Eagles and Sixers and Tiger, oh my!

Posted: March 05, 2014

OCCASIONALLY, circumstances dictate that several lesser issues be plumbed at once.

And, so . . .

If the Eagles do, in fact, pursue a top free-agent safety when negotiations begin Saturday, it will be a marked departure from the philosophy they have followed in the nearly 20 years Jeffrey Lurie has owned the team.

Yes, they signed Brian Dawkins to a 7-year extension after the 2002 season, but Dawkins was their own: a second-round pick in 1996, in the prime of his career, with impeccable character and an unmatched skill set. He was the most professional person in the franchise and the key to Jim Johnson's fearsome defensive scheme. He had no real injury concerns.

But they declined to keep their own when, after the 2010 season, they let Dawkins disciple and Pro Bowl safety Quintin Mikell walk via free agency.

This, of course, was more typical Eagles behavior. Mikell was 30; historically, a magically unattractive number for the Eagles. They used second-round picks on safeties in 2010 and 2011 and hoped they had found a gem in the seventh round of 2010, too.

Jaiquawn Jarrett, the 2011 second-rounder, was cut out of training camp in 2012. Kurt Coleman, the seventh-rounder in 2010, was buried last season and won't be back. Nate Allen, the 2010 second-rounder, likely also is gone.

Since 2002, the Eagles have drafted 11 safeties, a list of almost impossibly poor choices: Michael Lewis, Quintin Demps, Macho Harris, Sean Considine, etc. Mikell was undrafted in 2003. The only draftee likely to make the 2014 roster is 2013 fifth-rounder Earl Wolff.

Should the Eagles, with $26 million to spend, pursue the best of the class?

Absolutely.

The worst player on the 2011 team was stopgap bargain safety Jarrad Page, a Patriots castoff.

The worst player on the 2013 team was stopgap bargain safety Patrick Chung, a Patriots castoff.

Assuming Bill Belichick doesn't snooker them again, the Eagles should open their checkbook and let fly.

Three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd has 22 interceptions in 73 games over five seasons with the Bills. He is 27 and appears unlikely to return to Buffalo, the Bills declining to hang the franchise tag on him for a second consecutive season.

T.J. Ward is a punishing hitter who just went to his first Pro Bowl after his fourth season with the Browns. He, too, is 27.

Billy Davis' secondary plays soft.

It lacks a single playmaker. A standout safety would make a huge difference. It would make a 10-win team a 12-win team.

Given the decrepit nature of the NFL, the Eagles are as close as any above-.500 team.

They also are scared of overspending in free agency. They did it with Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Jason Babin entering the 2011 season.

If they quail now, if they sign a second-tier safety such as the Dolphins' Chris Clemons, they will continue to be . . . efficient.

This defense needs more than efficiency.

And another thing . . .

The bewildering trades of Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen for, essentially, six second-round draft picks might be a bit less bewildering if you examine the output of the three players traded, and the effect that output might have had had they lingered longer.

Consider: During the Sixers' loss to the Cavaliers in the middle of last month, rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams spouted pointed invective at Hawes as the team assembled for a timeout. It was bad enough that Turner had to comfort MCW at the bench and shield him from Hawes, who wisely lingered on the fringes of the huddle.

At issue: Hawes' lousy effort during the previous play, on which a Cavs forward sprinted upcourt and dunked while Hawes lagged behind the play.

Hawes didn't play like that all of the time, but he did enough of the time. He is a 7-year veteran expected to lead the youngest team in the league; one time is too many.

Allen, a doughy, spiritless forward fortunate to have an NBA paycheck, entered a training camp with a new coach and a new general manager out of shape.

Turner, meanwhile, was the embodiment of inconsistent effort and results. He developed a jump shot of sorts, But how much real improvement was there from the player selected No. 2 overall in the 2010 draft? He might be a fine bench scorer for the next 10 seasons. He will never be more.

What remains is a crew of marginally talented players; a wild card in Tony Wroten; and, of course, Carter-Williams, the likely Rookie of the Year.

It is team designed to lose as many games as possible in order to acquire the highest first-round draft pick. It is a toxic mix.

Then again, considering the poor efforts routinely offered by the departed veterans, the current mix might actually be better.

And, finally . . .

The difference between superstar and superhuman:

After his historic collapse in the 2011 Masters, Rory McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2011 PGA Championship. He didn't blow another third-round lead until Sunday at the Honda Classic.

After Tiger Woods won his first major championship, in 1997, he went 12 years before he blew a 54-hole lead and lost a tournament.


On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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