The Eagles appear well-armed to be aggressive in the NFL free-agent market, which opens at midnight tonight.

The options are not what they once might have been because last week, a record total of 14 teams placed franchise tags on players who were eligible to become unrestricted free agents.

Eagles president Joe Banner predicted that there would be a flurry of activity in the first few days of the free-agent signing period, but declined to say whether the Eagles would be part of it.

"I think there's going to be a big rush the first three to seven days, where you'll see a bunch of very, very big deals," Banner said. "After that, things are going to be picked over, and the deals will become much more modest."

Of course, Banner would not tip his hand on whom the Eagles might pursue.

Running back Derrick Ward, 28, is an interesting name the Eagles may consider. Brian Westbrook was slowed by injuries last season and will turn 30 in September. His backup, Correll Buckhalter, is expected to test free agency to find out if he can get a deal as a starter with another team.

Ward and Brandon Jacobs formed a powerful tandem for the New York Giants, who re-signed Jacobs yesterday. The 5-foot-11, 228-pound Ward seems to be a good fit for the Eagles because he caught 41 passes last season while sharing time with Jacobs.

Ward is a client of Drew Rosenhaus, whose clients include disgruntled Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard and controversial wide receiver Terrell Owens. But that doesn't mean the Eagles won't have interest. Still, Ward may prefer to sign with a team that assures him he'll be the starter.

If the Eagles look for help at wide receiver, Cincinnati's T.J. Houshmandzadeh, 31, caught 92 passes for an average of 9.8 yards last season. In some minds, he is more of a possession receiver than a deep threat.

The Indianapolis Colts released Marvin Harrison yesterday, but the Philadelphia native will be 37 and has shown signs of decline. Harrison is also being sued by a Philadelphia man after a shooting near Harrison's businesses in the city.

Arizona's Anquan Boldin is not a free agent, but is upset with his contract situation and might complain enough to be traded.

The Eagles must address the offensive line, either in free agency, the draft, or both. Starting tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan are scheduled to be free agents.

Thomas has said he prefers to remain with the Eagles, and last week coach Andy Reid sounded as though a deal would get done. But time is running out. Left tackles are at a premium, and there won't be a great deal of talent at the position in free agency.

Thomas' market value probably got a boost after Carolina signed Jordan Gross last week, preventing him from becoming a free agent. At 34, Thomas remains effective and durable. He has missed only eight games because of injury in 11 seasons.

"We feel Tra Thomas had one of his best years, and he's in the best shape of his life," said Thomas' agent, Peter Schaffer. "We feel he has five or six more good years left. If we can't get a deal done, he'll go on the market as someone who plays a premium position."

Schaffer declined to characterize the negotiations with the Eagles.

Runyan, 35, might not be signed right away by anybody because he is recovering from microfracture surgery on his right knee in mid-January. He was given a timetable of four to six months for recovery, so the Eagles, or any other team, might be in a wait-and-see mode.

Reid said previously that guards Shawn Andrews, who missed most of 2008 with injuries, and Todd Herremans could shift to tackle.

Baltimore's Jason Brown will draw a lot of attention as a guard or center. Brown, who will be 26 in May, is 6-3, 320 pounds. He started 28 straight games at left guard in 2006 and '07 before starting 19 straight at center in 2008.

If the Eagles could add Brown to the middle of the line, Reid might be able to shift Herremans or Andrews to tackle.

Tight end is a definite need for the Eagles, who apparently don't plan on re-signing L.J. Smith. Brent Celek has proved to be a solid receiver but his blocking remains weak.

In an interview last week, Reid said the team's approach to free-agent signings was cautious.

"You have to be careful with free agency," he said. "The success rate of free agency is not what people make it to be. You have to be very selective."

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or