Thursday, March 14, 2013

Not Losing In March

Coach Kelly, Let The Man Dance
NFL free agent season has begun, and my Philadelphia Eagles laundry has gone back to their historical record of small beer signings. After the way the last few years went, this is all fine by me and most of the rest of Eagle Nation; besides, after a 4-12 season, anything that seems like Quick Fix is inherently suspect.

But having said that, there's this not very small consideration... the Eagles are a ton of money under the cap. They almost always are, and on some level, that's OK too; they never get into the situation where they wind up losing up and coming players for not having the bankroll to lock them down. But that's a hollow comfort when you (a) don't have a ton of those guys, due to a period of weak drafts, and (b) see other teams seemingly getting better, while (c) not trusting the ownership to just keep the cash.

Of course, this is the hollow comfort of paying attention to football out of season, especially when it comes to free agent signings. Football statistics are in their infancy in terms of the actual information being passed; the counting stats are wildly subject to game pace and situation, while the sabermetric stuff is barely understood and also, well, subject to the same factors. Combine that with the fact that football is inherently flawed due to small samples and the need to play while compromised by injury, and you can see why so many signings seems good in the spring, only to look horrible in the fall.

So the issue isn't whether the Dolphins made themselves much better with WR Mike Wallace (they didn't; the Steelers locked down their choice of WRs and let him leave without much quibble), or whether the Eagles made a mistake by letting both CBs walk (they didn't), or any of the dozens of tantalizing names that are out there. Rather, the issue is getting to this point without losing all of your winning depth (honestly, I think the Ravens might have gone from first to third in the division this week), and making sure that you don't have to overpay to patch a million holes here.

My laundry does have a million holes, but at least they didn't overpay on the patches. Players like S Patrick Chung and NT Isaac Sopoaga can't help but improve the sieve-like defense, without costing a lot of coin. TE James Casey has hands and can move all over the field; I liked him in Houston's TE-centric passing game. People with brains like CB Bradley Fletcher, who seems to grade out a lot better than your average no-name CB. But if all of them wash out, they will be gone in a few years without any real heartbreak.

The club is still more hole than help, but at least they seem to understand this, and aren't moving for assets that will crest in 2013. I think they need to go for at least one starting level CB; even if you go for Alabama's Dee Milliner with the #4 pick, the safety situation is going to make this one of the worst passing defenses in the league. But that's going to happen even if they break the bank, since units take time to gel, and it's not as if any member of this passing defense was up to snuff in 2012.

That's where we are with this team: happy they aren't spending big coin because they've done that so badly in the past, and unhappy because we're pretty sure that they are just going to keep the cash and make bank, rather than wins. Whoever said that rebuilding years were fun?

Well, I did. More fun than the end of the Reid Era, and Sopoaga turns out to be a haka dancer. More haka!

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