- Phil Sheridan, ESPN Staff Writer
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As free agency approaches, there has been a lot of talk about the Philadelphia Eagles' reluctance to get burned the way they did in 2011. General manager Howie Roseman has cited that disastrous spending spree as inspiration for a new philosophical approach to free agents.
But Nnamdi Asomugha in 2011 is not the right precedent for the Eagles' current situation.
Jon Runyan in 2000 is.
In 2000, Andy Reid had finished his first season as head coach, just as Chip Kelly has in 2014. Reid had drafted Donovan McNabb to be his franchise quarterback. Kelly had Nick Foles stake a claim to that role. Like Reid in 2000, Kelly has had one season to coach his new players, getting a feel for who's who and what needs to be done.
Reid had Tra Thomas at left tackle. He needed someone to anchor the other side. The Eagles signed Runyan to a six-year, $30.5-million contract that made him the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL.
If Kelly and Roseman see the safety position as the massive sinkhole the rest of us see, and they identify Buffalo's Jairus Byrd (or whomever is at the top of their board) as someone who can fill that hole for the next five years, they can and should be bold and make a play for him.
It is perceived as a negative that Byrd wants to be the highest paid safety in the NFL. But no one criticized Runyan for taking advantage of his well-timed free agency to become the best-paid offensive lineman.
Let's be clear: No one is saying Roseman should throw crazy money at a player he doesn't believe is a difference-maker. That isn't the point here. But the lesson from Asomugha and the rest of the 2011 moves -- forever linked to the "Dream Team" tag applied by Vince Young -- shouldn't be that free agency is bad for team building.
Runyan was an integral part of the team Reid built, a team that went to five NFC championship games. More recently, Connor Barwin, Cary Williams and DeMeco Ryans (who was acquired in a trade) came from other teams and had a profoundly positive impact on the Eagles' locker room.
In 2011, the Eagles had to act quickly after the NFL lockout ended. They didn't have the usual free-agency period to bring players in for get-acquainted visits. Asomugha was the marquee free agent and the Eagles, believing themselves one or two moves from a Super Bowl, went all in to get him.
It didn't work out. OK, it was a disaster. But that was not the move Roseman should look at when considering his course of action this offseason. The Runyan signing is a much more telling precedent.