Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Eagles Sign Some Guys: Beware The Free Agents Of March

The guys with knives are agents
So my Eagles have been very active on the first day of NFL free agency, and this is where fans with a memory should curl up into the fetal position, right? Between the Nnamdi Asomugha Scream Team and Nero Kelly's Adventures in Less Running Running Backs, free agency has been the absolute misery for this franchise. It's also been more proof, not that anyone has needed it, that the draft classes have also been not up to snuff, given that there's always glaring holes for your shopping spree. Let's just close our eyes, go back to fantasy baseball draft prep, and not pay so much attention to...

Well, no. We can't, and not just because there's precious little else going on right now that won't encourage alcoholism. But I keep not meaning to write on my sports blog about politics, so let's exercise a little discipline. and keep it on the football.

Here's what the team has picked up so far:

CB Leodis McKelvin, from Buffalo, to a 2-year deal.

CB Ron Brooks, from Buffalo, to a 3 year deal.

LB Nigel Bradham, from Buffalo, to a 2 year deal.

G Brandon Brooks, from Houston, to a 5 year deal.

S Rodney McLeod, from St. Louis / Los Angeles, to a 5 year deal.

QB Chase Daniel, from Kansas City, to a 3 year deal.

I better hurry up and cover all of this before the list gets longer.

First, the ex-Bills. All of these guys are being seen as binkies for DC Jim Schwartz, who ran that defense before Rex Ryan got to town and made everything worse. McKelvin is the oldest at 30, and he works as a borderline litmus test. If he starts and gets CB1/2 snaps, the team is in trouble. If he backs up and/or plays the nickel, things might be OK. Brooks is seen as a depth guy and STer, but as an ex-4th rounder from LSU just getting off his rookie deal, he might be a little more than that. Bradham is pretty much the same story. The most notable thing about all of these guys is that training camp should be a lot more competitive, and McKelvin has returned punts in his past career, but not well recently, especially when it comes to ball security.

Next, Brooks the G. The football line nerdery that I read about him says he's big, quick and borderline freakish as a road grader, less so as a pass protector. While that doesn't generally make for Pro Bowls, the plain and simple is that Brooks is a quality NFL starter, and he just signed with a team that didn't have any of those to play G last year. I'm generally not a huge fan of locking down guys from poor franchises, but the Texans did make the playoffs last year (look it up!), and did so with something like a running game, and terrible QB play. This is one of those qualified enthusiasm moves that, if nothing else, makes sure that you don't have to reach for an OL in the first round if the board goes badly for you.

The single most satisfying move of the day for the bulk of the fan base will likely be McLeod. He's the first truly big hitter that the team has had at safety since the last days of Saint Brian Dawkins, and there's footage of a play where he vaporized Emmanuel Sanders that is downright porny. While the Rams weren't exactly a great defense last year, they certainly had some moments, and what McLeod put on tape is fun, even if it is a little worrisome that the league has tended to legislate this kind of violence out of existence. It's also the most that the team has ever committed to the safety position, when you combine his deal with the one they inked with Malcolm Jenkins. It's a long way from Nate Allen, Macho Harris, Patrick Chung, Kurt Coleman and way too many others, really. Or, at least, it better be.

Wrapping things up is Daniel, the undersized binkie for new HC Doug Pederson. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for him, in that he's always seemed like he's got a hair more arm and legs than expected. He's also got an awful lot going for him, in that he's Not Mark Sanchez, and honestly, being Not Mark Sanchez will probably be enough for me for the next decade.

What's different about this flurry of signings is, frankly, the expectation level. No one is counting on any of these guys winning your fantasy league, or being part of "Philadelphia is our pick to be a surprise Super Bowl contender" piece. No one is going to say the team won March with these moves, or that the rest of the NFC lEast is quaking in their boots over Howie Roseman finally having full control over the hiring and firing.

But what *has* been done here is entirely defensible by, well, sane decision making, or a method of building a team that you've actually seen before. No one is coming off an abuse carry year. No one is coming with dust for ACLs and unrealistic hopes of full bounce-back from career-threatening injury. No one cost the best RB in the team's history, got monster money to be a back up, or is famous to people who don't really watch football very much or very hard, or only ever watch where the ball is.

Oh, and most of these guys are just coming off their rookie deal, rather than getting their guaranteed final contract in the league.

We have no idea, and can have no idea, how all of this is going to shake out. It's extraordinarily rare for one of these to hit 100% on all picks, the same way that it's extraordinarily rare to hit on all of your draft picks.

But none of these moves is crazy on its face, irresponsible on the money, locks the club into an ungodly number of years, or prevents the team from taking the best available player with their picks. None of these moves screams out that Roseman is in over his head, making moves in a desperate and short leash fashion, or over-rating the talent on his roster.

So today? Probably a good day.

But more importantly?

Almost certainly not a disastrous one.

By the recent personnel standards of this franchise, that's about as good as you can hope for, really.

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