Eagles Turn An Eye Toward The Draft

The Eagles know how they want to approach free agency - full speed. The only problem is that there have been two delays in the start of the free agency signing period, putting the Eagles plans on hold. Rather than sit back and relax, the birds are turning an eye toward extra draft prep.

Not ones to sit back and twiddle their thumbs, the Eagles are using their extra time to get in extra work preparing for the draft. After all, the draft just 53 days away and there are a lot of things to consider.

During Andy Reid's tenure, the Eagles have looked to build primarily through the draft, but haven't always found success. The birds have just two starters to show from their efforts in 2003 and 2004 - tight end L.J. Smith and guard Shawn Andrews - but grabbed four starters out of their 11 picks in last year's draft. Perhaps their biggest disappointment came in 2003 when the Eagles traded up to get Jerome McDougle, who has missed about a third of the games the Eagles have played since then because of injuries, including getting shot in the abdomen just before the start of training camp last year.

On the upside, Reggie Brown set a franchise rookie record with 43 catches last season after being drafted in the second round.

Now, the Eagles have extra time to work on finding out exactly which way they want to go in the draft. A lot could depend on how successful they are in getting the players that they've identified through free agency, including offensive linemen LeCharles Bentley and Steve Hutchinson. They're also set to possibly pursue center Kevin Mawae, who was released by the Jets and possibly wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, who the Steelers are unlikely to be able to bring back.

With many of their free agent targets on the offensive side of the ball, the draft could focus heavily on defense.

Once the free agent signing period begins - which is scheduled for 12:01 a.m. on Thursday - the Eagles will hit the ground running. They aren't spending any time second guessing the players that they've targeted and would likely only change their plans if a surprise came up on the waiver wire. Expect Bentley to sign almost immediately with other possible signings coming within a week after the start of free agency.

The other issue that could change their free agency approach is if the salary cap is raised from the $94.5 million level that it's been set at. That could happen if the owners accept the players latest offer on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The owners are meeting in Dallas to discuss that possibility. The good news for the Eagles would be that it would give them an additional 10 - 15 million dollars depending on the rise in the cap, but the down side is that other teams, who are in much tougher cap situations, would then have money to pursue free agents. In other words, a new CBA wouldn't necessarily be the best of news for the Eagles, but it shouldn't disrupt their free agency plans very much.

2005 Draft Pick Review

Round 1 (pick #31) Mike Patterson, DT: Patterson had his rookie ups and downs as part of the Eagles' four-man rotation at DT. But he led all Eagle DTs with 3 1/2 sacks and will open '06 as their starting LDT.

2 (35) Reggie Browns, WR: Brown was everything the Eagles had hoped he'd be, catching a rookie-record 43 passes. Coach Andy Reid believes he has the talent to be the team's number one wideout in '06.

2 (63) Matt McCoy, LB: McCoy was regarded as a second-round reach by most scouts and he played like it. He played in just four games and had great difficulty learning Jim Johnson's complicated defensive scheme.

3 (77) Ryan Moats, RB: A similar type player to Brian Westbrook, the Louisiana Tech product didn't get on the field until the second half of the season because he struggled to learn the offense. But when they gave him the ball, he proved he could run. Rushed for 114 yards against the Giants one week and 78 against the Rams the next. He'll be part of a three-back rotation with Westbrook and a still-to-be-determined mystery guest next season.

4 (102) Sean Considine, S: The Eagles had high hopes that Considine would be a special-teams stud as a rookie. But he injured his shoulder early and it never healed. He played in just six games and was placed on injured reserve.

4 (126) Todd Herremans, OT: The 6-6, 321-pounder came out of a Division II program, but learned quickly. A back injury to LT Tra Thomas gave him an opportunity to start four games and he did a pretty good job. He'll likely be starting somewhere along the line in '06, possibly at RG if Shawn Andrews moves outside to replace Jon Runyan.

5 (146) Trent Cole, DE: Cole was a rush linebacker in college, but made a successful transition to DE with the Eagles. The absence of Jerome McDougle gave him an opportunity to play and he made the most of it. He started seven games and had five sacks and 14 hurries.

5 (172) Scott Young, G: Young made a defense-to-offense switch late in his career at Brigham Young. Eagles knew he was a project when they drafted him. He spent most of the season on the practice squad.

6 (211) Calvin Armstrong, OT: Armstrong was inactive for 13 games and didn't play in the three he suited up for. With Herremans' rapid development, it will be tough for Armstrong to be anything more than a backup in '06.

7 (247) Keyonta Marshall, DT: Like Herremans, he's a Division II product. Unlike Herremans, he didn't get much of an opportunity to play as a rookie, playing in just one game.

7 (252) David Bergeron, LB: Bergeron was the only one of the Eagles' 11 '05 draft picks who didn't make the team.

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