Eagles figure to be busy when lockout ends

Will he stay, or will he go? QB Kevin Kolb's future is just one item on a lengthy list the Eagles will face once the NFL labor situation is finally resolved.
Will he stay, or will he go? QB Kevin Kolb's future is just one item on a lengthy list the Eagles will face once the NFL labor situation is finally resolved. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 05, 2011

When the NFL lockout is finally ended and a new collective bargaining agreement has been agreed upon, the new league year is likely to start shotgun style.

Maybe Plaxico Burress can fire the first shot?

The former New York Giants wide receiver and notorious thigh-shooter has filled the NFL news cycle since his release from prison last month, so his kicking off what should be an unprecedented flurry of activity would seem only appropriate.

But, in truth, hiring Burress - who has been linked to the Eagles in some reports - is far down on the list for most teams and especially for the decision-makers at One NovaCare Way. (More on that later.)

There might not be another franchise with more to do - or with more at stake - than the Eagles, once business resumes. And with negotiations between the owners and players heating up business may reboot sometime within the next few weeks.

That would leave enough time for training camp and preseason to begin uninterrupted but would allow only for a brief period to conduct free agency and complete the necessary transactions before players report for practices.

The Eagles, judging from both public and private conversations, are poised to be one of the teams that could pull off several moves only hours into the new league year. Here is their likely order of business once the trigger is pulled:

1. Figure out franchise and transition tags.

Almost no one around the league expects teams to have both the franchise and transition tags - as they did before the lockout - in the new CBA. The Eagles franchised quarterback Michael Vick and transitioned kicker David Akers, who did not sign the offer. If by some chance both tags remain available, the Eagles would have to make a snap decision on Akers, who theoretically could sign the transition tag. The Eagles don't want this. They have moved on, drafting kicker Alex Henery, and would rather see Akers leave via free agency without the fuss.

2. Trade Kevin Kolb.

If the Eagles get their asking price - a first-round pick? Maybe two seconds? Perhaps a player, too, or players only? - then Kolb is gone. They seem fairly confident they'll get a fitting offer. Of course, there are no certainties. But the Eagles backup quarterback will likely be wearing another uniform next season - probably Cardinals red - and the move could be the first announced by the league.

3. Acquire a cornerback.

It's been painful to watch Reid feign nonchalance every time he's asked about the glaring hole at right cornerback. He knows the Eagles need to fill it, and they intend to do so. The question is how? A cornerback could come in a Kolb trade, or the Eagles could acquire one - fans are gaga for Nnamdi Asomugha - through free agency. The price for the 30-year-old Asomugha is probably too steep, but second-tier talents should be available, especially if players with four years experience are unrestricted free agents.

4. Get defensive line help.

Howard Mudd got his toys. So, too, should Jim Washburn. The Eagles draft gave Mudd three new offensive linemen to work with, but it did not provide a single defensive lineman for Washburn. Just as Mudd had major input into the draft, Washburn is likely to get a new piece to his liking. Some believe former Washburn projects Albert Haynesworth and Jason Babin could land in Philadelphia, but both are long shots.

5. Sign their own free agents.

Who the Eagles choose to retain will be dependent upon the new rules for free agency. Will four years service equate to unrestrictive status, or will it take six years? If linebacker Stewart Bradley and running back Jerome Harrison - both with less than six years tenure - are restricted, the Eagles will probably bring both back since they tendered each at a second-round level.

6. Acquire a backup quarterback.

If/when Kolb goes, the Eagles will need a replacement. As encouraging as it's been to see Mike Kafka assert himself during informal workouts, the Eagles would like to give him another season as the third-stringer.

7. Sign undrafted rookie free agents.

While further down on the list in importance, the undrafted signing free-for-all could come early in the post-lockout process.

8. Sign draft picks.

Teams normally have three months to get their draft picks signed and into training camp, but the lockout will narrow that window considerably. Each of the Eagles last two first-round picks - Jeremy Maclin and Brandon Graham - missed part of camp and fell behind. If 2011 top pick Danny Watkins is to start at right guard this season, he can't afford to miss much time.

9. Other contract considerations.

Extensions for wide receiver DeSean Jackson and Vick aren't likely to get done before camp or even before the season. But their likely futures with the Eagles and significant future paydays could influence how aggressive the team is in free agency. Recognizing the Eagles backlog, Jackson will probably keep his mouth shut. But for how long?

10. Camp at Lehigh?

A decision on whether the Eagles can hold camp in Bethlehem will have to be made sometime by mid-July. Right now both sides are committed to getting something done even if it means pushing the deadline back. But there will come a point of no return if the lockout drags late into July.

As for Burress and the Eagles' interest in the 33-year-old, it isn't likely to amount to much of anything.

When reports surfaced that the Eagles were first in line for Burress, the information was not leaked from their camp, team sources indicated. The Eagles remain neutral. They're nowhere near as interested as they were in Vick, post-incarceration, but they're not going to broadcast it.

Reid is fond of Burress and doesn't want to hinder his return to the NFL. Now if the 6-foot-5 receiver would fall into his lap for a meager price, then Burress' signing could be something worth presenting to owner Jeffrey Lurie.

But first 10 things first.


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com or @Jeff_McLane on Twitter.

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