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Eagles fans lament the loss of “Free Agent” signing season…

In my Bird-brain opinion, Troy Vincent (#23 above, all-Pro CB free agent acquisition by the Eagles in 1996) was the biggest value FA signing the Birds ever made…unfortunately, most Free Agents end up duds

I constantly hear these days the whining of my fellow Birds fans: “They took away our Free Agent signing season!…”

Well, that part’s true….in the current labor vs. owner mess, no FreeAgent movement is possible…

But a terrific young football writer in Indianapolis, Nate Dunlevy, who calls the shots for the Colts site on Bloguin known as “18 to 88″ , has raised a valid historic point about Free Agent signings:  most of ‘em end up busts.

Nate describes exactly the feelings of many Eagles fans who are frustrated by the current legal impasse which prevents FA signings:

Around this time every year, fans get bent out of shape hoping their favorite teams sign free agents.  Some teams, like the Colts, stay away entirely.  The reason is that free agency rarely produces solid players.”

Dunlevy goes on to instruct us that we as fans don’t realize just how grim the prospects of signing a good free agent really are. ” If you go back over the list of the top free agents for the past four seasons, it’s telling”, says Dunlevy. “I’ve gone through every free top free agent who actually changed teams in that span, and the results should scare you off from free agency forever.”

Okay, I’m in… Mr. Dunlevy, give us your scorecard!—

“2007:

Of the top free agents, only 9 were of any real value to the teams that signed them:

Patrick Kerney (DE) had a Pro Bowl/All Pro season with Seattle, but was out of the league in 3 years…

Matt Schaub (QB) was a restricted free agent, but changed teams thanks to a trade between the Falcons and Texans…went to a Pro Bowl.

Eric Steinbach (G) has since started 62 games for Cleveland…

Kevin Curtis (WR) had one decent season (1110 yards receiving).  He is the ONLY unrestricted free agent WR to top 1,000 yards receiving since 2007…

Nate Clements (CB) has started 53 games at corner in San Fransisco…

Leonard Davis (RG) switched from left tackle to right guard and has gone to 3 Pro Bowls in Dallas…

Joey Porter (LB) had a 17.5 sack season for the Dolphins and made one Pro Bowl…

Ken Hamlin (S) has played 44 games for Dallas and made a Pro Bowl…

Deon Grant (S) has started 48 games with 8 picks for Seattle…

Wes Welker (WR),a restricted free agent, was traded to New England.  He’s gone to 3 Pro Bowls since, and has been an All Pro…”

Well, at least Nate Dunlevy gave the Eagles credit for the signing of Kevin Curtis!

“Of the top 24 players who changed teams in 2007, 10 of them provided any real major value.  5 of those went to Pro Bowls, 2 became All Pros.  However, 2 of the Pro Bowl players were restricted free agents, essentially traded not signed outright (Schaub and Welker).  Also consider that teams that don’t sign free agents and lose players get compensatory picks in the next draft (2008).  Key players selected with those picks include Pro Bowl tackle Carl Nicks of the Saints and Pierre Garcon, as well as a handful of other starters around the league.  These players come much cheaper than free agents.”

Okay, Nate, I’m with you so far…what about 2008?

“2008:

There were 25 top free agents who changed teams. Only 7 produced any real value:

Jared Allen (DE) was franchised but traded to the Vikings.  He has put up 2 Pro Bowl and 1 All Pro Seasons…

Asante Samuel (CB) went to Philly and has made three Pro Bowls…

Alan Faneca (G) went to the Jets for two seasons, making two Pro Bowls…

Justin Smith (DE) went to San Fransisco and made two Pro Bowls…

Michael Turner (RB) went to Atlanta and made two Pro Bowls and 1 All Pro team…

Calvin Pace (DE) went to the Jets, has been a 3-year starter and has had 20.5 sacks…

Jake Scott (G) went to the Titans and has been a three year starter.

None of the other free agents started as much as two full seasons  Bernard Berrian of the Vikings did post 964 yards receiving one year. So, of 25 top free agents, 7 were worth signing. 5 went to Pro Bowls, but one of those was a franchised player who went in a trade.”

All right, we get props for signing Asante Samuel!  I like that… he’s definitely in my Top 10 Eagles FA signings of all time…

Okay, Nate, I’m feelin’ you now…take us into 2009….

“2009:

Of the top 25 players to change teams, 9 had any major kind of impact:

Matt Cassel (QB) went to a Pro Bowl. He was a franchised player, however, and was acquired via trade…

Bart Scott (LB) has been a consistent starter for the Jets…

Jason Brown (C) has started 2 years for the Rams…

Matt Birk (C) has started 2 years for the Ravens…

Brian Dawkins (S) went to a Pro Bowl for the Broncos…

Antonio Smith (DE) had 8.5 sacks for the Texans…

Keith Brooking (LB) started two years for the Cowboys…

Michael Boley (LB) started two years for the Giants…

Jabari Greer (CB) started two years for the Saints.

That’s 2 Pro Bowl players and 8 decent starters.  That doesn’t include major busts like T.J. Houshmanzada or Albert Haynesworth who started, but failed to play well.”

Wow, I did not realize until now that Brian Dawkins made the Pro Bowl in 2009…but I do know his role as strong safety in the Eagles system was past deadline…somehow he fit in with the Denver system in 2009…how, I’ll never know…except on the basis of pure heart…

Next, Nate gives us his tally on the FA results of 2010:

“2010:

There was much less player movement in 2010 due to the extension of restricted free agency to 6 years and the addition of an extra tag per team.  There were 10 marquee free agents who changed teams, and 8 of them had value:

Julius Peppers (DE) made the All Pro team and a Pro Bowl in Chicago—major force in the Bears’ success…

Karlos Dansby (LB) started 13 games for the Dolphins…

Terrell Owens (WR) had 983 yards receiving for the Bengals (I know, he’s a stretch)…

Neil Rackers (K) kicked for the Texans…

Thomas Jones (RB) was basically terrible for the Chiefs, but had 896 yards rushing…

Dunta Robinson (CB) started for the Falcons…

Aaron Kampman (DE) had 4 sacks in 8 games for the Jaguars before getting hurt (another major stretch, but the Jags seemed happy with him)…

Alan Faneca (G) started 16 games for the Cardinals.

That’s one Pro Bowl player and basically a bunch of average starters.”

“Summary:

Since 2007, the top 84 free agents to change teams have produced (generously) 33 players worth having.  Of those, only 12 made Pro Bowls, and only 5 made All Pro teams…”

Well, Nate Dunlevy makes the point about not pinning too much hope on the Free Agent market.  As Eagles fans, we know all too well we’re more likely to get a Marlin Jackson or a Mike Bell in free agency than a Troy Vincent… Still, somehow we have a right to feel deprived of the FA Lottery in this weird litigative “offseason”…

I am reminded of the greatest Free Agents ever signed by the Eagles…that’s the payoff we dream of… guys who were worth going after….guys who made a big impact for at least two seasons…and as Nate Dunlevy suggests, it evens out to about only 1 in 3 that pay off…

ALL-TIME TOP 11 GREATEST FREE AGENT SIGNINGS BY THE EAGLES:

1992—-Running Back HERSCHEL WALKER
1994—-Defensive End WILLIAM FULLER
1995—-Running Back  RICKY WATTERS (yeah, I know, the “Me First” thing, “Extend? For whom? For what?”—but he was awesome for 2 years…)
1996—-Wide Receiver IRVING FRYAR
1996—-Cornerback TROY VINCENT (gave us 6 great years, the original lockdown corner insurance policy for front pressure)
1999—-Kicker DAVID AKERS
2000—-Right Tackle JON RUNYAN
2000—-Outside Linebacker CARLOS EMMONS
2004—-Defensive End JEVON KEARSE
2007—-Wide Receiver KEVIN CURTIS
2008—-Cornerback ASANTE SAMUEL

Gee, after rattling off that list of  Eagles faves, even I’m missing Free Agent signing daze…and I really was listening to Nate Dunlevy!

Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.

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