Calm down, Philly.
I know that after last season’s spending spree of free agents, most Eagles fans are throwing their hands in the air about brining in more outside players. I understand. There was no doubt that it was a frustrating transition, and the Eagles as a team actually managed to regress, even with all the talent they brought to Philadelphia. Things didn’t work like Andy Reid and Howie Roseman planned. The team busted.
Most people are thinking the last thing the Eagles need is to bring in more free agents this off-season, but there needs to be a few exceptions. The Eagles have several glaring needs, and aside from the draft, free agency is going to be the best way to bring in veteran talent to fill those holes. With that in mind, Philadelphia needs to target defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.
The Eagles were one of the weakest teams up the middle last season, and aside from Cullen Jenkins, Philadelphia is incredibly thin at defensive tackle. The issue was compounded by Philadelphia running the wide-nine, which is geared more towards an effective pass-rush than stopping the run. Jenkins had a good season, given the circumstances, but when he was contained, opposing running backs usually had free-range on a group of mediocre linebackers.
Philadelphia’s lack of depth is such a concern that in Mel Kiper’s most recent mock draft, he has the Eagles selecting a defensive tackle in the first round. The logic is that there will be no linebackers remaining worth the value of that pick, and getting help up the middle is the Eagles’ second biggest need. To an extent, I agree with this, but anyone who watched Philadelphia football knows that the team’s biggest need is linebacker. The Eagles shouldn’t care if drafting a linebacker in the first round at their pick is poor value, because it’s a need that must be addressed.
To avoid the horror situation of Philadelphia not drafting a linebacker in the first, the team could fill the nose tackle need by pursuing Haynesworth. Would he be better than a first-round pick? No way. However, he is going to be dirt-cheap after being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He bounced from the Washington Redskins, to the New England Patriots, and then to the Bucs’ throughout last season. His value to other teams is going to be incredibly low and it won’t take much to snag him out of free agency.
Last season, Haynesworth was largely ineffective in the limited playing time that he had. But keep in mind that Haynesworth really hasn’t done anything since leaving the Tennessee Titans, a time when he was one of the top defensive tackles in the game, and his game has failed to improve. This of course, would be a cause for concern, but the Eagles have a huge connection to Haynesworth on the team.
Philadelphia’s defensive line coach, Jim Washburn, was the same man who coached Haynesworth into the monster that he was in Tennessee. There is no doubt that Washburn’s wide-nine system draws heavy criticism, but his methods can turn average defensive lineman into Pro-Bowlers. A great example — Haynesworth’s former teammate, Jason Babin. Washburn could work his magic again, and if he could even turn Haynesworth into half of what he was with the Titans, he’d be huge for the Eagles.
With Haynesworth’s diminished value in the NFL, he could be an incredibly low risk-high reward acquisition for the Eagles. He has the connection in Philadelphia, and no one knows better what he’s capable of than Washburn. He’ll be a totally cheap free-agent signing. The absolute worst case scenario for Philly signing Haynesworth — he takes up a roster spot and doesn’t do anything.
I’m not saying that Haynesworth will be an instant Pro-Bowler if the Eagles sign him, but what does Philadelphia have to lose?
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