Eagles Wake-Up Call: Strengthening the Core
Howie Roseman retold the Fletcher Cox draft story Thursday. About how they had a trade worked out with Seattle to move up from 15 to 12 if one of their targets happened to still be on the board; that they never anticipated one of those primary targets — Cox — to actually last that long; and how a last-second offer forced them to contemplate their chosen course of action.
“When he got to 12 and we were ready to make the pick, we had agreed on the trade, and then we got a call from another team offering us to move back for a future one,” said Roseman. “And so we just kind of took a minute and just thought about Fletcher and what we projected him to be. And if he was that, how would we get that guy again? And all around the room, everyone agreed that to get a 6-4, 310-pound guy, 35-inch arms, powerful, athletic, great character, we’d have to pick in the Top-5 — 21 years old. For us, even if that future one was a 12 or 13 or 14, we thought it was a unique opportunity that we were able to get that kind of guy, so we just kind of made the pick.”
Roseman called it “one of my favorite stories that we’ve had here.” And no wonder: it’s a triumphant tale involving the single-best pick he’s ever made. Chances are, he’s got some good ones about Vinny Curry and Zach Ertz and Lane Johnson as well.
The key thing, as we work to make sense of the decision to pour $143 million of guarantees into those four players, is the very fact that there are stories to tell. There’s a shared history between the Eagles and many of the players they handed large contracts to this offseason, and that’s no coincidence. Roseman has prioritized rewarding his own, believing a tight-knit core is critical to building a perennial contender as his predecessors did.
“There’s been a lot of change; I take responsibility for a lot of change that has been made, but going forward, we’re hoping to not have that change,” he said. “And the longer that we wait on contracts for players, the closer they get to free agency, the more it’s going to cost us. It’s just the nature of the game. So we were hopeful that with this plan, by signing guys that we didn’t want to ever leave the building that going forward, maybe we would be able to keep one or two more guys because as they get closer to free agency, the more expensive they are going to be. That requires doing some things early. That requires some risk on our part. But as we look at what our team looks like going forward; and the second part of this is obviously we don’t have as many draft picks as we’ve had.
“So knowing that we have holes filled and we do look at our 2018 depth chart, we do look at our 2019 depth chart, we knew that we had to get a little uncomfortable for this season and next season, really, to build something that hopefully lasts and gives us a chance at being a really good team again for a long period of time.”
The Eagles have the most cap commitments for 2017 and are currently north of the projected league cap number for that season. As Joel Corry noted, “they’re going to have to shed people next year.” When you commit $280 million in guarantees in a single offseason, it stands to reason that things will be a little tight for a while.
Ultimately, though, the idea is to get the key players locked up now before their price tag really gets out of control so that there’s money left over for more key players down the road, adding to what they hope is a sound foundation.
“When you look at the Giants, the Steelers, the Colts, the Patriots, the Packers, the Seahawks, they have a core group of guys, a big core group of guys that they are building with together; they are going through things together,” said Roseman. “That strengthens your team. That strengthens your bond.”
At least that’s the plan.
WHAT YOU MISSED
“I fully believe that you’ve got to practice in pads quite a bit.” Doug Pederson is taking a page out of Andy Reid‘s book and will have a physical training camp.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Reuben Frank from CSNPhilly.com says that the Eagles have a player to build around on defense.
Cox, who would have become a free agent after the coming season without a new deal, made his first Pro Bowl after a breakthrough 9½-sack 2015 season.
He’s already considered one of the five best defensive tackles in the game, but he said there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
“I’ve got a ways to grow,” he said. “A ways to grow. I don’t think I’ve hit that ceiling yet. It’s going to start on the practice field. For me to be the player I want to be, it starts on the practice field.”
How does a $100 million player earn his contract? Cox said he can’t worry about proving he’s worth the money he got this week.
Mike Sielski of the Inquirer writes about whether this group is worth such a large investment.
But how good are the Eagles’ own players, the ones they chose to re-sign? It was one thing for [Joe] Banner and Andy Reid to do all they could to keep the likes of [Donovan] McNabb, Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, and Brian Westbrook. It may turn out to be another thing for Roseman to build around players who, relative to those franchise fixtures, are less accomplished. No one would question Cox’s or [Malcolm] Jenkins‘ credentials. But [Brent] Celek turned 31 in January. [Zach] Ertz and [Lane] Johnson have been good players, not elite ones. [Vinny] Curry has been merely a situational pass rusher – an effective one at times, sure, but nothing more. And all of them were members of a team that collapsed down the stretch in 2014 and went 7-9 in 2015.
How good are these guys if things went so bad while they were here? Was the failure all [Chip] Kelly‘s fault? Roseman himself acknowledged Thursday that those questions were fair to ask.
“We’re not sitting here and talking about being the ’85 Bears that were this dominant team,” he said. “But when you look at the teams that are really good teams and have a chance to be great teams, it’s because they have a core group of players that they keep together. And when you’re changing guys in and out and you’re losing good players that you invested draft picks, it’s hard to build anything. It’s hard to sustain anything, and so we know we have a lot of other areas that we have to improve.”
We’ll get you your fix.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.