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Monday, August 30, 2004

Does Andy Reid Know Something Others Do Not?

Two years ago, Andy Reid let Jeremiah Trotter leave the Philadelphia Eagles. The fans were outraged. How could Coach Reid let go such a tough, forceful presence at middle linebacker? And, worse, how could he let Trotter to the rival Redskins -- in the same division?

As it turned out, Trotter, while tough, overran about as many plays as he made. Normally a quiet guy, he made a big stink when he left the Cradle of Liberty, burning bridges the way General Sherman burned all kinds of real estate in Atlanta around 1865. Now Trotter is back in Philadelphia as the backup middle linebacker, offering a stark contrast in size to the starter, the Zach Thomas-sized Mark Simoneau. He ate his humble pie and is legitimately happy to be back, as he'll be suiting up for a Super Bowl contender. Andy Reid was right about Jeremiah Trotter and whether he deserved a starter's compensation package.

Two years ago, Reid made big decisions on popular kick returner Brian Mitchell and even more popular DE Hugh Douglas. Mitchell went to the Giants (at 36 he wanted a 2-year deal; Reid didn't want to make more than a 1-year commitment), and, again, the Eagles' fans went ballistic. How could they let this Hall of Fame KR go to the Giants -- in the same division? But go to the Giants Mitchell did, and it turned out that he was through. But letting Mitchell go made way for Brian Westbrook, one of the most exciting "smallish" backs this side of Barry Sanders. And it was a great treat for Reid to see Westbrook return a punt in the final minute at the Meadowlands to give the Eagles' an unlikely win in a lackluster game that proved to be the turning point for both teams. As for Douglas? He went to Jacksonville and had a bad year.

It's not that Reid is omniscient. Shawn Barber has played well in KC, and it's likely that one or both of Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent will fare well in Seattle and Buffalo, respectively. But it's also likely that Carlos Emmons is on the downside of his career after breaking his leg badly late last season, and he's been showing signs that he's not fully recovered. Which means he may not play that well for the team that signed him -- the Giants. That story remains to be written, but running an NFL team is as much about managing your salary cap and constantly evaluating talent as it is keeping big names on your roster.

Now the Eagles find themselves a bit thin at DE. Projected starter N.D. Kalu tore up a knee last week and is done for the year. Starting DEs Derrick Burgess and Jevon Kearse haven't played more than say a season between them in the past two (Burgess has missed all of the past 2 seasons). Backup DEs Jamal Green (missed all last year) and Jerome McDougle (missed much of last year) have had injury problems. And the Jaguars cut Hugh Douglas today, a week after letting Tony Brackens go.

And the Eagles always liked Hugh Douglas. So the question becomes, if he has anything left in the tank, will the Eagles sign him at the right price?

Before last season, the Eagles had depth at DE because Burgess and Green went down. They opted to sign the man Douglas replaced at J-Actionville, Marco Coleman, who proved he had little left after a solid 12-year career. Will they go that route again and sign a former Jaguar? Or will they leave the position open possibly for second-year man Ron Johnson from Shippensburg State?

Leave it to Andy Reid to make the right move (especially after a draft, as some of his drafts have been so-so); he usually does.

And, free agent seekers, beware: if the Eagles let a player go, look hard at why.


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