THIS MAY come as a shock to all of the people who have been reading my uplifting stories and columns in the Daily News for the last 33 years, but I'm not the cockeyed optimist I seem. I'm actually a glass-half-empty kind of guy.
Where others see promise and opportunity, I see pestilence and famine and a swarm of locusts.
I'm the kind of guy who texts his grown children when it rains to warn them to be careful driving. I did that this week when it started to sleet and got back this smart-ass reply from my youngest daughter: "And there's the cautionary text I've been waiting for all day. Actually, I'm gonna see how fast I can go. I hear the ice helps you go faster."
That's a long way of getting around to the Eagles and the start of free agency next week.
Most of the team's fans, especially those who think Chip Kelly hung the moon, have gotten over the shock of LeSean McCoy's pending trade and Trent Cole being released, and are viewing the free-agency signing period with the same joy and excitement that 6-year-olds approach Christmas morning.
The Black Tuesday moves, which also included the release of cornerback Cary Williams, have swollen the Eagles' salary-cap space to $43.6 million. At least one more veteran, inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans, is expected to be released in the coming days, which will put that number at over $50 million. And frankly, it wouldn't surprise me if they're also considering waving goodbye to 33-year-old All-Pro left guard Evan Mathis and his $6.5 million salary-cap number.
At the moment, just three NFL teams have more than $50 million in cap space: Cleveland ($50.8 million), Oakland ($54.7 million) and Jacksonville ($65 million). The Eagles soon will be joining that group.
Bottom line: The Eagles are going to have the financial wherewithal to be major players in free agency. No player on the market - not Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell, not Patriots safety Devin McCourty, not Steelers edge-rusher Jason Worilds will be out of their price range. Hell, maybe they'll put a bid in on all of them.
In theory, all of this sounds great, sounds terrific. Many of Chip's hard-core devotees have even taken it a step further and think that after he fixes all of the Eagles' positional problems via free agency, he'll turn around and use his now-necessary draft picks to trade up and grab the greatest quarterback and human being in the history of modern civilization, Marcus Mariota.
On the seventh day, Chip Kelly will rest.
Again, all of this sounds great. But like I said at the beginning, I'm a glass-half-empty kind of guy.
I've been covering the NFL for a long time. I've seen a lot of teams do belly flops in free agency. It is hardly a sure thing. It's almost as big a crapshoot as the draft. And the salary-cap repercussions for guessing wrong in free agency are a lot more crippling than they are for guessing wrong in the draft.
Last year, the Saints signed Jairus Byrd, who was considered the top-rated safety on the free-agent market, to a 6-year, $54 million deal that included $26.3 million in guaranteed money.
He played in just four games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. His cap number last year was just $3.5 million, but jumps to $10.3 million this year. If the Saints release him after the 2015 season, they'll have to eat nearly $7 million in "dead" money.
Defensive lineman Lamarr Houston signed a 5-year, $35 million deal with the Bears last year that included $15 million in guaranteed money. He has a $7 million cap number this year and $10 million in "dead" money if he's released after the 2015 season.
Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib signed a 6-year, $57 million deal last year with $25.5 million in guarantees. His salary-cap number will jump from $7 million this year to $10 million next year to $12 million in 2016.
I know there are a lot of people out there who think Kelly can do no wrong, who think the guy can walk on water.
While I happen to think he's a very good coach, he's also a relatively inexperienced NFL talent evaluator. And as I've pointed out in previous columns, just because you're good at one doesn't mean you're good at the other.
"I have a lot of respect for Chip as a coach," an NFC executive said. "But what they're doing right now is a big gamble. It's either going to turn out really well or he's going to be back coaching a college team in a few years."
Said another league personnel man: "It's hard to see the big picture right now with so many moving parts and so much yet to happen with the draft and free agency. There's obviously a plan. Hopefully a well-thought out one.
"But the owner is placing a lot of trust in a guy who, 8-9 years ago, was coaching at a Division 1-A school. He had some success at Oregon, but it wasn't like he had dominating success there. He didn't win a national championship. There's no one with a great historical resumé making decisions for the Eagles right now."
If I'm owner Jeff Lurie, I'm sweating bullets right now. His faith in Kelly might be rewarded and this all could turn out wonderfully. Or it could turn out to be a repeat of 2011.
Remember 2011 and the infamous Dream Team? Because of the 4-month lockout, the free-agency signing period was postponed until late July that year.
The signing period was shortened to a few weeks and the Eagles, who were flush with cap space, thought they could use it to their advantage and put the finishing touches on a Super Bowl team.
They signed nearly a dozen free agents, including All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, edge-rusher Jason Babin, running back Ronnie Brown, quarterback Vince Young and offensive tackle Ryan Harris and traded for another highly regarded corner, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Asomugha signed a 5-year, $60 million contract, nearly half of which was guaranteed. But it all went horribly wrong. Both Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie turned out to be monumental busts. Harris hurt his back in his first practice with the Eagles and eventually was released.
Babin had 18 sacks that first season, but turned into a locker-room cancer the next year and was released with five games left in the season. Young started three games and managed to throw nine interceptions in just 114 attempts. Brown will be remembered for a goal-line fumble that he still insists was a pass that cost them a win over San Francisco.
As it turned out, the Eagles' best free-agent signing that summer was offensive linemen Evan Mathis, who figured to make the team as a backup and ended up becoming an All-Pro. The Eagles finished 8-8, then hit bottom the next year, losing 12 games.
With the exception of 2011, the Eagles traditionally have been pretty conservative in free agency. They've strongly believed that you build through the draft and use free agency to fill a hole or two when needed.
And usually when they did any free-agency shopping, they waited for the crowds to clear and the big names to get claimed and looked for second-tier bargains, which was the case last year, when they passed on Byrd and ended up with the much more affordable Malcolm Jenkins, who also happened to be a better fit for Billy Davis' defensive scheme than Byrd.
"Unless it's really the right fit for the position, the age, the player, the history of the player, the scheme fit, you want to be careful," deposed general manager Howie Roseman said before the start of last year's free-agency signing period.
"Because when you talk about these top free agents, you're tied into them for a lot longer than for a year or two. It limits your flexibility. And you're bringing guys into your locker room that you haven't drafted and haven't been in the culture [of your system]. Chemistry is a big part of what we're trying to build."
Chip, the ball is in your court. Don't screw it up.