Some things to think about as the Eagles prepare for Sunday's game in Seattle:
This is the time of year when the Eagles typically work on contract extensions. The significance of getting the deals done now is that some of the bonus money can be pushed into this year's salary cap. The deadline for that to be done is Sunday.
All indications are that the Eagles plan to let the deadline pass without extending anyone's deal. The climate for negotiations is different because the possibility exists that 2010 could be an uncapped season if a new or extended collective bargaining agreement is not in place.
That decision means the Eagles will likely have six unrestricted free agents at the end of this season. That list: offensive tackles Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas, safety Brian Dawkins, tight end L.J. Smith, running back Correll Buckhalter and cornerback Joselio Hanson.
It also means they are not ready to commit long-term deals to Omar Gaither, Chris Gocong, Max Jean-Gilles, Jason Avant and Hank Baskett. The first four players on that list are signed through 2009, while Baskett can become a restricted free agent after this season.
The list of unrestricted free agents is a fascinating one, especially when you consider what Runyan, Thomas and Dawkins have meant to the organization. Do the Eagles keep Runyan and Thomas? Do they keep just one and try to find a replacement for the other? Do they let both of them go?
During the last off-season, coach Andy Reid expressed the feeling that Pro Bowl guard Shawn Andrews could move outside to one of the tackle positions, but you have to wonder if that thinking has changed based on what has happened this season.
The decision about Dawkins might be even more difficult because he has been the defensive face of the franchise for the last decade.
As for the younger players, the only one on the list who really seems worth targeting right now is Gaither. The jury is still out on Gocong, and there's no reason to rush to sign Jean-Gilles and Avant. Second-year linebacker Stewart Bradley does not make the list because teams cannot sign players to long-term deals until after they have completed their second season in the league.
A couple of veteran cornerbacks were asked last week what advice they would give to young players who might be approached about signing long-term contract extensions.
Lito Sheppard, who signed a five-year extension through 2011 during the 2004 season, gave an interesting answer and, for the first time, provided details on why he is so unhappy about his current deal.
"I always tell them this: First of all, you have to do what's best for you and your family, but second of all, let's put it like this, if you don't take that money, watch how they do you," Sheppard said. "If you take it, you just better hope you're not mad two or three years down the line.
"That's basically how it is right now. You can write a book about it. Talk to people around the league, they're going to tell you if you don't take the extensions, they're going to get blackballed. You hate to say that about it, but that's the way it is."
And what did Sheppard mean by blackballed?
"If you're on offense, they can limit your production and not let you do what you've been doing, and on defense, they can start finding fault," Sheppard said. "Every little thing you do, they can use it against you."
Sheppard said he thinks that's what happened to former Eagles safety Michael Lewis two years ago.
"It's a dirty game and it's almost like they're forcing you to take the new deal when you come to the table," he said. "I don't necessarily feel like that happened to me. But after my [rookie] contract was up in my fifth year , I was coming off my second Pro Bowl and that's when Nate Clements signed that $80 million deal [for eight years, with San Francisco]. I would have been in his boat. That was exactly during my time when I was a free agent. That was the dramatic change from when I took my deal into what it would have been."
Sheppard's extension was for $25 million.
Sheldon Brown, who signed a five-year extension through 2012 during the 2004 season, provided a different take.
"You have to do what's right for you and your family and not listen to anybody else," he said. "Some people may say they are low-balling you, but if it's enough for you and your family, then take it. If you don't feel like it is, then don't take it. Only you can make that decision.
"It's definitely a tough choice, but it's just like the lottery. You're playing with fire because if you look at somebody like [ex-Eagles safety] Damon Moore, he . . . tore his knee up. I just think in the end, if it's good enough you, go ahead and take it and don't be too greedy. If you perform more after that, you'll get more."
Brown clearly has the better perspective on the issue. Sheppard isn't the only one in the Eagles' locker room who feels as if Lewis got a raw deal after he didn't sign a long-term deal, but the safety's benching was about performance rather than money.
Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson felt Lewis could not cover anyone, and it was a valid point. Johnson does not care how much any of his players are making. The problem was that Sean Considine was not the right guy to replace Lewis. Quintin Mikell has fixed that problem.
Andrews has to make a post-operation visit to back specialist Robert Watkins this week in Marina Del Ray, Calif., but he is scheduled to return to Philadelphia by the end of the week.
The Eagles have decided against placing the Pro Bowl guard on injured reserve for now in the hope that he'll be able to return in December. That's a wise move considering the team's lack of depth and experience along the offensive line.