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Tuesday, March 12, 2013
An early look at the Eagles' plan

By Dan Graziano

With more than $40 million in salary cap room, the Philadelphia Eagles can do pretty much whatever they want to do in free agency. So the news that has come out about them in the first hour since the free-agent signing period began offers some clues as to what they want to do. Here's a bit of a rundown of what we know or have heard so far:

According to league sources, the Eagles are closing in on an agreement with former Texans fullback James Casey. This is interesting because there's a popular perception around the league that Casey was misused in Houston and that he's better off as a tight end or H-back. He caught a career-high 34 passes in 2012 and would likely be used as a passing-game weapon -- either at the tight end position, out of the backfield or both -- for Michael Vick. Early reports indicated extensive interest in Casey from many teams, so signing him this early would constitute a good get for the Eagles.

The rebuilding process on defense appears more likely to start up front than in the needy secondary. As the market floods with defensive backs, the names connected with the Eagles are former 49ers defensive linemen Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois.

Jean-Francois is a versatile lineman who has played nose tackle and end in the 49ers' 3-4 alignment and likely would be a depth signing. Sopoaga, though, is a big, 330-pound nose tackle, and the Eagles' interest in him is maybe the clearest indication yet that they're transitioning to a 3-4 scheme that will require someone who can eat up blockers inside.

One note on Sopoaga, just because I have it: We did a video feature at the Super Bowl on "Who's the best athlete on your team?" and a couple of the 49ers named Sopoaga, a former rugby player they claimed could throw a football 75 yards. Doesn't mean a whole lot, but I thought it'd be a fun fact for Eagles fans to know in case they end up signing the guy.

And I don't think this means the Eagles aren't pursuing help at cornerback or safety. I'm certain they will. But with so many defensive backs hitting the market in the past couple of days (including Nnamdi Asomugha, who was released today by the Eagles), there's reason to believe they can wait on secondary help while they work on the front seven. Again, they have a ton of cap room to play with.