For Eagles, free agency a tough call

They won't spend big, but will focus on their own free agents.

Posted: March 12, 2012

Free agency allows some teams to alter their rosters and most fans to dream big.

The Eagles, after last season's splurge, aren't expected to fulfill the musings of those who want another spending spree in free agency. Most Birds fans, it seems, are fine with this considering how poorly the Eagles spent their allowance last summer.

The hope is that the Eagles will target linebacker and perhaps a few other positions of less significance when scouring through the lists of free agents from other teams. But Andy Reid and Howie Roseman have some decisions to make on their own free agents when the new league year commences Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Some of the decisions are easy, some aren't, and some will depend on the competition the Eagles receive from other teams vying for their free agents.

They already locked up their most important free agent, assuming DeSean Jackson signs his tender, when they placed the one-year franchise tag on the receiver 11 days ago. The amount of Jackson's tender - $9.515 million - was determined on Sunday.

But that leaves the Eagles 11 free agents - 10 of which are unrestricted - to either retain or cast free. The 2012 salary cap of $120.6 million was set on Sunday.

The lone restricted free agent is defensive tackle Antonio Dixon. The Eagles have until the start of free agency to tender Dixon, who suffered a season-ending torn triceps last October. Both Dixon and his agent, Alonzo Shavers, said on Friday that they expected the Eagles to try and keep the 26-year old.

Other teams could attempt to sign Dixon even if the Eagles tender him a contract, but they would have to be willing to forfeit a draft pick. A second- or third-round tender sounds about right for Dixon, perhaps the Eagles' best run-stopping defensive tackle.

Of the Eagles' unrestricted free agents, retaining Evan Mathis is of the most importance. Mathis started 15 games at left guard last year and helped solidify an offensive line that was the team's best unit by season's end.

While he is 30 and not one of the better-known players on the market, Mathis is likely to draw significant interest. He told The Inquirer last week that he wants to remain an Eagle and that he was under the impression the team wanted him to stay. It may not be that easy.

The same theory applies to Derek Landri, who shined as part of the Eagles rotation at defensive tackle after he was brought in to replace Dixon. Landri started in 16 games for the Panthers in 2010, so he may be looking for the opportunity to play more elsewhere.

His agent, Harold Lewis, told reporters last month at the NFL combine that both sides expressed interest in getting a deal done.

Landri's future with the Eagles could affect whether defensive tackle Trevor Laws remains. A second-round pick of the Eagles in 2008, Laws never quite delivered upon expectations. If there aren't many bidders, he could eventually come back at a reduced rate.

The same scenario could play out for tackle King Dunlap, whose versatility made him a useful backup. Fullback Owen Schmitt saw his touches and snaps played decrease dramatically last season, but the Eagles would still like to have a lead blocker on their roster.

Juqua Parker's seven-year run with the Eagles appears to be at an end. The defensive end contributed 311/2 sacks in 105 games played for the franchise, but he'll be 34 in May and has been injury-prone over the last two seasons.

Defensive end Victor Abiamiri missed the last two seasons due to injury and will not return.

And finally, the three free agents who became the faces of the Eagles' reckless spending last year - wide receiver Steve Smith, running back Ronnie Brown and quarterback Vince Young - will see their one-year contracts expire on Tuesday. The Eagles are likely to let all three walk.

Smith never appeared 100 percent back from microfracture knee surgery and ended the season on injured reserve. Brown had trouble in a backup role and would have been traded in October had a deal with the Lions not been reversed. And Young, forever remembered for his foot-in-mouth "Dream Team" comment, was a disappointment.


Eagles Free Agents

These are the Eagles who are set to become free agents at 4 p.m. Tuesday:

Victor Abiamiri, defensive end

Ronnie Brown, running back

King Dunlap, tackle

Derek Landri, defensive tackle

Trevor Laws, defensive tackle

Evan Mathis, guard

Juqua Parker, defensive end

Owen Schmitt, fullback

Steve Smith, wide receiver

Vince Young, quarterback

Antonio Dixon, defensive tackle


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

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