Eagles general manager Howie Roseman went into free agency with too many players who could leave his team and too little money to retain them.
He didn’t have a hefty bankroll to land new players. The salary cap had put a limit on his Midnight Green credit card.
That’s not ideal. That’s not easily managed.
Yet, what Roseman and the Eagles accomplished was remarkable — by any standard. And that was before Roseman had his own version of March Madness by apparently bringing back Darius Slay in a late-night gambit.
In his corner, for enticements, Roseman had a Super Bowl team. He had a franchise with a sterling reputation. He had a 24-year-old franchise quarterback at the beginning of what could be a great career. Philadelphia was a destination, a place players want to go.
Roseman saw problems and addressed them. He re-signed Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox, fortifying both lines. To have lost any of these players would have hurt on the field and in the locker room. All three are team leaders, veterans who are admired and are mentors to younger players.
FOR HIS NEXT TRICK …
Earlier in the week, it looked as if the Eagles could lose their entire secondary. Turns out, Roseman brought back half of them … so far.
Roseman kept the hobbled secondary somewhat intact by re-signing cornerback James Bradberry and, in the surprise of day, apparently reworking Slay’s contract.
On Wednesday morning, the Eagles reportedly released Slay. But the team never announced Slay’s release. By 11 p.m., Slay and his wife tweeted that they were staying. Multiple reports said so, too.
The Eagles remain interested in re-signing safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, perhaps their most important free agent. If Roseman can land CJGJ … whew, this free agency will surpass what even the most optimistic Eagles fan thought possible.
Roseman managed what looked like a backfield shortfall by re-signing Boston Scott and signing former Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny.
Free agent running back Miles Sanders, who had a Pro Bowl season, reportedly was signing with the Panthers. Sanders’ leaving was not unexpected.
All of Roseman’s moves, except Slay’s return, was pulled off before nightfall on the first day of free agency.
LOTS OF WORK
Roseman’s charge going into free agency was to ensure the roster integrity of a Super Bowl team.
Twenty players were free agents. Mathematics alone — the sheer number of players and the salary cap — tells you the Eagles were limited in the players they could sign.
Some players were destined to leave. That’s the business of the NFL. Some were returning. The Eagles wanted them; they wanted the Eagles.
The Eagles are in a strong position going into next month’s draft. They are the defending NFC champions who nearly won the Super Bowl. They have the NFC’s best quarterback and probably the best offensive line. They have two first-round draft picks.
But it’s another year in the NFL.
The Eagles’ third-ranked offense is expected to lose right guard Isaac Seumalo. But, a replacement is at the ready. Second-year center Cam Jurgens is expected to take over Seumalo’s position. Will Penny and Jurgens play at the level of their predecessors? We don’t know, but the Eagles are counting on it.
SOME TOUGH LOSSES
The Eagles’ personnel losses shouldn’t be overlooked or diminished.
They lost four defensive starters. That’s a tremendous amount of talent and cohesion walking out the door. Linebackers T.J. Edwards (Bears) and Kyzir White (Cardinals) are gone. Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave went to the 49ers. Safety Marcus Epps went to the Raiders.
As of Thursday morning, the Eagles have six 2022 defensive starters on the roster, plus nickel back Avonte Maddox and safety Reed Blankenship.
Under new defensive coordinator Sean Desai, the defense will be under pressure to rebuild and to perform comparably to last season’s second-ranked unit. That’s an enormous task.
If the Eagles’ offense is as strong as last year, or close, they will need the defense to keep them in games, to win games, to not let the offense’s heroics go to waste.
Like in the Super Bowl, when 35 points scored by the offense wasn’t enough to win.
PATIENCE MIGHT PAY OFF
While Roseman hit a grand slam as free agency starts, there is a long way until training camp in July.
Maybe the best time to truly gauge the Eagles’ free agent performance is at training camp. A year ago, Roseman was just getting warmed up.
From March 14 to Nov. 18, the Eagles signed 10 players who made legitimate contributions to their 14-3 season.
- March 14, 2022 — Agreed to terms with linebacker Haason Reddick
- March 16 — Beginning of NFL year
- March 21 — Signed wide receiver Zach Pascal
- March 26 — Signed linebacker Kyzir White
- April 28 — Traded for wide receiver A.J. Brown
- May 5 — Signed undrafted returner Britain Covey
- May 5 —Signed undrafted safety Reed Blankenship
- May 18 — Signed cornerback James Bradberry
- Aug. 30 — Traded for safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson
- Nov. 17 — Signed defensive tackle Linval Joseph
- Nov. 18 — Signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh
When the season begins, how the Eagles perform will depend on their play each game. It also will depend on the moves that Roseman made on a windy day in March, nearly six months before the opening game.