Minutes after Chip Kelly watched Shayne Graham’s 32-yard field goal split the uprights with time expiring at Lincoln Financial Field, he stood before a roomful of reporters and was asked to reflect on what his team had accomplished in his first year as the Eagles’ head coach.
“You’re probably right that it’s probably a little too soon for that,” Kelly said. “I thought we were going to be a good team when I met these guys for the first time because I know how hard they worked and how hard they wanted to invest in this. And then I watched it first-hand – them come to work every day and really invest in this whole process. It’s just disappointing right now. But I don’t think us winning the division or getting to the playoffs was a surprise to us. I just think everybody is really disappointed that we’re not moving forward.”
But that’s life in the NFL. As soon as one game ends, you begin preparing for the next one. And the same can be said for seasons. Today, players will clean out their lockers at the NovaCare Complex and Kelly will talk to reporters once again. Later this month, he’ll head to Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl. And soon after that, the team’s brain-trust will need to get a plan in place for free agency.
So while the playoffs will continue with the eight remaining teams, the Eagles are forced to look ahead. Keeping that in mind, here are some things to keep an eye on going forward.
COACHING STAFF CHANGES
I wouldn’t expect a lot of movement here, but there could always be some tweaks. Kelly put together the largest coaching staff in the NFL last offseason. And a lot of what the Eagles have done – the tempo, the practices, sports science, etc. – has drawn attention league-wide. Perhaps a couple guys get plucked. Or maybe Kelly decides to add a couple new faces.
Already, a CBSSports.com report suggests the Redskins might want to talk to Pat Shurmur or QBs coach Bill Lazor.
Draft season will be even longer than usual this year with the three-day event being pushed back to May 8-10. The Senior Bowl is on Jan. 25, preceded by a week of practices. The scouting combine takes place in Indianapolis from Feb. 18-25.
The Eagles will have the 22nd pick in the first round. They have seven picks overall: one in Rounds 1-4 and 7. They have two fifth-round picks – their own selection and the Patriots’ pick from the Isaac Sopoaga trade.
The last two drafts look a lot better than the ones that preceded them. Howie Roseman and company will look to keep the trend going in 2014.
The period to sign unrestricted free agents begins on March 11. In addition to bringing new faces in, the Eagles will have to decide on who they’re keeping from the current roster.
The following players are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents: Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Michael Vick, Nate Allen, Donnie Jones, Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson and Clifton Geathers.
One of the Eagles’ biggest offseason questions will be what to do at wide receiver. What will the market be like for Maclin, given that he’s coming off the knee injury? And what about Cooper, given potential questions about how he’d fit into a new locker room? It seems highly unlikely that both guys are back, and it’s possible that neither returns.
What happens to Vick if he has a soft market without a lot of interest? Will the Eagles be comfortable going into next season with Matt Barkley as their backup?
Those are questions that need answers.
Of the 22 players who started Saturday night’s game, 16 were already on the roster prior to Kelly being hired. The Eagles’ head coach seemed to genuinely like the guys in his locker room, but he’ll continue to seek players who fit his vision. That might mean cutting ties or renegotiating deals with some veterans.
Specific areas of need: outside linebacker, safety, offensive line depth, defensive line depth, cornerback depth, kicker competition and potentially wide receiver.