The Inky's Jonathan Tamiari notes that the Eagles could be getting a glimpse of their secondary of the future on Sunday, when Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha are scheduled to start at cornerback, with Jaiquawn Jarrett starting at safety. It's a logical conclusion, given the perceived limbo in which Samuel has hung ever since the Eagles signed Asomugha to a big contract in the offseason. Samuel is due a raise next season, with his salary cap number sitting in the neighborhood of $9.5 million. That would leave the Eagles with about $21 million tied up in their two big-name cornerbacks. That's a lot of money in one position, particularly when you consider the various areas the Eagles need to improve.
The one player who will not be on the field is LaRon Landry. He, of course, plays for the Redskins, or at least he used to, until an Achilles problem sent him to injured reserve earlier this month. Landry figured to be the top safety available on the free agent market this season, but this is the second straight year that he has been hampered by the Achilles, and according to the Washignton Post, doctors have recommended surgery.
When healthy, Landry is exactly the kind of player the Eagles' secondary needs, a physical, hard-hitter who can hold his own in coverage. But the last thing they need is another free agent signee who has injury issues.
We've mentioned here before that the Eagles took a chance by not retaining Quintin Mikell or pursuing one of a number of safeties who were free agents last season. On paper, this year's crop looks to be a weaker class, particularly with the question marks surrouding Landry.
The Raiders' Tyvon Branch is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, but it is hard to see the Raiders letting him walk. They don't figure to use their franchise tag on running back Michael Bush, who should get an opportunity to emerge from Darren McFadden's shadow and start somewhere. Branch would be a likely candidate for the tag if the two sides are unable to reach a contract extension.
The Falcons' Thomas DeCoud is a possibility, particularly since the Falcons will have to deal with the free agency of linebacker Curtis Lofton, not to mention veterans Todd McClure, John Abraham, Tony Gonzalez and Jason Snelling. The 26-year-old free safety has been a fixture in the Falcons secondary the last three seasons and has set career highs with four interceptions and 78 tackles this season.
The Titans Michael Griffin has made some big plays, but is inconsistent. Beyond him, there isn't much upside on the safety market.
Long story short, the Eagles might not be able to spend big on a safety even if they want to. The Bengals' Reggie Nelson and the Jets' Jim Leonhard are both expected to hit free agency, but neither is overhwelming. Depending on what happens with Desean Jackson, the Eagles might be best off focusing their free agent dollars on an interior lineman like Carl Nicks or Nick Hardwick or a linebacker like Lofton, provided the Falcons are unable to retain him.
The best option might be to bolster the defense by tweaking the identity of the offense, adding a premiere guard like Nicks and a power runner like Jason Snelling (assuming players like Bush, Mike Tolbert and Peyton Hillis are looking for starring roles) to the mix to increase the physicality of the attack.