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Day One Free-Agent Signings Reveal Eagles Inside Out Approach

Mar 13, 2013, 3:08 AM EDT

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Sean Smith. Dashon Goldson. Jared Cook. Danny Amendola. Jake
Long. Paul Kruger. Well-known free agents signing big-money contracts elsewhere
apparently now or in the near future.

James Casey. Isaac Sopoaga. Jason Phillips. Patrick Chung.
Bradley Flethcer. Ricky Jean-Francois. Largely anonymous free agents signing
relatively modest contracts with the Eagles
now or in the near future.

This doesn’t necessarily mean general manager Howie Roseman
won’t do a cannonball into the free-agency pool in the coming days. The Birds
could swoop in once high-end, name-brand players reach their sell-by dates or
hit the clearance rack. It was only the first day.

Clearly the Eagles’ front office is content to shop at the
thrift store though. Not because the organization is unwilling to spend – they’ve
proven otherwise in 2011 for example – nor because they cannot afford it obviously
when they walk on to the showroom floor with more than $40 million in credit.

Because the organization isn’t exactly sure what it has yet.

How competitive are the Eagles going to be in 2013? Let’s
just say they won’t be a trendy pick to win the Super Bowl.

Uncertainty abound. We don’t even know if Mike Vick or Nick
Foles or Geno Smith is the starting quarterback, let alone what’s in store for
a large percentage of the roster over the next few seasons.

Will Jeremy Maclin or Brandon Graham prove to be deserving
of multiyear extensions? Could Danny Watkins and Nate Allen turn their careers
around? Each was a lauded, high draft choice thought at one time to be a building
block for the franchise – none of them a confirmed lost cause that immediately
begs for a permanent, long-term replacement.

Are Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, and Todd Herremans all going
to make a full recovery for the offensive line? Do Trent Cole and Demeco Ryans
fit whatever new defensive scheme Chip Kelly and Billy Davis are inventing? Will
LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson still be in their primes until every last
detail is finally figured out? Because if no, spending freely now might be a
waste.

It’s as much a wait-and-see approach to their own players as
it is to how the market unfolds.

None of which implies the Eagles haven’t helped their cause,
either. Every one of the Philadelphia’s free-agent signings thus far
boasts of functionality. Most are young and versatile, able to play multiple
positions while contributing on special teams as well. Only Sopoaga is older
and somewhat limited, although he fills a specific role as a run-stuffing nose
tackle.

Of the five who agreed to terms on Tuesday, all were two- or
three-year deals, so in other words moveable parts should they not work out or
for when something better comes along. Jean-Francois could command a larger
commitment were he to land in midnight green as well, but nothing that is going to
hinder the organization down the road.

These kinds of personnel decisions, along with what the
Eagles have done at quarterback, reveal to us if nothing else the intention to
do the little things well while they build for a better future. The focus here is on
competition and fundamentally-sound football.

If you’ve heard Kelly speak since he was hired as head coach,
you might notice he uses the term “program” quite a bit when talking about the
team. Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie seem to have adopted the phrasing as
well. Day one of free agency illustrated what that means perfectly.

Chip Kelly’s Eagles might not beat opponents with pure
talent, at least not right away, but they are going to play the game the
right way, putting football players ahead of egos. The hope must be the effort
and attitude of this blue-collar free-agent class leaves an impression on the kids
about to come through the system – not to mention veterans fighting for jobs –
simply by performing their own.

On the off chance everything goes according to plan, the Eagles eventually
grow their own talent. Then maybe one day soon they will again find themselves in a
position to be at the forefront of free agency, only next time chasing that one
last piece intended to push the franchise over the hump.