Philadelphia Eagles  

 

Major decisions, starting with Vick, will define Eagles' offseason

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PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles players were as dejected and upset as you might expect following their wild-card playoff loss to Green Bay on Sunday.

Despite being angry, wide receiver DeSean Jackson was able to put things somewhat in perspective, saying that the team did more than a lot of people expected -- true -- and that as long as Michael Vick and the band are kept together, next season could be even more prosperous.

In January and February, NFL.com took a look at the five pressing questions facing each team as it heads into the offseason.

AFC East:
» Buffalo Bills: Must remedy draft failures
» Miami Dolphins: Need to overcome awkwardness
» New England Patriots: Issues start on defense
» New York Jets: Rocky road to reach Super Bowl
AFC North:
» Baltimore Ravens: Immense pressure on Flacco
» Cincinnati Bengals: Distractions cloud team's future
» Cleveland Browns: New coach faces no easy fix
» Pittsburgh Steelers: Father Time is biggest hurdle
AFC South:
» Houston Texans: Big issues on defense
» Indianapolis Colts: Big decisions on key players
» Jacksonville Jaguars: Same issues haunt team
» Tennessee Titans: Big void at QB with Young gone
AFC West:
» Denver Broncos: Defense will dictate offseason
» Kansas City Chiefs: Sustaining is next challenge
» Oakland Raiders: Team has hope, questions
» San Diego Chargers: Bolts aim to bounce back
NFC East:
» Dallas Cowboys: More holes to fill than coach
» New York Giants: Many lingering questions
» Philadelphia Eagles: More drama on horizon
» Washington Redskins: Huge problems to tackle
NFC North:
» Chicago Bears: Cutler opens deep bag of issues
» Detroit Lions: Closing in on respectability
» Green Bay Packers: Champs face tricky offseason
» Minnesota Vikings: Uncertainty surrounds team
NFC South:
» Atlanta Falcons: Need help to take next step
» Carolina Panthers: Plenty of room to improve
» New Orleans Saints: Time to tackle backfield, D
» Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Next step won't be easy
NFC West:
» Arizona Cardinals: QB quandary still an issue
» San Francisco 49ers: Must settle QB situation
» Seattle Seahawks: Playoff run can't hide issues
» St. Louis Rams: Reason for optimism

It could be, if the Eagles find ways to overcome what seem to be consistent issues. They have been defeated in the first round of the playoffs the past two seasons -- and previous years -- for the same shortcomings: Flaws along the offensive line, vulnerability against the run and players not making plays in the clutch.

This offseason doesn't figure to be as eventful as the last two, when quarterback Donovan McNabb was traded and fixtures Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook departed via free agency, but these are the Eagles, so some form of drama is on the horizon.

1. Could both QBs return?

Though Vick is a free agent, no team -- including the Eagles -- will sign him until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached between the league's owners and players, and that could be awhile. Teams want to know what the salary cap will be and if the "Franchise" tag will be back. Once that is figured out, it is difficult to imagine the Eagles not re-signing him. The haggling point could be the terms.

Philadelphia might not offer him a lengthy deal, whereas another team desperate for quarterback help -- Minnesota, Miami, Tennessee -- could. If that happens, the Eagles could franchise him for a season. That would not be ideal for Vick, but either way, he'll have earned himself a fairly hefty payday.

As for Kevin Kolb, the Eagles once again have a quarterback who could turn out to be valued trade bait. Kolb said he wants to start somewhere, so he probably wants to get moved unless the Eagles commit to him as The Guy, and that seems unlikely.

Kolb could be the most sought after quarterback under contract and Philadelphia, should it decide to move him, could be able to fetch at least a second-rounder for him, probably more when you consider the weak market for quarterbacks. Remember, Vick was in a similar situation last offseason and the Eagles wouldn't part with him. It turned out to be a prudent move.

2. What if Mornhinweg leaves?

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is expected to be interviewed for the head-coaching job in Cleveland (and maybe other places) and be a top candidate to get the position if that happens. He is one of the better offensive coaches in the NFL and has created a scheme that helped Vick develop into a more complete quarterback. Vick credits a lot of his re-birth to Mornhinweg.

If Mornhinweg leaves, former Vikings coach and Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress is expected to step in as offensive coordinator. Childress and coach Andy Reid remain close and they should be able to pick up where things left off. Whether Childress could mesh with Vick and/or Kolb the way Mornhinweg did could be worth watching.

3. Will Eagles re-do Jackson's contract?

Jackson is entering the last year of his contract. Scheduled to earn $565,000 next season, he went through phases of unhappiness over the team's unwillingness to re-do his deal this season. There were certain limitations based on this being a season with no salary cap that prevented him from striking it big and he could actually earn more by waiting as a result. Once cap rules are established, he probably will get a bump. The Eagles don't want him brooding.

4. How do Eagles fix the defense?

Other than end Trent Cole, the pass rush has been inconsistent and stopping the run -- especially up the middle -- was a problem. Not having middle linebacker Stewart Bradley late in the season clearly hurt. He is a free agent and his return isn't certain. Philadelphia has to beef up its interior. DE Brandon Graham, who finished the season on injured reserve, should be better in Year 2. Injuries really crippled the secondary. Schematic changes also have to be in order. Philadelphia's poor red-zone defense was problematic.

5. Will the line ever be a force?

This seems to be an issue year after year no matter how much the team invests in players in free agency or the draft. The Eagles are so pass intensive that run blocking seems to be a constant issue. This past season, pass protection was abysmal, as the Eagles allowed 49 sacks. The season-ending injury to center Jamaal Jackson definitely messed up some of the chemistry, but that still can't account for the lack of consistent execution.

While Jackson's return will help, the Eagles need to solidify things on the right side of their line, in particular.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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