ORLANDO, Fla. – The term scheme fit has been a popular one with Howie Roseman this offseason.
The Eagles’ general manager mentioned it several times Monday afternoon during a session with reporters at the Ritz-Carlton. While DeSean Jackson’s status was the primary topic of discussion, this was the first time Roseman spoke publicly since the start of free agency.
Many might have been expecting more of a splash from the Eagles on the defensive side of the ball this offseason. Instead, they added one starting-caliber player in Malcolm Jenkins and a couple special-teamers.
"When we looked at kind of the numbers and the teams with the cap room and the amount of players that were, in our terminology, red and blue players, we kind of figured this is where we were gonna be in free agency," Roseman said. "Not that it went perfectly according to plan because it never does. But just in terms of how we planned it and what we thought were the realistic options, this was probably in line with it."
The Eagles had a chance to land a Pro Bowl safety in Jairus Byrd, but instead opted for Jenkins. The Saints, meanwhile, let Jenkins walk and awarded Byrd with a monster contract.
Asked if that decision was based more on scheme or cost, Roseman said: "I think it's all those things together. If you’re gonna pay a guy that sort of money, what is he gonna do in your scheme? And then how do you project him forward? Because you can’t pay a player in free agency for what they’ve done. You have to pay him for what they’re gonna do. And then how are you gonna use him? Are you gonna change what you’re doing for this particular player? And does that make sense?"
We've tackled the scheme question in this space previously. Byrd is at his best when he's playing center field and making plays on the ball. But the truth is, if he and Jenkins were available at the same price, the Eagles would have pursued Byrd. The same can be said for the other 31 teams. Byrd is the better player and could fit fine in the Eagles' scheme.
However, that's not to say he'd have been a perfect solution. Byrd doesn't have great size or athleticism. And he cost a lot of money. Those were the reasons the Eagles instead opted for Jenkins.
"What we were looking for specifically at the safety spot, and Malcolm fits, was we were looking for a quarterback for our defensive backs," Roseman said. "We were looking for a safety that can do a variety of things and be multiple. The way we play defense is different than the way other people play defense. And as a personnel staff, our most important function is making sure we get the players that fit our scheme.
"Not that other players don’t fit our scheme that aren’t really good players, but within the context of what we’re looking for. I think we talked about the evolving nature of that position and how hard it is to find guys at that position. Certainly everything that you do has ramifications. For us, just as we kind of went into the market, we explored everything. We looked at everything. That’s our job is to make sure we know what the options are and what the prices are. And for us, we felt like Malcolm was a really good fit in all those areas."
There's also the locker room dynamic that Roseman has mentioned on multiple occasions. When you give big money to a free agent, you have to make sure it's not going to cause resentment in the locker room. The errors from the 2011 offseason are still fresh in the minds of the Eagles' decision-makers. And clearly, those mistakes played a role in the team's free agent strategy.
"You start 22 guys, and it’s such a team game that one player isn’t gonna put you over the top in any way," Roseman said. "...We have to find fits. We have to find guys that we utilize in our scheme and that are right fits for our scheme. And for us it’s all about making sure that the guys that we’re paying the money to are fitting our scheme and we’re not just paying because they can do something well, but we’re not gonna maximize their talents, because we have a limited amount of resources.
"We have a limited amount of picks. We have a limited amount of money to be able to build our team. And so that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to build a culture. We’re trying to build a team. And obviously when you’re at this point in time, sometimes it’s hard to see the complete picture, but we have a plan and we’re trying to execute it."
The Eagles have tried time and again to fix their safety problem, and they've been unsuccessful. Roseman explained his reasoning for this offseason's strategy. We'll find out once the games begin in September whether the franchise has finally found a solution.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Notes on Roseman, Jackson and the culture question, courtesy of T-Mac. "For us, it’s about building the team. We’re just starting. This is our first year in this program."
The Eagles are in the mix for free agent QB Mark Sanchez.
Three Jackson-related takeaways from Roseman's session with reporters: On Chip Kelly's role, DeSean's fit and tampering.
Are the 49ers, Seahawks and Raiders interested in Jackson?
T-Mac on what to expect this week.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Saints GM Mickey Loomis talked to the New Orleans Times-Picayune about trading Darren Sproles to the Eagles:
"Look that's our competition, but every team in the NFL is our competition at some level," Loomis said. "When you trade him to another NFL team, which is all we can do, there's a high likelihood you're going to improve that team.
"And that may come back to bite you. That's OK. I wish Darren nothing but the best. I know he'll be successful, and we'll be happy for that."
Per Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com, the Eagles decided to trade Jackson over a month ago:
In the last week or so, trade talks for DeSean Jackson have escalated. However, the Eagles decided to move on from Jackson well over a month ago, and possibly earlier. It is absolutely not something they decided to do over the last week or two. That of course, should not come as a surprise, but it is something we can confirm via a source close to the team.
We'll have the latest from Orlando.