On August 4th 2009 the Philadelphia Eagles signed FA defensive end Jason Babin to very little fanfare and celebration, after all what would you expect for a former 27th overall pick that was traded away after only 3 seasons with his first team (Texans) and subsequently released the following off-season (Seahawks) and once again mid-season by the team that had signed him from the street (Chiefs).
After being signed to the Eagles Babin went from being inactive for the first 4 games of the season, to working his way into the DE rotation with Chris Clemons & Juqua Parker, notching up sacks of Tony Romo & Eli Manning in high profile NFC East clashes in the process becoming a fan favourite for his ferocious style of play. Following the season, although Babin was due to become an unrestricted Free Agent, the Eagles had written into the contract a "Right of First Refusal" hence he was in effect a RFA. The Eagles did not meet the Titans offer and on March 19th 2010 Babin left the city of brotherly love for his fifth NFL team in five NFL seasons.
1 year, 12.5 sacks & 1 Pro-Bowl later Babin has gone from being a first round bust and will become one of the prize free agents of the off-season (if the CBA is ever sorted out). He has gone from an after thought of the Eagles front office, to a possible impact acquisition at a position of need.
So why should the Eagles consider bringing back a player back whom they considered expendable 1 year ago? What things do they have to look at and consider?
More after the jump:
Consideration Number 1: He is a Pro-Bowler
Time after time we have heard that the Eagles are dedicated to improving the roster in any way possible. We have seen the Eagles go as far as signing an ex-convict (Michael Vick), a 'retired' street free-agent (Jeremiah Trotter), a Police Officer (Ken Parrish), an Airmen (Chad Hall), an Aussie Rule standout (Sav Rocca) and most recently a Canadian Football All-Pro's (Phillip Hunt). Among this madness the Eagles have looked at FA for difference making Pro-Bowlers big signings (Asante Samuel) and should look to do so once more, especially if Babin is at the right price.
Consideration Number 2: He is the potential answer at LDE
These 11 players have all taken turns in trying to prove that they are the long term answer at LDE opposite Trent Cole. These are 11 potential roster spaces, draft picks & FA signings that have been wasted on trying to find the answer at the same position. If this position was QB, the GM & head coach would be looking for a new job. It is time that the Eagles splash out to solidify this position.
Consideration Number 3: Familiarity with Jim Washburns Scheme & Jim Washburn
In one off-season, Washburn turned Babin, a well documented first round bust who was joining his 5th NFL team in as many seasons, into a Pro-Bowl calibre DE. This was not due to Babin suddenly becoming a better player, it was down to suiting Washburns scheme. With an already shortened off-season, Jim Washburn is having to implement a brand new scheme for the Eagles D-Line. Having not brought in new players through the draft, the Eagles should gift Washburn with one of his star pupils. Being familiar with the scheme would give Babin an advantage over the rest of the DE's, plus would improve with a second year in the system.
Consideration Number 4: He is a known commodity within the team, familiarity with the city
A major issue that faces GM's signing new players is how they will fit in with the team ethos, how they will affect the locker room. We have seen a certain top WR rip the Eagles locker room apart turning a 13-3 Superbowl team into a 6-10 monstrosity. The coaches & GM's and majority of players know Jason Babin, and vice versa, leading to his arrival in Philadelphia being one of an old friend returning as opposed to a saviour of teams fortunes. Babin is also familiar with the Philadelphia area, so does not need to undergo a transition period in that respect.
Consideration Number 5: Insurance
Last year the Eagles moved up and selected Brandon Graham with the 13th Overall Pick of the 2010 NFL Draft with hopes of turning the Senior Bowl & Michigan stand-out into the long term answer at LDE. After an unimpressive start to the season, Graham tore his ACL throwing his future into disarray. As ACL injuries usually take 2 seasons to recover from, Graham will not return to form until late in the 2011 season or the 2012 season. To protect themselves the Eagles should sign Jason Babin as insurance. He can in the short term provide the answer at LDE, whilst giving Graham adequate time to recover as the need for him to rush back and contribute will not exist. If Graham recovers fully Babin becomes expendable, is not, Babin can remain in Philadelphia for the remainder of his career.