NFL: Locked out, but looking ahead

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TIM UMPHREY/GETTY IMAGES

The NFL lockout was supposed to end Thursday.

It didn’t.

It still could this weekend, if the players and owners can work out their differences. Thirty-one of 32 owners ratified a deal Thursday, but the players rejected the conditions of that deal. So the NFL remains in a holding pattern — and so does the business of signing free agents.

When the two sides finally come to an agreement, there is going to be a feeding frenzy. Teams won’t have time to sit back and plot their moves. That all should have been done in the past five months. No, it’s time to strike before the iron gets ice cold.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has already gone on record saying that his team plans to make a splash.
“We’ve been ready to roll for a while,” Lurie said. “We’ve got a great plan in place, and you never know what you can accomplish, but I know we’re going to be both aggressive and hopefully make the right decisions.”

Position: Defensive end

The deal

Cornerback is the biggest area of concern for new defensive
coordinator Juan Castillo, right? Well, the Eagles don’t have anyone on
their current roster capable of starting opposite Asante Samuel. Even
so, the biggest need for this team lies along the defensive line.

Analysis

With 2010 first-rounder Brandon Graham likely to miss
significant time, they certainly need a legit pass-rusher to take some
pressure of Trent Cole. Top three targets:

1. Ray Edwards, Vikings: He’s going to want a very lucrative long-term
deal, but the 26-year-old certainly has shown he deserves it. He’s
combined for 16.5 sacks in the past two seasons. Plus, left end is his
natural position.

2. Jason Babin, Titans: Garnering a little too much hype after one
breakout season (12.5 sacks in 2010). However, the theory is that the
31-year-old can produce if re-united with defensive line coach Jim
Washburn, who coached him last year in Tennessee.

3. Raheem Brock, Seahawks:  Has shown flashes (nine sacks in ’10) after
serving as Dwight Freeney’s understudy for eight seasons in Indy.
Problem is, he’s 33 and would probably be more suited in a rotation with
Juqua Parker, rather than a flat-out replacement.

Position: Cornerback


The deal

We know who the fans want: Nnamdi Asomugha. While nothing the Eagles
do would totally shock us, this would kind of shock us. He’s going to
want between $12 million to $18 million per year, and there’s strong
speculation that his wish is to remain in Oakland. There are better
options:

1. Dominique Rodgers-    Cromartie, Cardinals: Trading
QB Kevin Kolb     for Cromartie — and at least a third-round draft pick —
would be the easiest path to obtain an instant starter at right
cornerback. Cromartie has the size and speed to be an elite player. He
just needs some motivation.

2. Johnathan Joseph,
Bengals: At
27, he’s one of the most underrated corners in the entire NFL. But his
salary demands might be a little more than he’s worth simply due to the
talent drop-off at this position.

3. Ike Taylor, Steelers: He’d
be the cheapest option and would be a good fit if the Eagles switch to a
more zone-centered scheme. The 31-year-old would also bring a wealth of
experience having won two Super Bowl titles.
 

Position: Linebacker

The deal

Why are we even addressing this position at all? The Eagles, under head coach Andy Reid, have proven they don’t value the linebacker position. Still, they are in dire need of someone, anyone that can play.

1. Stewart Bradley, Eagles: Personally, we think Bradley is injury-prone and severely overrated. He is terrible in coverage and his leadership skills seem a little forced. But he’s homegrown and should be cheap. That’s the Eagles way, right?

2. Manny Lawson, 49ers: The Niners have basically been playing Lawson out of position by forcing him to be a pass-rusher in a 3-4 scheme. In a 4-3, he would thrive on the outside. Let Jamar Chaney take the middle.

3. Stephen Tulloch, Titans:  Another Jim Washburn disciple. Had 160 tackles for the Titans last season while holding down the middle. Solid option if they decide to let Bradley walk.


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