Eagles' Free Agents and How to Handle Each Player

Written By Bob Cunningham On Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Will Leonard Weaver be back after a Pro Bowl season?

Free agency is a part of life in the NFL. Some years players stay on, to the delight (or dismay) of the local fanbase, and some players move on to the dismay (or delight) of that same fanbase.

That time of year is rapidly approaching, and this year presents some difficult challenges for the Eagles' front office -- namely, Andy Reid. After all, he is the guy with the final say in who stays and who goes, so this has got to be almost as stressful as the season itself.

And while you may not win a Super Bowl in March, it certainly will make that road a whole lot easier if the right calls are made along the way. So, with all that said, let's take a look at what the Eagles should do, and might do, with each player approaching free agency this offseason.

Note: This is with the assumption that a CBA will be in place for the 2010 season. I don't believe that the league, players or owners, will allow an uncapped season. Am I optimistic? Maybe.

Sean Jones, FS

Personally, I'm a big fan of Jones. He's a guy who, with an entire training camp and offseason as the starter, could come in and make big plays for this defense. He did it in Cleveland on a terrible offense, so imagine the impact he could have on a defense with some other pieces around him?

Macho Harris and Quintin Demps are not starting material. Not right now, and from the looks of it, they may never be. Give Jones another contract that would be friendly to part with but give him a shot to show what he can do.

Unless the Birds intend on getting a guy like O.J. Atogwe in free agency, or drafting a guy like Taylor Mays in the back-end of the first round, there's no other option.

Jeremiah Trotter, MLB

It's difficult to let Trott walk after such a valiant effort on two busted knees, but there just doesn't seem to be much of a place for him on this team. While he did have some plays, and even a couple games, where he looked like the old Axe Man, he's still a liability in pass protection and immediately puts the defense at a disadvantage.

With Stewart Bradley returning and most likely retaking his spot in the middle, Trotter would be on the outside looking in. Maybe he can parlay this past season into a spot on a team desperate for defensive help, but there just doesn't seem to be a spot for him in Philly.

Reid may keep him on speed dial in case of an emergency, but keeping a 33-year old linebacker with knee problems around just doesn't seem like something the Eagles are prepared to do.

Jason Babin, DE

Babin is a guy who most didn't even expect to make the team this year, but did and was a contributor throughout the season. I thought he should have been used a lot more than what he was, but perhaps there was something going on in-house that we on the outside didn't see.

Maybe he didn't understand the defense all that well or perhaps McDermott just felt more comfortable with the other guys, but Babin didn't see as much time as his skill-set warranted.

With Chris Clemons, Victor Abiamiri, Darren Howard, and Juqua Parker all returning next season, it doesn't seem likely that Babin gets a second contract from the Eagles. However, don't be surprised to see him getting a shot for some substantial playing time elsewhere.

Tracy White, LB/ST

If the Eagles don't resign White it would be an absolute travesty. Of course, I said the same thing years ago when Ike Reese wasn't resigned and allowed to head off to Atlanta, so I'm not holding my breath on seeing White as an Eagle in 2010.

He's exactly what the Eagles had in Reese earlier this decade and what they were lacking until White came on board during the middle of last season. He's a guy who obviously likes playing special teams, and plays it fearlessly, but can also contribute when called upon for spot duty on defense.

His spot duty turned into some decent playing time with all of the injuries this season, and he showed that he's a guy who will fly around at 100 miles an hour and make plays that you wouldn't expect from a special teams ace.

Or, in other words, he's Ike Reese. It's redemption time, Reid. Sign this man.

Leonard Weaver, FB

Is there really a single person out there who believes resigning Weaver would be a mistake? If so, please comment with your home address so I can sit down across from you and look into the eyes of a crazy person.

Weaver is the perfect fullback for Reid's system, and he knows it. He can run the ball like a running back, catch it like a tight end, and block like a fullback. Outside of Le'Ron McClain in Baltimore, Weaver is the best fullback in the league -- an opinion finally validated with the trip to the Pro Bowl he'll be making in a few weeks.

If Reid and company decide that they're going to only resign one player this offseason, please let it be this guy.

Jason Avant, WR

Remember what I said about Weaver and if they're going to resign one guy, make it him? Well, Jason Avant may give Weaver a run for his money and could make that a very, very difficult decision.

Avant may have the surest hands of any receiver I've seen in this league. That includes guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Wes Welker, and the rest of them. He doesn't have the freakish size or speed that the others possess, but when it comes to simply catching the football Avant must be at least mentioned in the same breath.

His hands are phenomenal, his concentration is spectacular, and better yet is the fact that he doesn't run his mouth or make a spectacle of himself the way other receivers will. He makes the clutch third down reception, flips the ball to the ref, and heads back to the huddle.

Here's to hoping Reid will resign more than one guy.

Ellis Hobbs, CB

While I'd love to see Hobbs come back because of the uncertainty surrounding Sheldon Brown and his added value as a kick returner, his return to the team seems highly unlikely. He's looking for a role as a starter, but it's most likely not a role he'll acquire as a member of the Eagles.

Until he moves to safety or is traded, Brown will be the starting cornerback on the other side of Asante Samuel. There's no way around that -- it's just not going to happen. However, I would be all in favor of starting the same duo that took the Pats to their 16-0 record with Brown as a free safety, but Sheldon may not be on board with that just yet.

The only way Hobbs comes back is if he finds out that there's not really a market for him elsewhere, and even then his price tag may be a bit too high. Smart money says Hobbs is elsewhere when 2010 kicks off.

Nick Cole, OL

If it's me, I would be very tempted to let Cole walk. Reid seems to like him, but I don't believe he's a starting-caliber lineman and will probably be too expensive to keep as a backup given that he now has an entire season of starts under his belt -- and at three different positions, no less.

To me, Cole looks lazy on the field and his footwork is lacking. He doesn't have the speed or agility necessary to get out in front for the screen or the experience necessary to make the line calls while playing center.

If he will come back for a discounted price, then by all means resign him as he's not a bad fill-in if something were to go wrong. He is not, however, a legitimate starting option.

Alex Smith, TE

He didn't do a whole lot, but he was good for the role the Eagles wanted him to play. Like Babin on the other side of the ball, I don't believe that Smith was given an adequate opportunity to showcase his talents. I think he could have been another weapon for this offense, but he was given very few chances.

With Brent Celek having a breakout season, Cornelius Ingram returning from injury, and Martin Rucker developing on the practice squad in the latter portion of the season, Smith will most likely not be back in 2010. It's probably best for him and I can't say that I blame the Eagles for letting him walk in favor of Ingram -- a guy they really like.

Smith should get a shot on another team in 2010, and could even find himself back in a starting role sooner rather than later.

Omar Gaither, LB

Gaither is a guy who seems to have fallen out of favor with the Eagles front office, so it's unlikely that he will be back. Apparently the Eagles tried to offer him an extension a year or two ago that was well below market value, as they usually do, but unlike the others Gaither turned it down.

The Birds don't like to be messed with, then add that onto his sub-par play and you have the makings of a guy who will most likely never wear Eagle green again. However, if he finds out that there's no market for him, he may be willing to accept whatever the Eagles offer.

At this point he's a good guy to have because of his versatility, but has shown that he's probably not a full-time starter in this league. It would take a lot of pieces falling at the right time for Gaither to stay an Eagle.

Max Jean-Gilles, RG

Don't expect Jean-Gilles back in 2010. He doesn't possess the versatility to even swap from one side of the line to another, much less play multiple positions. And to play on Andy Reid's offensive line, you better be versatile. Jean-Gilles is not, and didn't even perform well at the one position he does play.

I give it about a 20-30 percent chance that Jean-Gilles is back next year, and that's being optimistic for him. He just does not fit Reid's philosophy of offense or offensive linemen and probably wasted his final opportunity to stay in Philly. He might be able to stick on a run-heavy team the way Bobbie Williams did in Cincy, but not with the Eagles.

Besides, Reid would be much more comfortable drafting a guy in the sixth round instead of sticking with a guy he's convinced doesn't fit his system.

Chris Gocong, SLB

Gocong is a guy who came into the league and immediately was thrown into the mix as a starter. For a rookie he looked pretty good, and he was, but the problem was that he never got any better. He's hit a plateau since day one and in fact seems to be headed downhill now.

He lost his starting spot to a rookie drafted in the seventh round and didn't even see much time in spot duty. He played special teams almost exclusively for about the last month of the season and didn't even make enough of an impact there to warrant more time.

I give it a 50-50 shot that Gocong is back because the Birds will like him as a backup, but that's all he'll be if he even comes back at all.

Sav Rocca, P (Restricted Free Agent)

Rocca was very inconsistent all season long, but he did seem to pick it up near the end. It seemed like Ted Daisher, the Eagles special teams coordinator, was trying to refine his kicking too much and only made it worse. Rocca seemed to be going through the motions like a robot, rather than just booting the ball as he did in his first season in Philly.

Towards the end of the season, it looks like someone figured that out and allowed him to go back to whatever he was doing before. He was consistently punting the ball over 50 yards and helping the Eagles win the field position battle. In fact, were it not for him, the Cowboys may have made those last two weeks far more humiliating with better field position.

Thanks to him, however, they only beat the Birds by a combined score of 58-14.

Expect a middle-of-the-road tender for Rocca, as punters aren't really a hot commodity.

Akeem Jordan, LB (Restricted Free Agent)

Jordan is another guy who fell way out of favor with the coaching staff in the latter portion of the season. His playing time was dwindling as the weeks went on, but then he was back starting for the Eagles' playoff game at Dallas -- at the MIKE position.

It was odd seeing him give that a go, but it shows that the Eagles obviously have faith in him to some degree and will most likely give him a middle-of-the-road tender, if they don't just resign him right off the bat.

Jordan is a big, physical guy who can make plays when he's put in the right position. However, it looks like no one is quite sure what that position is. Whether it's as a starter of coming off the bench, he's a guy who can still help this defense and will probably stick around and get to prove that to the coaching staff and to the fans.

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