"The NFC East is going to be so awesome this year. Dallas upgraded its secondary. New York is coming off a Super Bowl win. Washington has a rookie phenom, and Philadelphia is going to put it all together this year."
That was you in May of this year, when free agency and the draft sprinkle enough pixie dust in the air to make every team look like a winner. In the interest of full disclosure, that was me, too. The biggest surprise might be the Eagles, a team used to rolling up winning seasons and entering this one hot on the heels of a four-game win streak that capped off that whole "dream" thing last year.
Spring predictions are a necessary evil in the NFL media world, but trying to see into the future is a dicey thing. Still, when you looked at the talent on the roster and what the Eagles had done to end the season last year -- winning four games and holding opponents to an average of 11.5 points during that stretch -- all signs pointed to positive upswing, even if predictions of an NFC gauntlet of greatness were a little far fetched.
Now the Eagles have lost seven straight, sitting at 3-8, and are 10-point underdogs this week at Dallas. This much you know already. You also know that owner Jeff Lurie will give Andy Reid the boot after the season, setting off a round of head coach speculation involving one of the NFL's premier franchises.
For fans of teams other than the Eagles who are not given to a heaping helping of schadenfreude, the most interesting story to watch is the coming cap purge, sending a small platoon of broken dreams onto the free agent market for 31 others to pin some hopes on for the 2013 season.
The Eagles have always been among the league's best teams at managing the cap. Remarkably enough, Howie Roseman had more than $20 million in cap space left over after the team's 2011 free agent binge. The outlook for 2013 is different, and the Eagles are currently on pace to be some $18 million over the cap next year.
Who else will depart Philly?
Michael Vick, QB -- The biggest name likely to go is the concussed quarterback. He's due more than $15 million next season. Reports surfaced recently that said the Eagles could even avoid $3 million in guaranteed money if they cut him by early February. Last spring, the Eagles were rumored to be interested in Ryan Tannehill. The team even met with the Browns to discuss a trade up. Instead, Philadelphia grabbed Nick Foles in the third round. He's getting an audition now, but a high draft pick in 2013 and a new regime in town could bring another rookie into the mix.
And where does Vick go? He certainly has options with so many teams desperate for quarterback help. Arizona, Jacksonville, Oakland and others could take a chance on him as a short-term solution to keep competitive while grooming a youngster.
Nnamdi Asomugha, CB -- This was the deal that made everyone forget about the lockout last year, the free agent signing that said "Super Bowl or bust." Instead, it's turned out be something more akin to Washington's signing of Albert Haynesworth. Asomugha is due $15 million next year with $4 million guaranteed. The Eagles' pass defense has a DVOA of 20.7 percent, according to Football outsiders. Only five teams are ranked worse.
Philadelphia could always decide to approach the corner about a restructured deal. If that doesn't happen, he will definitely have suitors, but his play with the Eagles means a big cut wherever he goes. Detroit? Indianapolis? There are plenty of teams need cornerbacks.
If DRC wanted to put out some excellent tape during his contract year then he's failed to do so. Still it's likely another organisation will fail to see he's more potential than substance and give him a decent contract this offseason. The departure of Asomugha means the new coaching staff may well want to keep him around, but that'll surely only happen if he accepts a reasonable contract, something I don't see as very likely.
Cullen Jenkins, DT -- The Eagles spent a first-round pick on Fletcher Cox this year, and he's been starting for the last month. Philadelphia is deep at defensive tackle. Keeping a 32-year old Jenkins next season seems unlikely. Here's Bleeding Green Nation again:
Run defense is also an issue, as Jenkins has lost the majority of his battles in the trenches. Just eight tackles around the line of scrimmage says a lot as veteran offensive lineman have been able to move him in the run game. Jenkins will also be 32 and owed a $1 million bonus in March (to go with another $1.5 million in 2013).
Mike Patterson, DT -- Patterson is in the same boat as Jenkins, aging and suffering from declining play. In his defense, he did have brain surgery this year and only resumed playing this month. Still, he's a rotational player due to make more than $15 million over the next three seasons. If that's not a target on his back, I don't know what is.
Keep an eye on the Saints. Steve Spagnuolo was still working in Philly when the Eagles selected him in the first round of the 2005 draft. Either Jenkins or Patterson could fit. Another team to keep an eye on is the St. Louis Rams. Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn worked for Jeff Fisher in Nashville, and Fisher's Rams use elements of the same system.
Jason Avant, WR -- Okay, so now we're into the guys that aren't exactly premier free agents, but could be attractive as experienced role players. From Bleeding Green Nation:
Although he catches a lot of passes (71.1% catch rate in 2012*) most of those are short and intermediate routes that don't generate much yardage. In fact Avant is averaging just 31.4 yards per game this season. Factor in the solid play of Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson and the $2 million he's owed in 2013 and I'm not sure Avant returns. There's definitely a place for the former Michigan Wolverine in the NFL, I'm just not sure it's with a rebuilding Eagles outfit.
Demetress Bell, OT -- There's always a market for offensive tackles, as Bell himself found out this year. At the time, it looked like this was a smart move by the Eagles, who signed him after learning that Jason Peters tore his Achilles in the spring. Bell signed a five-year, $34.5 million deal with just $3.25 guaranteed. Now, the contract looks especially brilliant since Bell's likely gone after this season, a victim of his own terrible play.
Bell is a prime target for one of those offensive line coaches who believes he can make the most terrible player into a effective starter. Depending on what coaching changes happen there, San Diego seems like a nice place to start over.