INDIANAPOLIS - The free-agent buzz surrounding the Eagles for the last few weeks has been that they are going to pursue New England Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel.
That might end up happening, but it seems more likely, and perhaps even more logical, that they are going to make a strong attempt to sign New York Giants safety Gibril Wilson.
It's more likely because Samuel is considered the premier defensive player on the open market, and he is going to command a top contract - probably at least $12 million per season with a $20 million signing bonus - and there's going to be a line of teams bidding for his services.
Wilson, a 26-year-old free safety, doesn't figure to get nearly as much money as Samuel and probably fits better with the Eagles in terms of need.
Even though last week's rumor that the Eagles had given Lito Sheppard permission to seek a trade wasn't true, it did raise some red flags about the cornerback's level of contentment with his contract. The Eagles, meanwhile, have concerns about Sheppard's ability to stay on the field because he has missed 14 games over the last three seasons.
But the bigger concern has to be at free safety. Not only is Brian Dawkins coming off a season in which he missed six games and had just one interception, but also he'll turn 35 in the middle of next season and is heading into the final year of his contract.
The Eagles say Dawkins is a future Hall of Famer, but it remains to be seen if they think he's their immediate future at free safety.
Wilson, who had four interceptions last season and 11 in his four seasons with the Giants, would be a nice fit because he already knows defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's system after spending last season with Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnoulo, a former Eagles assistant.
The Giants want to re-sign Wilson, but they opted against using their franchise tag on the safety.
Johnson said he's hopeful that both Sheppard and Dawkins can be healthy in 2008 and resume their roles as two of the Eagles' best playmakers.
"I don't see any reason why either one should not be healthy," Johnson said. "Lito is still a young guy, and he's just had some issues with injuries. Dawkins is a guy who is older, but he's still in great shape. It's a big off-season for Dawkins. He got off to a slow start last year as far as training camp, and that hurt him. Those guys, when they're healthy and playing well, they're still a big, big part of our defense's success."
McNabb and Baltimore. The Baltimore Ravens have denied that they are interested in trying to make a trade for quarterback Donovan McNabb. But new coach John Harbaugh, the Eagles' longtime assistant, said at the Scouting Combine that his team isn't set at quarterback.
"It's an area we want to strengthen, no question," Harbaugh said. "That position needs to be strengthened. I know we're going to use every resource to get that done. We have three good quarterbacks on the roster, starting with Steve McNair. He's the incumbent. He's had a tremendous career, and a lot of guys who've been in his position at his age have had pretty good seasons."
Extra points. It's no secret that Atlanta Falcons cornerback D'Angelo Hall is on the trading block, but he's not a player that interests the Eagles. . . . Arkansas' Darren McFadden didn't hurt his reputation as the best running back in this year's draft class when he ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at yesterday's Scouting Combine workout. He trained for the 40 by working with Olympic champ Michael Johnson.