Optimism abounds in the NFL world as the lockout is finally over. Free agency arrived Tuesday without the Eagles answering one of their biggest needs.
As I said last week, I really think that defensive end will be the major priority, in light of Brandon Graham's micro-fracture surgery. Cornerback is arguably a bigger hole to fill, but it seems likely that the position could be filled as part of a Kevin Kolb trade.
When looking at the Eagles defensive end targets, there were really only three potential names that stand out and with Charles Johnson reportedly staying in Carolina it really comes down to just two potential signees.
Jason Babin - The most well known among Eagles fans, Babin had a mediocre season as a backup in 2009 in Philly. Since he was unproductive and already over 30, there wasn't much discussion about keeping him around. Yet Babin went to the Titans and suddenly registered 12.5 sacks in 2010, more than his three previous seasons combined. Babin is definitely the least sexy acquisition the Eagles could make, due to his one-year wonder potential and advanced age.
Ray Edwards - At 26 and larger than Babin, Edwards could be an even better long term fit for Jim Washburn's new scheme. Edwards has played second fiddle to Jared Allen in Minnesota for the last couple of years, but he's been a consistent pass rush threat. The Vikings are not expected to match offers for him.
If you've followed the blog for awhile, you'll know that I'm not a big fan the sacks stat (despite using it above). The truth is that the player can put pressure on the quarterback and get in his face, but ultimately there's a lot of luck in actually achieving the sack. Sometimes one end gives all the pressure, but the quarterback escapes, right into the arms of a sedentary tackle.
Therefore, I tend to rank pass rushers by "negative plays," or sacks plus hits plus pressures plus blocked passes. Then divide by the number of pass rushing opportunities, and you have a percentage, higher the better. (Pro Football Focus has a slightly different formula for the stat they calculate.)
As you can see, Trent Cole was the best pass rusher the Eagles had in 2010. But he actually scored lower on this statistic than both Edwards. Adding Edwards would probably be a big boost over the former production, assuming they fit Washburn's system. We'll find out soon who the Eagles like best.