A closer look at the Eagles’ off-season

BY JARED NAGLE, Staff Writer

The Eagles have had a very uneventful last couple days in the eyes of many. Those of you who expected a big splash in free agency were surely disappointed when word came in of Julius Peppers $91 million payday from the Chicago Bears. The Birds reportedly had an offer on the table for Peppers, but ultimately he proved too costly.

Peppers would have been far from the only move in this busy Eagles off-season. So let’s take a look at some of the Birds other activity.

Eagles Interests

It has been reported by numerous sources that the Eagles have expressed interest in free agent defensive end Aaron Kampman. However, as of this writing he has not made a free agent visit to Philly and is en route to meet with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the coming days. Jacksonville had 14 sacks as a team last year (for comparison sake Trent Cole had 12.5 sacks by himself), so I would very much expect them to put the full court press on Kampman in hopes he doesn’t leave Florida without a contract.

Even though the Eagles have yet to land a coveted free agent and frankly are unlikely to do so, the teams overtures towards top free agents along with the small transactions they made in the last few days are very indicative of how they value the players on their roster and which positions they feel need to be upgraded.

Eagles Restricted Free Agents

* There is a full explanation of restricted free agency at the bottom of the page that I suggest reading, if unfamiliar with the term.

Before Friday at 12:ooam the Birds had to tender their restricted free agents or risk losing them via the open market. Each player was tendered at various compensation levels. This process can be very telling of which players the Eagles value and who they are seemingly indifferent about.

CB Elis Hobbs recieved a first round tender offer. If an interested team wants to sign Hobbs to an offer-sheet the Eagles would have seven days to match the offer or receive a 1st round pick from the team  in return for Hobbs. Obviously, no team in the league is willing to part with a first rounder to pick up a backup cornerback.

Hobbs was just traded last season to the Eagles for two fifth round picks and if anything his value has decreased around the league since then. What this means, however,  is that the Eagles value Hobbs and do not want to risk losing him by putting a second or original pick tender on him. I would expect him to compete with Joselio Hanson for nickel duties and possibly contribute in the return game in 2010.

LB Akeem Jordan was tendered at a second round level. Jordan is safe at that level, and with yesterdays release of LB Will Witherspoon (more to come on that news) he is in line to be the Eagles starting weak-side linebacker for the 2010 season. Jordan isn’t a play maker, but he is solid enough and the Eagles assured themselves of keeping him by applying the second round tender. This does not necessarily show the Eagles truly value him , as Jordan was originally an undrafted free agent and could have moved elsewhere with out any compensation if he was tendered at anything less then a second round level.

WR Jason Avant was also tendered at a second round level even though he was originally a fourth round pick (showing his value!). I am 98% sure Jason Avant is safe at that level, but I wouldn’t be totally shocked if a receiver-needy team signed Avant to an offer sheet. Avant is a very underrated receiver and a key contributor in the Eagles passing game. He is more valuable to the Eagles then to other teams because of the Eagles surrounding personnel, and the rest of the league most likely views him as, at best, a number two receiver. Even if Avant is signed to an offer sheet, it is possible the Eagles would match the offer. If not, a second round pick isn’t bad compensation for a backup, albeit talented, wideout.

[Ed. Note: The piece was written before Avant signed long-term, proving  Nagle’s point.]

Center Nick Cole was also tendered at a second round level. Cole is certainly safe at that level and will be back with the Eagles next season barring unforseen circumstances. Originally an undrafted free agent, the Eagles needed to place a high tender on Cole or they would have risked losing him for no compensation. Cole should compete for playing time in the interior line and if history repeates itself he will start 14 or more games then the Eagles intend for him too.

LB Chris Gocong, OG Max Jean-Gilles and LB Omar Gaither were all applied with original pick tenders. The Eagles will receive a third round pick if Gocong is signed, a fourth rounder for Jean-Gilles, and a fifth rounder for Gaither. This series of moves is perhaps the most interesting of the last few days. If the Eagles were at all concerned with losing one of these players, they would have surely applied the second round tender. It would have only cost a fraction more (in NFL standards) and would have kept interested teams at bay. Instead, the Eagles have opened the door for interested teams to swoop in and sign one or more of these players to an offer sheet, and I feel that was their intention.

Quite frankly, Jean-Gilles and Gocong were never good fits for this team. Chris Gocong was a college defensive end who has not been able to produce consistently for the Birds at strongside linebacker. He is better suited for a 3-4 defense and is likely to garner interest from a team looking for a pass rusher. Max Jean-Gilles is a powerful run blocker with only adequate pass blocking ability.  Unfortunately for Jean-Gilles, the Eagles throw far more often then they run and this is why he has been supplanted as a top interior backup by C/G Nick Cole. I expect Jean-Gilles to possibly receive interest on the restricted free agent market as well.

Omar Gaither was once seen as teams future at linebacker, but injuries and poor play have driven his value to the team to an all time low. He can be had for a mere 5th round pick, and I believe the Eagles would take the compensation in a heartbeat if Gaither were to sign an offer sheet. As it stands now, if Gaither does return he will be fighting just to make the roster in 2010.

P Sav Rocca received an original pick tender and the Birds would receive no compensation if he signed with another team as he was undrafted. I don’t think fans will miss him too much. Also, the Eagles non-tendered TE Alex Smith instantly making him an unrestricted free agent.

Released! Birds’ 2010 Releases:

Late the other night it was reported that the Eagles had released LB Will Witherspoon. The Eagles traded for Witherspoon at the trade deadline last season with the expectation that he would sure up their hole at inside linebacker. Despite a flashy first couple starts, Witherspoon looked very average for most of the season and it is not a total shock that the Eagles decided to move on. Akeem Jordan is now penciled in as starting weakside linebacker, though with Witherspoons release coupled with Omar Gaither and Chris Gocong’s low tender offers, it is clear that the Eagles feel the need to revamp their linebacking core.

The Eagles released Brian Westbrook as we all know. Shay Roddy and Phil Andrews had the complete story in archives.

Back for More

Two more bits of news to pass along. The Eagles have signed FB Leonard Weaver to a 3 year extension worth $10 million, making him the highest paid full back in the NFL. Also, it has been reported that the Eagles are interested in bringing back WR Hank Baskett, who was recently let go by the Indianapolis Colts. He would likely be no more than a fourth or fifth wideout.

The Eagles recent activity tells us

* They want to upgrade at right defensive end

* They want more from their linebackers

* Jason Avant and Elis Hobbs are very valuable to this team despite their place on the depth chart

* The team has soured on Chris Gocong, Max-Jean Gilles, Omar Gaither, and the ever popular Sav Rocca

* The Eagles love Leonard Weaver just as much as the fans and media do.

Maybe in the next few days we can figure out the quarterback thing…

Explaining Restricted Free Agency

This being an uncapped year, players with three, four or five years of service in the NFL, whose contracts have expired, are eligible for restricted free agency. Restricted free agents are still property of their current team. If a player is a restricted free agent he can negotiate with other teams, but rather than just signing with a new team (like an unrestricted free agent), the player must sign an offer sheet. When a player signs an offer sheet with a new team, his existing club has seven days to match the offer. If the team does not match the offer, then the player signs with the new team, and the old team receives compensation in the form of a draft pick.

The draft pick compensation is dependent on which tender offer the original team applies to the restricted free agent. A tender off is a one year contact that can vary between $1. 176 million  and $3.268 million. If a team applies a $1.176 million tender offer, that is referred to as a original pick tender. That means the draft pick compensation would be from whichever round the player was drafted in as a rookie. For example, LB Chris Gocong was originally a third round pick by the Eagles. When they applied  the original pick tender to Gocong, that meant if he signed elsewhere they would receive a third round pick. If  a player was originally undrafted, a team can get no draft pick compensation with an original pick tender if they sign an offer sheet. This is most likely why Akeem Jordan and Nick Cole (originally undrafted) were tendered at second round level.

The next level up from the original pick tender is the second round tender. This tender costs the team $1.7 million and would bring back a second round pick as compensation if the player signed elsewhere.

There is also a first round tender ($2.3 million) and a first and third round tender ($3.2 million).

Needless to say, when players are tendered at second, first, and first and third levels they are very unlikely to be signed to offer sheets by interested teams due to the value of high draft picks.


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Filed under Editorial, Jared Nagle

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