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News, Notes And Things I Think

Posted Mar 3, 2014

As we near free agency (March 11, 4 p.m.), the Eagles have done an excellent job taking care of business and locking up players for 2014 and beyond. The buzz builds for the weeks ahead and the decisions the Eagles are going to make …

Let’s talk first about the most recent move, and that is the one made on Monday when the Eagles signed defensive end Cedric Thornton to a one-year contract. Thornton, a restricted free agent prior to signing, is a key part of the defense and his improvement is a reason why the Eagles feel so good about the front of this defense. There is some young, developing talent, and that’s exciting.

And let’s consider just how far Thornton has come in a short couple of years. He wasn’t drafted, but the Eagles saw that he had raw potential and signed him after the 2011 draft. Thornton spent most of that season on the practice squad after initially making the 53-man roster, and then started to get his footing in the tumultuous 2012 season.

Moving to the 3-4 front proved to be the right fit for Thornton, who established himself as an up-and-coming lineman last season. He played tough and he was physical and really strong against the run. The Eagles loved his development.

LB Byron Evans

So now Thornton is an interesting piece of the present and the future. He’s one of the young core the Eagles want to continue to develop and then keep together. Players like Thornton are important to consider as the Eagles build their roster within the salary cap for the next several years.

  • The buzz in the days after Jeremy Maclin signed his one-year contract was everyone wondering who would play where and how all of the pieces of the wide receiver position will fit. I’m going to continue to repeat this: Don’t put the “system” in a conventional box. The Eagles want as much depth as possible at wide receiver to have flexibility with their various personnel packages and they want their receivers to have the ability to play multiple positions. So who plays the slot? Likely several players will get reps in the slot, and they’ll also move around the formation. This doesn’t have to be the “way it has always been” at wide receiver. Chip Kelly’s offensive mind transcends far beyond the boundaries set previously. He’s going to have some original ideas.

  • Think about the construction of this offensive line. It really began after the 2008 NFC Championship Game loss in Arizona. The Eagles in the offseason of 2009 traded for Jason Peters to take over for Tra Thomas at left tackle. Todd Herremans was still around and able to play tackle or guard. After a couple of patchwork seasons, the Eagles accelerated the process with the draft selection of center Jason Kelce in 2011 and the signing of guard Evan Mathis in free agency. Using a No. 1 draft pick on Lane Johnson last April completed the starting five. Are the Eagles done at offensive line? Who knows? But understand that they can never have enough depth and that it all starts up front, so the Eagles need to be as good as they can be along the offensive line.

  • Alumni file: A fourth-round draft pick in 1987, Byron Evans played some outstanding football for the Eagles through 1994 before a knee injury shortened what could have been a really outstanding career. His family recently celebrated a special birthday for Evans, and the Eagles had a hand in the event, sending out a team football to remind Evans that there are a lot of people in Philadelphia who still love him. Happy Birthday, Byron!

  • Punter Donnie Jones is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 11 after his fine 2013 campaign. A lot of fans have asked about his situation. The Eagles have praised Jones and his performance and Jones wants to be an Eagle. That is a good, common ground to continue any relationship, right? Here are the rules: Jones can sign the exact deal he signed last year when he was an unrestricted free agent – a one-year deal at the same terms – prior to March 11. Or he can wait until March 11 and become an unrestricted free agent and negotiate with any team, including the Eagles. So, we have to wait and find out what happens with Jones.

  •  For everyone throwing out names to consider in the draft, let’s slow down just a bit and see what happens in free agency. The goal for every team every year is to go into the draft with no apparent, gaping holes. The Eagles obviously have some work to do between now and May 8, when the NFL Draft begins. How do they address the defense? Are there more players coming to help the offense? What about special teams? It’s all a huge puzzle and the Eagles have been plotting their strategy for many weeks. They’ve signed five players in the last handful of days. They are on schedule with their plan. What happens next?

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