Don't expect an Eagles bomb shell in free agency

Posted: March 12, 2012

Remember the Eagles' sneak-attack signing of Nnamdi Asomugha last July?

Well, don't expect a repeat blockbuster acquisition from the Eagles when free agency kicks off Tuesday at 4 p.m.

As much as Birds fans may be hoping for their team to drop another bomb - Mario Williams? Vincent Jackson? Peyton Manning?!? - the Eagles are likely to let other teams fend for the top free agents in this year's class.

That doesn't mean they won't address areas of specific need like linebacker, running back, or backup quarterback. And that doesn't mean coach Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman won't dip a little into owner Jeffrey Lurie's pockets to get a bona fide starting linebacker.

But the Eagles' offseason efforts, for the most part, will be concentrated on retaining their own free agents, working on new deals for DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, and preparing for April's draft.

Jackson was shackled with the franchise tag two weeks ago - essentially keeping him from becoming a free agent - although he has yet to sign the $9.515 million, one-year tender.

The Eagles also took care of defensive tackle Antonio Dixon when they tendered the restricted free agent at a second-round level on Monday.

If another team attempts to sign Dixon before April 20, the Eagles would have seven days to match the offer or receive a second-round draft pick as compensation. Dixon's salary for next season will be $1.927 million if he stays, which is likely.

Dixon suffered a season-ending triceps tear in October, but he said on Friday that he should be healthy in time for the start of spring workouts next month. Once an undrafted free agent of the Redskins, Dixon was acquired by the Eagles in 2009 and developed into one of their best run-stopping defensive tackles.

The Eagles have decisions to make on several of their 10 unrestricted free agents, most notably guard Evan Mathis and defensive tackle Derek Landri. They should have a few days - or maybe more - as the market for both veterans is set.

Typically, NFL free agency follows the same script: The best players are snatched up right away, the second-tier talent in the next wave, and so on.

If the Eagles are indeed in the hunt for either the Lions' Stephen Tulloch or the Falcons' Curtis Lofton - widely considered the two best available linebackers - they may need to pull out their guns fairly early.

After those two there's an intriguing list of inside 4-3 linebackers headlined by the Seahawks' David Hawthorne. Erin Henderson of the Vikings, Dan Connor (Strath Haven High; Penn State) of the Panthers and the 36-year-old London Fletcher are also set to become free agents.

Fletcher, if he walks, could be a casualty of the Redskins after the NFL penalized the team for front-loading contracts in the uncapped 2010 season. Washington lost a whopping $36 million in salary cap room, while the Cowboys - also punished - lost $10 million.

Both teams claimed innocence and could appeal.

If the rulings stand, the Eagles - and 27 other teams - will have $1.6 million of extra cap space this season.

It probably won't be enough to sign Williams.


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

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