We had a chance to talk to Eagles general manager Howie Roseman about the team’s free-agent additions yesterday. Below are five leftovers that I haven’t gotten to yet in previous posts.
1. Roseman mentioned how the Eagles’ new players (for the most part) have come from winning franchises. James Casey and Connor Barwin were on the Texans, a team that went 22-10 the past two seasons. Kenny Phillips (Giants), Cary Williams (Ravens), Isaac Sopoaga (49ers) and Patrick Chung (Patriots) have all been on teams that went to the Super Bowl.
“That’s attractive to us,” Roseman said. “We talk about making sure that our defense kind of changes the culture on that side of the ball. Getting guys who have been successful, that’s enticing to us.”
This is undoubtedly going to be a theme that people gravitate towards, but I personally feel it’s a bit overrated. There are good players on bad teams, and there are bad players on good teams. Don’t forget, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was on a Cardinals squad that went to the Super Bowl. Wide receiver Steve Smith was on a Super Bowl team with the Giants.
Changing the culture after a 4-12 season is important. So is finding players who are professional and willing to buy into what Chip Kelly is looking to establish. But don’t get carried away with the whole “these guys played on winning teams” narrative.
2. It’s clear that the personnel staff saw this team’s secondary, and like everyone else, decided it needed a massive overhaul. Rodgers-Cromartie only got a one-year deal in Denver, but the Eagles didn’t want to bring him back for another shot. They ate the $4 million and let Nnamdi Asomugha walk too.
“We talked about the guys that we wanted to bring in here,” Roseman said. “These guys come from winning programs. Football’s very important to them. When you watch them on tape, you see a physical aspect of their play, and so that’s exciting for us.”
The part about football being important to the new players stands out, doesn’t it? Roseman didn’t call anyone out, but you can’t help but think he was referring to Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie. The pair of corners combined to miss 18 tackles last year, per Pro Football Focus. Bradley Fletcher has missed six in his career. And Cary Williams missed just three last year.
We’ll find out if they can cover, but the Eagles’ tackling in the secondary pretty much has to be better in 2013.
3. The Phillips addition is probably the most intriguing of the group. The Eagles liked him coming out of Miami during the 2008 draft. Phillips was selected by the Giants in the first round (31st overall). But he suffered a serious left knee injury in 2009 and only played in two games.
Then last year, Phillips dealt with an MCL injury in his right knee and only played in seven games. Roseman said the Eagles had their medical staff check him out, and they’re excited about landing Phillips.
“We’ve seen him when he’s 100 percent and the kind of player that he can be,” Roseman said. “Having the communication with his agent and his willingness to stay on the east coast and want to play in Philadelphia. We’re excited about getting him here.”
Of course, this is one of those stories where we won’t know what the deal is until Phillips gets on the field. It’s easy to see why fans are excited about him, but just remember that the Giants also know how good Phillips can be when healthy, and they decided to let him walk.
If Phillips can get back to playing like he used to, he instantly becomes the best safety this team has had in years. But that’s a big if.
4. There’s a lot of talk about how the Eagles’ additions will affect what they do with the No. 4 pick. But the truth is, I don’t think it has a huge impact.
“When you go into the draft room and you look at the depth chart and you see all these players on there, it’s exciting because you don’t have to,” Roseman said. “There’s no have-to in the draft. So as much as you say you want to take the best available player, I’ve been around long enough to know you can say that, but it’s hard when you see a big gaping hole on the depth chart. I think that’s one of the things we thought was enticing about this is we like the players we brought in here. At the same time, we can go into the draft and we can go in any direction.”
Is defensive line (Star Lotulelei, Sharrif Floyd) still in play? Yes. Offensive line (Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher)? Yes. Quarterback (Geno Smith)? Yes. Cornerback (Dee Milliner)? Yes.
The additions of Williams and Fletcher are not going to stop the Eagles from drafting Milliner if they think he’s the best player available. You can always use more corners, and Fletcher has started just eight games the past two seasons. The Eagles didn’t address offensive line yet, and Sopoaga (a two-down nose tackle) is the only defensive lineman they’ve added.
The only tricky spot is outside linebacker where they signed Barwin. But if the Eagles think Dion Jordan or Jarvis Jones is the best player, that’s who they’ll pick at No. 4.
5. Free agency for the Eagles was about value. They had cap space and they had needs. But as we’ve seen, teams (for the most part) have been careful with their spending. With the flat salary cap, the stars get paid, and the middle class is left to settle.
For the Birds, that also meant taking chances on guys who have been injured in the past. I mentioned Phillips above. Two of Fletcher’s first three seasons ended because of knee injuries. Chung has missed 12 games the past two seasons too.
“Some of the best values, when we look back at the history of free agency, are guys coming off recent injuries,” Roseman said.
“It’s different looking at players who are 25 and 26 coming off injuries than guys who are 31 and 32.”
Phillips and Fletcher are 26. Chung is 25. Roseman and the Eagles feel like they took calculated risks with players who have upside.
“We have some safeties that we think a year ago at this time, people were talking about as some of the top safeties in the league,” he said. “And sometimes, you’ve got to take risks in this league. We always look at the value and the risk/reward, and for us it made sense.”