(Sports Network) - The Philadelphia Eagles advanced to the NFC Championship Game for the third consecutive season, but once again failed to make a Super Bowl appearance. Andy Reid's club has lost two of the past three conference title tilts at home.
Despite the recent big-game failures, the Eagles, who have more than $20 million in cap space, enter the free agency period in excellent shape. The news could have been better on the Terrell Owens front, but acquiring the misrepresented receiver in a trade is not out of the question. The 30-year-old is under contract with San Francisco through the 2006 season after he failed to file the proper paperwork to activate an opt-out clause in his contract. The clause would have allowed Owens to shop his wares on the open market. Instead of seeking a $15-20 million signing bonus, Owens can be had at a reasonable rate over the next three seasons ($18 million).
If Owens isn't in the Eagles' plans -- and it's far from a lock since his act could wear thin quickly with the stern Reid -- the team will look for less expensive options to upgrade its receiving corps. Restricted free agent Justin McCareins from Tennessee is an intriguing option. Seattle's Darrell Jackson, the top unrestricted free agent wideout, will require a huge contract. Signing a restricted free agent would require draft pick compensation to the player's original club.
The offseason is sure to bring about a fair amount of change. The club isn't in a rush to re-sign any of its top unrestricted free agents -- Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, Carlos Emmons and Duce Staley. Philadelphia ranks Emmons the highest priority of the foursome, but he could price himself out of a return to the team. Staley and Taylor are not expected back, and it remains to be seen if the club would add to the cornerback tandem of Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown if both Taylor and Vincent depart. Seattle's Shawn Springs, San Francisco's Ahmed Plummer and Buffalo's Antoine Winfield are a few of the top unrestricted cornerbacks.
Correll Buckhalter, a restricted free agent, is expected back next season to complement Brian Westbrook in the backfield. However, both running backs have battled injuries in recent years and their lack of durability leaves Reid with the task of adding another back to join the mix.
With so much space under the $80 million salary cap, the Eagles must decide on how they are going to spend their money. The failure to sign RFA Kabeer Gbaja- Biamila last offseason combined with the departure of Hugh Douglas left the team with a pass-rushing void. No. 1 pick Jerome McDougle was hurt for most of his rookie campaign, but his return will bolster the defensive line. The Eagles have been mentioned as possible suitors for Miami DE Adewale Ogunleye, who has registered 24.5 sacks over the past two seasons. The 26-year-old restricted free agent will command a lot of attention come March 3. However, the Eagles would have to part with a draft pick to get him. Tennessee's Jevon Kearse is an unrestricted free agent.
The Eagles also traded QB A.J. Feeley, who set to become a restricted free agent, to Miami in exchange for a second-round pick in 2005.
KEY UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: RB-Duce Staley, OG-Bobbie Williams, DT-Paul Grasmanis, DT-Jim Flanigan, DE-Marco Coleman, LB-Carlos Emmons, CB-Troy Vincent, CB-Bobby Taylor.
KEY RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: QB-A.J. Feeley, RB-Correll Buckhalter, LB-Keith Adams.