Eagles Deciding On Key Components

<B>PHILADELPHIA:</b> Eagles have a lot at stake as free agency begins<br> <br> The Philadelphia Eagles re-signed backup quarterback Koy Detmer the day before the start of the free agency signing period.

But for the most part, they're taking a wait-and-see attitude with their remaining 14 unsigned free agents, including three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Hugh Douglas and weakside linebacker Shawn Barber.

The Eagles would like both Douglas and Barber, who were key components of their fourth-ranked defense last season, back. But they've decided to let both of them get a sense of their market value before deciding what to do.

Douglas is one of the few premier pass-rushing defensive ends available in free agency, which means he's probably going to get some hefty offers. He led the team in sacks last season with 12 and has 36 1/2 in the last three years.

But he's also going to be 32 years old next summer, and it remains to be seen how many productive seasons he has left. He was not nearly as effective at the end of last season as he was at the beginning. Playing on aching knees that prevented him from practicing most of the last half of the season, he had just 1 1/2 sacks in the Eagles' last five games, including none in their two playoff games.

Unlike last year's situation with middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, the Eagles have maintained a good relationship with Douglas and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and probably will be given an opportunity to make a counter-offer to any he receives on the open market. But while the Eagles would like to retain Douglas, they won't risk long-term harm to their salary cap situation to do it.

If they don't re-sign Douglas, his likely replacement at right end would be third-year man Derrick Burgess, who missed almost all of last season with a broken foot and had a second surgery on the foot just last week.

"We'll be fine whichever way it goes," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "We'll be OK. I feel good about (Burgess's recovery). Give him three months and he'll be back in the swing of things."

The Eagles got Barber cheap last year. He was coming off a torn ACL and signed a one-year $1.5 million deal with the Eagles. They thought he probably would be a situational linebacker, used mostly on running downs. But he turned out to be much more. Finished second on the team in tackles and had two interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

Unlike defensive end, the free agent linebacker crop is deep. If the Eagles' can't re-sign Barber, there are several potential replacements they could go after. But none of them are going to come cheap. All things being equal, they'd rather bring back Barber.

They'd also like to re-sign 34-year-old return ace Brian Mitchell, who had one of his best seasons last year, but only on their terms, which is a one-year deal at the veteran minimum. Mitchell is hoping someone else might be willing to give him a slightly more substantial deal. Stay tuned.

Other free agents who will test the market, but could be back are linebackers Levon Kirkland and Barry Gardner, tight end Jeff Thomason, guard Doug Brzezinski, safety Rashard Cook and running back Dorsey Levens.

The Eagles will not re-sign either of their free agent punters - Sean Landeta and Lee Johnson - and probably won't bring back starting fullback Cecil Martin.






Scout NFL Network Top Stories