Thoughts on free agency, and DeSean
The Eagles seem to be just about done in free agency, and they didn't get pass-rushing help. In other news, the rumor mill grinds away on the Eagles' relationship with DeSean Jackson.
The Eagles have done pretty much what I thought they'd do in free agency. I don't see any more significant moves pending. There have been two minor surprises – the fact that they didn't get an edge rusher, and the trade for Darren Sproles.
Sproles was surprising in that nobody really knew he'd be available until, suddenly, he was, at an attractive price. The edge rusher thing was going to be tough going in, everyone knew the market there wasn't deep. As Chip Kelly said last week at the Maxwell dinner, just because you want something doesn't mean you can have it. (The Rolling Stones also have weighed in on this topic.) It would have been pleasant to contemplate a DeMarcus Ware-Trent Cole OLB rotation, but certainly not at the $30 million over three years the Broncos are going to pay Ware.
So, I'd say the odds of the Eagles taking an edge rusher early in the May draft have improved. Yes, they want to be in a position to take the best player available, and I don't expect them to reach for someone who isn't worthy of the spot, but if the menu of reasonable choices includes an edge rusher, they kinda hafta take that guy, in my view. The hoped-for improvement on the back end isn't going to amount to much without a strong, consistent pass rush, which is the real secret to Seattle's defense, what allows the big corners to play so aggressively.
As I tap this out, the Cowboys' Anthony Spencer remains on the market. Meh. Some fans would like to see the Eagles sign Spencer, on the grounds that he is the player Dallas drafted in 2007 with the first-round pick, 26th overall, the Eagles gave up when they traded down, eventually taking Kevin Kolb in the second round, Stewart Bradley in the third and C.J. Gaddis in the fifth. The rationale is that Spencer must be pretty good, if the Eagles failed to draft him. In an up and down career, Spencer has had his moments, but he's 30 and coming off microfracture surgery. I'm not sure he moves the needle.
The other main Eagles topic of discussion is DeSean Jackson. I have avoided writing a word about this up to now, because I view the whole deal as media-created and fueled. It started weeks ago with a speculative Jimmy Kempski blog post on Philly.com and has taken on a life of its own. The most recent wrinkles are Phillymag.com's Tim McManus reporting through sources close to DJax that he is upset with the speculation, and ESPN's Adam Schefter repeating what has been said elsewhere, that while the Eagles aren't shopping Jackson, they aren't unwilling to listen to offers.
I think if you're trying to build on a 10-6 season and you trade away DeSean Jackson, you'd better be getting back something pretty darned wonderful. I don't see that happening. The reasons why the Eagles might be willing to listen to offers are the same reasons other teams might be leery – he's a tiny guy who's logged 93 games already, including playoffs, there's a good chance he doesn't have more than another year or two of peak production left in him, and he's a diva who's aloof and difficult.
My view is that when Jackson acknowledged he pretty much bagged the 2011 season because he was unhappy with his contract, he seriously affected his trade value forever. This is not the kind of "veteran leadership" anybody is looking to pay dearly to acquire. And when the Eagles decided to pay him in 2012, they knew what they were buying. What's changed? DeSean would have had to have done something really egregious since the end of the season that we don't know about, to make the Eagles willing to part with an 82-catch, 1,332-yard weapon for what they are likely to be offered.
We're now at the point where so many people have speculated on a Jackson-Eagles rift, some of them have decided that after reading the other various forms of speculation, it must add up to something, because "where there's smoke, there's fire." This could be that flat circle Rust Cohle was talking about. Somewhere, the professor who once tried to teach me deductive logic is shaking his head and weeping.
McManus's piece is probably the most careful and credible treatment of this media-created drama. His point – that speculation is starting to bother and distract DeSean – is not just whimsy, and is hard to ignore. However, he lost me at the point where he contrasted the Eagles' unwillingness to reassure Jackson with the fact that they, say, made sure they called Brent Celek when they drafted Zach Ertz. In that case and in the other ones he cites, THE EAGLES HAD DONE SOMETHING THEY FELT THEY NEEDED TO EXPLAIN.
The Eagles would need to talk to DeSean if they really were shopping him. But I don't think they call up a player to chat everytime somebody writes something or says something on TV.
While I think a Jackson trade this spring remains unlikely, I can see this possibly being his last year as an Eagle. (Which doesn't put him in exclusive company. You can make that case for about two-thirds of the roster.) If he really is seriously unhappy with the lack of remaining guarantees in his contract, that's a problem. Before any of this trade stuff came up, I was wondering about adding Jeremy Maclin back into the mix, what would happen if DJax didn't get as many targets and catches this season. Then the Eagles added Sproles, who caught 71 passes in 2013 for New Orleans. And the draft, with its touted wideout depth, remains. It's very possible Jackson's 2014 numbers won't match 2013, and that could be a springboard to something.
It's just as possible, though, that with Nick Foles settling in and defenders unable to key on No. 10 as much, he'll eclipse everything he did in 2013, and we'll be chuckling at all this offseason silliness come playoff time.
If so, remember, you read it here first.