Going into draft day, every NFL team has a board that they stick to. It probably doesn’t work that way with free agents, but I have compiled a list of free agents that the Eagles should be intrigued by. Also, I think it would be cool to have a free agent draft, though that doesn’t really make the agents very free.
The big fish (players who will command deals in excess of around $6 million per season)
1. Jonathan Joseph, CB, 26: Joseph, not Nnamdi Asomugha, is atop my free agent wish list for two reasons. For one, he is three years younger, which means that he will not be declining at the same time as Asante Samuel. Secondly, he will be much less expensive, as he will carry a price tag of around $12 million per season instead of $18 million per year. He’s not quite as dominant as Aso, but he is one of the top ten cover men in the league and is very underrated. With Samuel, Joseph, and promising young players such as Nate Allen, Trevard Lindley, and Kurt Coleman, the Eagles will have one of the elite secondaries in the league, as well as enough cap space to address other needs.
2. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, 29: Signing Nnamdi Asomugha would give the Eagles two of the top three cornerbacks in the league (Darrelle Revis) and could resurrect the defense. While Asomugha is truly that good, both he and Samuel will be 30 when the 2011 season kicks off and both will carry considerable price tags. Still, Asomugha is the type of rare player that the Eagles would have to pounce on if they receive indications that Asomugha is interested in suiting up in green.
3. Antonio Cromartie, CB, 26: Yes, another corner, but it’s a very deep free agent class there and it’s the Eagles’ biggest need. Cromartie may have character concerns and an unwillingness to tackle, but he can flat-out cover. With elite athleticism and freakishly long arms, “Cro” is as good as shadowing receivers as almost anybody in the league. The Eagles could also really use his height to match up with the taller receivers in the division (Miles Austin, Dez Bryant).
4. Jared Gaither, OT, 24: It’s not often that a franchise left tackle under the age of 25 hits the open market. Yes, the signing would be risky since Gaither missed 2010 with back surgery, but inking him to a deal would be well worth it. He’s exactly what the Eagles want out of their offensive tackles and would be the perfect player to man Michael Vick’s blind side. Capable of playing left or right tackle and excelling in both pass blocking and run blocking, Gaither could very well be the player that unleashes the true potential of the offense.
The little fish (less expensive role players who are a good fit)
1. Marshal Yanda, OT/G, 26: Yanda can play either right guard or right tackle effectively. He was part of a rock solid Baltimore group and would bring youth and toughness to the Eagle. If Baltimore retains Jared Gaither, the Eagles should be all over Yanda, who would be an upgrade over either Winston Justice or Max Jean-Gilles on the right side of the line.
2. Jason Babin, DE, 30: Jason Babin had 12.5 sacks last year under Jim Washburn after having been labeled as a bust previously. He has already publicly expressed his desire to follow Washburn to Philadelphia and would be a great addition to the defensive end rotation. Trent Cole needs help, and the Eagles have enough developmental players on their roster already including Brandon Graham, Ricky Sapp, Philip Hunt, and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. Adding Babin along with a top cornerback would make this defense exponentially better.
3. Rocky McIntosh, OLB, 28: Rocky McIntosh is a terrible fit in Washington’s new 3-4 defense, so he’ll almost certainly be allowed to walk in free agency. However, he was really beginning to blossom into a fine young weakside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. He would be a much better WILL for the Eagles than the Ernie Sims experiment, which failed miserably in 2010. Plug him next to Stewart Bradley and Jamar Chaney and you have a solid-but-unspectacular linebacker corps with very good depth in Moise Fokou and Keenan Clayton.
4. Alex Smith, QB, 26: If Kevin Kolb is dealt, the Eagles will need to pick up a new #2 passer in free agency. They’ll be able to choose between Bruce Gradkowski, Billy Volek, and Alex Smith, but they need one of them. Alex Smith has a ton of potential as the former number one overall pick, and always had the misfortune of playing under defensive coaches (Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary). Perhaps a year or two with Andy Reid could turn him into a starting caliber player.