- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Philadelphia Eagles entered free agency with oodles of salary-cap room, and they have signed eight players already. Seven of them are defensive players, but they're at a variety of positions -- safeties, cornerbacks, linebackers and a nose tackle. This is a team that went 4-12, changed coaches and has a lot of needs, and it's working to address them all.
Philadelphia also has the No. 4 pick in next month's draft, and I think the work the Eagles have done this week has had an important effect on what they'll be able to do with it. Specifically, I think the work they have already done this offseason will allow them to select the best player available, regardless of positional need. When you can operate your draft like that, you're a happy franchise.
They want to draft Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner? Sure. I mean, they already signed Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, but you can't be too deep at corner and it's possible Milliner is better than either of those guys. Might be able to bring him along slowly, not ask too much of him in his rookie season since they are covered at the position. And if those other two guys play great, you have great depth and options on next year's market.
They want to pick one of the big tackles, Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher if they fall to No. 4? Why not? Even if they sign a free-agent right tackle, as I think they might, they don't know how Jason Peters is going to come back from those Achilles injuries. And the Eagles surely learned last year the importance of having depth on the line.
A defensive tackle? A pass-rusher? Can't have too many of those. The Eagles' new defense looks as though it's going to be varied enough to allow (or even require) them to rotate players in and out in different situations. Draft, develop and build your defensive program around what you have. The more talent to work with up front, the better.
And how about a quarterback? What if the past couple of weeks have changed the Eagles' opinion on West Virginia's Geno Smith as the possible answer at franchise quarterback? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to take him at No. 4 because you already addressed your other needs weeks before the draft? The Eagles may well find themselves in such a position -- able to pick a quarterback at that spot if they fall in love with one.
This is the benefit of all that cap room the Eagles had when this week began. They're able to find all kinds of pieces to fit all kinds of holes. When draft day rolls around and they tell everybody they took the best player available, it's going to be easy to believe them. Because they won't be caught in that not-very-fun position of having to draft for immediate need.