Everyone remembers when Eagles' owner Jeffery Lurie went on a free-agent spending spree right before the start of the 2011 season (free agency had been delayed because of the NFL labor situation). His team was coming off a NFC East title after going 10-6 the year before. Many people, including myself, saw this excessive spending on some over-priced veterans as an apparent effort to buy a Super Bowl title. The results were disastrous in what ended-up being the beginning of the end of the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia.
Heading into the start of this year's free agent signing period, which gets underway on March 11, Lurie has already opened his checkbook, but for all the right reasons this time around. This past week the Eagles inked new deals with wide receivers' Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin as well as offensive linemen Jason Peters and Jason Kelse. Cooper became Nick Foles No. 1 target last season while Maclin was on the mend from a torn ACL. Having both of these playmakers in the fold for this upcoming season should only enhance a passing offense that finished 2013 ranked ninth in yards per game.
One of the biggest reasons that Philly went from 4-12 to 10-6 last season was much better consistency on the offensive line. Peters missed the entire 2012 season with an Achilles tear, but quickly returned to Pro Bowl form and Kelse was considered by many to be a prominent Pro Bowl snub. Either way, these two road graders are set to anchor the Eagles' offensive front five for the foreseeable future after signing long-term extensions.
Getting back to Maclin, he opted for a one-year contract as opposed to the four or five year deal the Eagles were looking for, but I believe it is still a good thing all around. He is coming off his second ACL surgery (one in college) and there are no guarantees he will return to the form that has accounted for 258 receptions and 26 touchdowns in his first four seasons with the team. If he lives up to expectations in 2014 there is little doubt that Lurie will pony-up the money for that long-term deal, but if he has lost a step the two parties can easily part ways.
Do not look for any major fireworks from Philadelphia when the free agent market does open for business later this month. Lurie and GM Howie Roseman are starting to figure out that the proper way to build a championship team is through successful drafts and spending money to lock-up your best players before they have a chance to sign with one of those free agent-hungry teams.