A few thoughts before I get into the main topic of the post. First off, I have no problem with no significant coaching turnover this year, and I understand why Lurie is leaving this up to Reid. Clearly, the Eagles and Juan have shown potential, and perhaps there is merit to Reid's argument about the lack of an offseason, and the need for continuity. Perhaps irrationally, I have faith in the Eagles this offseason, and even hope for next year.
Which is kind of odd, especially considering the extremely difficult schedule next year. I mean, after going 8-8 against a cupcake schedule this year (admittedly, they did have the bad luck of playing many teams when they were hot), I still somehow think we can get 11-12 wins next year. With the possible exception of the Browns and Buccaneers (and even these guys will be better next year), every game is a tough draw. If the Eagles do well next year in spite of their schedule, my faith in them will be sky-high. Hopefully they'll get there.
But a more relevant topic: I think that Andy definitely knows there is increased pressure on him to win this year, and it will reflect strongly in his draft philosophy. He also knows the team's window of opportunity won't last for more than two or three years. Because of that, I think we will see a few more 'safe' picks this year - less projects, more polished players that can jump immediately into the rotation, and perhaps more trades up for higher picks. I think this is what we need from the Eagles in the draft this year - better to reach a little for a consistent, reliable starter than go for a question mark with high upside.
QB: This isn't as pressing as some of the other needs, but the Eagles must have a good backup quarterback, ready to step in and manage the game if Vick gets hurt (knock on wood). I think the front office is content with Kafka as the primary backup, despite what fans might think. So I don't think there's a high likelihood of someone like Jason Campbell coming in during free agency (but I don't mind being wrong).
But this draft has a lot of QB prospects, and I think it's very likely they try to find some sort of future starter here. There are a number of good players to choose from in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft; off the top of my head, some names I like: Kirk Cousins, Brock Osweiler, Brandon Weeden, Kellen Moore, Case Keenum, Russell WIlson, among others. An interesting observation - perhaps the least polished of these signal-callers, Osweiler, has the highest upside, and the most refined, Russell Wilson, has the lowest.
RB/FB: A lot of fans, myself included, have been on the big-back bandwagon since time immemorial. Yet I have a hunch that this offseason will leave us still wanting. The offensive line's changed philosophy suits shifty runners like Shady and Dion better than a big back, and this combined with Andy's stubbornness to get a big back means that this isn't likely anywhere on the Eagles' list of priorities.
However, a position where they should, and likely will make an upgrade is fullback. Before the season, they drafted Stanley Havili out of USC, a guy who had excellent pass-catching and running skills (which makes me wonder if he could make the roster as the third running back). They also tried to get Jerome Felton and Chris Gronkowski off waivers, being thwarted both times. All this strongly indicates that they are not satisfied with the incumbent, Owen Schmitt. While I think he's a perfectly decent fullback, and a good blocker who plays hard, he's not what the Eagles need. What they need is the second coming of Leonard Weaver.
I saw some of his highlights on Youtube the other day, and my jaw sort of dropped - I forgot what a good offensive weapon he was, in addition to be a good blocker. This is what the Eagles offense needs to take the next step - while they have a great power running game, the passing game isn't as effective out of running formations as it should be. When other teams lock down on all their other offensive weapons, there will be more opportunities for lesser threats such as the fullback. And for all of Schmitt's positives, he just can't punish the opposition for ignoring him. A good comparison here is Marcel Reece of the Raiders. A fullback like that, that has good blocking ability in addition to being able to make big plays when the opposition shifts its attention to the primary weapons, has the capability of really opening the offense and getting more opportunities for the receivers. And he can be the big back on the goal-line.
WR: I think the Eagles can, should, and will bring back DeSean Jackson. Drew 'Scumbag' Rosenhaus's negotiating power is now greatly reduced, meaning that they can probably can get him at a good price (maybe $6 million). I remember at the beginning of the season, when we all figured the Eagles had the premier receiving corps in the league. Though we don't think so anymore, they are still a very good group. DeSean should have a bounce-back year in 2012, and Maclin and Cooper, I think, can really take the next step. Avant will figure into the mix as well.
However, they definitely need to add another body into the mix - Chad Hall and Mardy Gilyard just don't cut it. Ideally, this would come in the form of a bigger wideout that can make an impact in the red-zone. The guy I think we'd all like here is Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu (simply beastly), but he's currently a late 1st or early 2nd, meaning we'd have to trade up to get him. I definitely think he's worth it, and he'd be a stud for us for years to come. But really, I'd be content with any receiver that's at least 6'2 and can jump and make catches. There are plenty of these guys in the draft, and I hope we take a good look at least one of them.
TE: Depending on their feelings about Clay Harbor, this could be just a depth signing or something more. One thing is sure, though: with the Eagles shifting to more and more 2TE sets, they need another body for sure. There are two ways they could handle this. They could either try to get a dynamic guy (think Aaron Hernandez) that can line up out wide and stretch the field, or maybe they will go for a pure blocking TE that can play almost like an extra OL, similarly to Jason Peters in college. Personally, while I think they Clay Harbor could serve in the former role, they should pick up another athletic, well-rounded guy, simply because pass-catching tight ends are such a great commodity today, and you can't have too many of them. Dwayne Allen is without a doubt out of our reach (and we have more pressing needs anyways), but if someone like Coby Fleener falls to the Eagles, they should not hesitate.
OL: I think this group has the potential to be special. Once they resign Evan Mathis (they cannot let him go), and have a full offseason together, they should enter next year as a consistent unit that will be ranked among the league's best. That being said, there definitely is a need for depth, particularly at tackle. King Dunlap is a FA, and Justice is overpaid and probably on the way out, meaning that we need to get swing tackles later in the draft, or in free agency. I don't think we have any backup guards except for Vandervelde, and once we release Jamaal Jackson, there won't be a center either. Mudd seems to be a genius at finding gems later in the draft, so I'm not too worried about replenishing the depth, because he should be able to do it without affecting our cap too much.
DL: We are set (read: loaded) at the end position. Cole, Babin, Graham, Tapp, Hunt... even with Parker presumably leaving, there is no need to add at the DE position. At DT, I think they'll want one more guy in the mix. I don't agree with all the mocks out there saying that we have a need at DT, but when you consider that Patterson and Jenkins are both getting older, and Patterson may not be completely ready because of his brain surgery, we should add at least one person. Laws is probably gone, and hopefully the team will bring back Dixon and Landri. We have Thornton on the practice squad, but I don't know if he's ready yet. I think the Eagles will use a mid-round pick somewhere on a lineman.
LB: Other people obviously have devoted more time than me to writing posts about the mediocrity here, so I won't say too much. Rolle is good at the WILL, and Chaney, Clayton, and Matthews are good backups, but we definitely need upgrades at the MIKE and SAM. I will be only one of the fans who will throw up in their mouths if we pass on Kuechly; he is exactly the sort of player I mentioned when I said Andy will be looking to draft safely - obviously, he's done so many things and has great instincts; he's not flashy and he won't be a star, but he probably won't disappoint either. I have no idea what to do at SAM, other than that we need an upgrade. Maybe we could use a third on someone like Audie Cole, and see what goes down in camp. Maybe Chaney will even bounce back and do something. We can only hope.
S: Again, other people can offer a better assessment than I can. I think our current group is good enough, but we should add a veteran just as a backup, not a starter (aka, Jarrad Page before he became Jarrad Page). Nate Allen's going to be good next year, and we know Coleman can become a savvy veteran. Jaiquawn is the unknown here; he could either become a bust, or a Kam Chancellor-type box player and cover guy.
CB: We're set on the outside for sure, at least for the next three years. Some people have mentioned that Joselio Hanson is getting sort of old, and we should draft his replacement this year. I agree with that viewpoint; there are times when we saw him get burnt this year. The guy I think everyone should have at the top of their list is Brandon Boykin from Georgia. I saw the Outback Bowl (stat line: TFL for safety, punt return for TD, TD reception), and it's obvious that this guy can do it all. He's got good size for the slot, great instincts, can blitz effectively, has great ballhawking skills, can make plays on offense, and he can be our punt returner. Draft him. Now.
ST: Henery is going to be really good. I think the Niners game was a fluke, because he was lights out the rest of the year. Henry, on the other hand, is a bit of an unknown; we definitely need to bring in a guy, even if it's just for competition and not as a replacement. We should also find a kick/punt returner, because Dion will not cut it, Dominique probably won't want to since he sprained his ankle against the Cardinals, and DeSean shouldn't be risking himself.
In terms of kick coverage, we could all see how the special teams went downhill after Colt Anderson got hurt. This is a minor need, and perhaps even a luxury, but how cool would it be to have another gunner as good as him? Imagine how much lights-out we could be playing on coverage if we had two guys as skilled as that. Just food for thought.
If I ran the world, the Eagles would be able to get Kuechly, Sanu, and Boykin, and hit on their other picks too. But that isn't so, and it's just as likely the Eagles will surprise us on all three of those picks. So long as they're good ones, I don't mind that much. We will see.
Overall, looking at the roster, it's easy to see the Eagles are a stocked team, and if they get their business together during the offseason, and draft wisely (fingers crossed), I think we can all be hopeful again. Hopefully.