|QB Jeff Garcia was one of Andy Reid's best free agent grabs during his tenure as coach of the Eagles. (US Presswire)|
Andy Reid’s five best free agent signings, in descending order:
5. C Jamaal Jackson, 2003: Nobody wanted this undrafted player from Delaware State, but Reid saw his athleticism and how well he handled the blocking calls and how much his teammates respected him and gave him a starting job in 2005. Jackson held it for the next five seasons, starting 71 straight games, until a change in philosophy -- new offensive line coach Howard Mudd wanted smaller, quicker linemen -- forced him out last season. Reid never got more bang for his buck than he did with Jackson.
4. RB/R Brian Mitchell, 2000: He was a triple threat for the Eagles during some of their most successful seasons -- the Eagles played in seven playoff games and two NFC Championship games during his three years with the team. Mitchell was a valuable reserve running back, but he was the best in the business at returning punts and kicks. He had lost a little quickness by the time he joined the Eagles in Reid’s second season, but you knew the return game was in good hands, literally and figuratively, with Mitchell, who was always dependable and sometimes sensational.
3. QB Jeff Garcia, 2006: Reid learned his lesson in 2005, when he signed journeyman Mike McMahon to back up Donovan McNabb the year after the Eagles went to the Super Bowl. McNabb got hurt, McMahon was awful -- the Eagles lost five of the seven games he started -- and the Eagles didn’t even make the playoffs. So, Reid signed Garcia, a former Pro Bowl QB, and that paid off big when McNabb got hurt again and Garcia led the Eagles to a 5-1 record down the stretch and into the playoffs, where they beat the New York Giants in a first-round game before losing to New Orleans.
2. LB Carlos Emmons, 2000: For four seasons, Emmons gave the Eagles something they haven’t had since -- a rock-solid strong-side linebacker who can cover tight ends and also stop the run. Emmons didn’t get a lot of attention playing with the likes of Pro Bowlers Brian Dawkins, Troy Vincent, Hugh Douglas and Troy Vincent, but he was an integral part of one of the best defenses in the league. And, as stated previously, the Eagles have struggled at that position ever since Emmons left following the 2003 season.
1. OT Jon Runyan, 2000: This was Reid’s second big personnel move, after he drafted Donovan McNabb in 1999. Reid wanted another big, aggressive tackle to line up opposite All-Pro Tra Thomas and when Runyan’s contract with the Tennessee Titans expired, Reid quickly made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. It was money well spent as Runyan and Thomas became the real foundation of the Eagles teams that had those remarkable playoff runs. For the first time since Dick Vermeil was coach and Pro Bowlers Jerry Sisemore and Stan Walters lined up at tackle, the Eagles had bookend blockers who could protect the quarterback and open holes for the running backs.
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