The NFL free agency period officially starts February 27th and right now the market is looking pretty rich. Certainly franchise tags and long term deals will thin it out before the 27th, but chances are that a good portion of the names on this list should still be available.
This list is limited only to unrestricted free agents and is in no particular order.
Brian Dawkins - FS - Philadelphia Eagles - This should be a no brainer. Dawkins wants to come back, he's the heart and soul of this team, he won't cost much money, and despite the fact that he's not the same player he was in his prime he still had a solid pro bowl year. Without a successor that we're 100% confident in ready to replace Dawk, he should be brought back for one more year.
Owen Daniels - TE - Houston Texans - Whether or not you think Brent Celek belongs as a starting TE, the Eagles are going to need another player or two at this position next year. LJ Smith, who played under the franchise tag this year, is a free agent and after a disappointing 2008 will not likely be offered a new deal. Matt Schoebel has done nothing. Coming off his 3rd year in the NFL, Daniels is probably the best free agent TE on the market. Over the past two years in Houston he's posted 63 and 70 catches respectively. He's also caught 10 TDs over the past 3 years. At 6'3 he's got good size and seems to be a guy on the cusp on really breaking out as a receiver. [Note by JasonB, 01/26/09 6:38 PM EST ] As it turns out, Owen Daniels is a restricted free agent. A few NFL sites out there have him listed as unrestricted after the final year of his rookie contract was voided.
Darren Sproles - RB - San Diego Chargers - I don't necessarily think Sproles is the kind of back we need, but I do think he's the kind of back the Eagles like... and I think he could be very successful in this offense. I know the Eagles are looking for a back like Sproles because they traded for one last year in the form of Lorenzo Booker. Sproles is an elite return man, who is deadly on screens and has become increasingly dangerous as a runner. At just 5'6, 181 lbs Sproles is hardly the pile mover fans have been clamoring for, but he already is everything the Eagles hoped Lorenzo Booker would be. If Brian Westbrook spends another year in and out of the lineup(which he likely will) Sproles could be the home run hitter we lack in his absence. Sproles had 7 TDs this year rushing, receiving, and returning.
T.J. Houshmanzadeh - WR - Cincinnati Bengals - Last year, when Randy Moss hit the open market as a free agent the Eagles outbid the Patriots for his services. Moss chose to give the Pats a discount, but the move signaled that the Eagles would have interest in adding a top notch offensive threat if one is available for just money(not players or picks in trade). Houshmenzadeh is just that. Over the past 3 seasons TJ has averaged 98 receptions, 1,043 yards, and 8 TDs per year. He's emerged from Chad Johnson's shadow to become one of the premier WRs in the game. I'm not dissatisfied with the Eagles' WR corps as is, but if the opportunity comes to upgrade it the Eagles would be smart to do so. Adding Houshmenzadeh as the #1 WR with Curtis & Jackson as compliments would make a decent WR corps into potentially a very good one.
Jordan Gross - OT - Carolina Panthers - Last week I listed offensive tackle as the Eagles' #1 offseason need. With both Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan as free agents and both guys on the wrong side of 30... The Eagles will need at least one new OT ready to step in and start right away this offseason. Gross is coming off an All pro season and has played well at both right and left OT in his career. He could step in and start on either side for this team right away. It's very rare for elite OTs in their prime to enter unrestricted free agency. There's a good chance that Gross could be franchised, but if not he should be the Eagles #1 target. It'll take a boatload of cash to get him... but a guy who can protect your QB's back and blow open holes in the run game is pretty much priceless in this league. This is one of the rare instances where the top FA on the market would also happen to fill our greatest need.
Leonard Weaver - FB - Seattle Seahawks - In his first full season as a starter, Weaver has developed into a solid all around full back in Seattle. He's a good lead blocker, he can carry the ball in short yardage, and he's a decent pass catcher. Also, having played under Mike Holmgren Weaver is already familiar with the Eagles' west coast offense and should have little to no learning curve when it comes to the offense. After drafting FB Owen Schmidt last year, the Seahawks probably won't be interested in getting into a bidding war over Weaver. A solid player who knows our system at a position of need? Sign me up! Actually, sign him up!
Tra Thomas or Jon Runyan - OT - Philadelphia Eagles - Finding one franchise OT in an offseason is tough, finding two is nearly impossible. Whether the Eagles go after a free agent or spend a high pick on an OT chances are they would probably like to bring back one of these two guys for another year. Both guys have spent a decade or more in Philadelphia and neither are likely to fetch real big money on the free agent market, so as long as the Eagles make a competitive offer it shouldn't be that difficult to keep one. Which one should be the guy they keep? Whichever guy plays opposite the bigtime free or first round pick they bring in to play the other offensive tackle spot...
Are there any other unrestricted free agents that you think deserve to be on this list? Who are your top free agent targets?