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Eagles will select 'best available'

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- After signing nine free agents, including seven on the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles feel they don't have to focus on specific needs and can take the best player available with their selections in next week's draft, including their first-round pick, the fourth overall.

"We went into free agency trying to fill specific holes," general manager Howie Roseman said. "That was the purpose of the players we signed in free agency, so we could go into the draft with a blank slate.

"We feel we're at that position right now where we can take anything and it will make sense for our team because we don't have a glaring, must-have (need) right at this moment to get on the field and play."

To a degree, he's right. With the free-agent additions of cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams, safeties Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips and rush linebacker Connor Barwin, the Eagles already have addressed their greatest immediate needs coming off last season's immensely disappointing 4-12 record.

But that doesn't mean their roster isn't still in need of upgrading. There are questions at quarterback, where 32-year-old turnover machine Michael Vick and second-year man Nick Foles are the top two players on the depth chart.

Even with offensive tackles Jason Peters and Todd Herremans and center Jason Kelce back from major injuries, they still have a hole in their offensive line at right guard. They're hoping the light finally will go on for 2011 first-round pick Danny Watkins. But if it doesn't, Herremans may have to move back inside, which means they'd need a right tackle.

Adding Barwin should help a pass rush that finished 22nd in the league in sacks per pass play last season, but they still could use more help there. And with the exception of Williams, there are questions about all of the free-agent corners and safeties that they signed.

"You don't want to force things," Roseman said. "We're trying to do it the right way. We want to make sure we're drafting people based on our grades. We want to make sure we're drafting people based on what we think are the best players available, not what we need at this moment. Because those are where the mistakes are made."

Drafting for need, the Eagles made a lot of mistakes in the 2010 and 2011 drafts, which along with their disastrous 2011 "Dream Team" free-agent class, is why they're in the pickle they're in today.

They selected 24 players in the 2010-11 drafts and have just four starters to show for it - kicker Alex Henery (fourth round, 2011), Kelce (sixth round, 2011), defensive end/linebacker Brandon Graham (first round, 2010) and safety Kurt Coleman (seventh round, 2010).

They have gotten just 176 total starts out of those 24 players. Only 13 still are with the team.

"What we learned from those drafts is you can't force," Roseman said. "You can't force your board. You can't have so much urgency in terms of filling a need that you change the evaluation process. We've talked about that a lot. It's something we won't do again.

"It's a hard lesson when you talk about those numbers. It's disappointing to be in that situation. At the same time, we think we have some guys from those drafts who are going to be major contributors for us going forward."
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