isn't on the roster, and could be a fixture for years to come. But this team has never given deep burn to pass rushing from the linebacker, and you have to wonder if Dumervil would sign on for that.

1 comment:

Tracer Bullet said...

Two you didn't mention who I want more than everyone on that list but Peppers are Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle. Either put Dansby at SAM and get rid of Gocong or put him at MIKE and move Bradley to SAM and get rid of Gocong, but the LBs instantly become a force if only by getting rid of Gocong.

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