Eagles didn't seek out Chris Long, he sought out Eagles

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Eagles didn't seek out Chris Long, he sought out Eagles

We tend to think of NFL free agency as teams shopping for the players they want. But in Chris Long's case, the defensive end turned salesman, pitching his services directly to the Eagles in March.

When last season ended, Long was celebrating a Super Bowl championship with the rest of his Patriots teammates. It was a dream come true, and a lot of veteran players probably would've been happy to keep chasing rings and add to New England's dynasty.

Long had other ideas. Instead, he placed the first of three life-altering phone calls he made during the 2017 offseason, informing Patriots coach Bill Belichick he would not return.

"I called him before I hit free agency," Long said this week. "I said, 'Hey, I don't want to waste your time. I don't know if I have a spot or not, but at 32 years old, if I'm going to play at a high level, a level I can be proud of, I need to play more in-position.' He understood that from the beginning."

Long had a decent year on paper, finishing with 4.0 sacks. Yet the Patriots' diverse scheme called for more than a pure pass rusher, and well before the postseason, his playing time had diminished.

After spending the first eight seasons of his career with the Rams, never getting so much as a whiff of playoff football, Long decided to test free agency for the second year in a row. If Belichick was understanding, Patriots fans were less sympathetic.

"People were like, 'You're crazy for leaving the Patriots,'" Long said. "'And you suck. You're old and you're washed up.' So I'm like, 'Man, I need to get on a team.'

That's when Long made call No. 2 to former Eagles outside linebacker Connor Barwin.

Barwin spent four seasons with the Eagles but was no longer a fit once Jim Schwartz was named defensive coordinator and was released after a disappointing 2016 campaign. Though he caught on with the Rams during the offseason, Barwin wasn't quite finished contributing to the Eagles.

"For me, I was antsy to get on a team, and I saw the team that I wanted be on, and it was just real simple for me," Long said. "Once Connor left, I called Connor. I was like, 'What's it like there?' He was like, 'It's awesome. You're gonna love it. You'd be a great fit.'"

By this point, Long already knew he wanted to sign with the Eagles. Barwin's endorsement was simply the icing on the cake.

"I was like, 'Well, I have to get ahold of somebody and tell them that I'm not dead, I want to keep playing, and I still have a lot in the tank,'" Long said.

So the next step was placing the third and final call. It was Long who ultimately told his agent to reach out, initiating a conversation with Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman.

Long saw something special was happening and wanted to be part of it.

"When you're older, you have to make some of your own calls," Long said. "I just had a good feeling about this team. Maybe I should be on NFL Live or something so I can pick teams in the playoffs because I felt like we'd have an opportunity to play on a stage like this.

"I just saw Philly, and I was like, 'Man, that D-line, I'd love to be a part of it.' And I wanted to be here, and (Roseman) was like, 'Oh yeah, I'd love to have you.'"

Long signed a two-year contract about three weeks after free agency opened. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time, but the 10th-year veteran finished with 5.0 sacks — his highest total since 2013 — and a career-high four forced fumbles. And, of course, the Eagles are playing in the Super Bowl.

Most of all, Long feels at home.

"Connor was right," Long said. "The coolest thing that I think Connor loved about this place was — and he was really civically-minded, community-minded — the city of Philly. As great as everything is in here, the thing I love most about Philly is Philly."

Long willingly left the Patriots, who probably had a 50-50 shot to make it back to the big game, and hand-picked the Eagles as his destination. Like a lot of the club's offseason signings, he followed a hunch and it couldn't have worked out any better for either party.

"It takes a lot of luck to wind up in the right place," Long said. "I could've easily made a different decision. All these guys that came here in free agency could've made a different decision, but they believed in what (Eagles coach Doug Pederson) is building here and the locker room that we have here."

Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

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Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

While many folks are off for Presidents Day, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is hard at work trying to figure out how to replace Frank Reich. 

Pederson is spending his Monday interviewing running backs coach Duce Staley and wide receivers coach Mike Groh for the Eagles' vacant offensive coordinator position, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN's Tim McManus first reported the news Monday. 

It's possible one or both coaches could take over in some sort of offensive coordinator role. 

Reich left his post as offensive coordinator earlier this month when he accepted the head coaching job in Indianapolis. While it might not seem like an OC who doesn't call the plays has a big role, Reich was a good sounding board for Pederson and seemed to be very-well trusted by the head coach. He also helped put the weekly gameplan together. 

It makes sense that the Eagles don't want to go outside the organization to hire an offensive coordinator. Pederson trusts Staley and Groh and the chemistry inside the NovaCare Complex was tremendous during the Eagles' run to Super Bowl LII. 

Either way, Pederson is going to oversee the offense and call plays. Staley or Groh, if one or both are promoted, will handle some extra responsibility, but it'll still all be on Pederson. 

While Staley has been with the Eagles as a coach since 2011, working his way up from a quality control coach to running backs coach in 2013, Groh is a newcomer. He was added to the staff before the 2017 season to take over for Greg Lewis after the Eagles fired him. Groh did an impressive job last season, particularly with helping transform Nelson Agholor from a bust to one of the team's more explosive weapons. 

LeGarrette Blount makes his desire to stay in Philly clear

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LeGarrette Blount makes his desire to stay in Philly clear

LeGarrette Blount is fresh off of his third Super Bowl title and second in two years with two different teams. 

It sounds like he doesn't really want to go to a third team in three years. 

Blount, 31, played on a one-year deal worth around $1.25 million with the Eagles in 2017, but is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year starts on March 14. He made it pretty clear on Sunday that he wouldn't mind coming back to Philly for another run. 

"It's early so we'll see," Blount said on NFL Network. 

"Obviously I like it a lot there. They like me a lot there. It's a mutual respect and a mutual agreement thing about how we feel about each other. Obviously, you guys know how I feel about the team, the guys; I love those guys. 

"I can't say enough about Duce (Staley), just for the simple fact for how well I was coached there and how good he helped me understand things. I feel like Duce is one of the best running back coaches, one of the best coaches I've ever had in my entire life. I obviously want to be a part of that for a while, so we'll see how it goes."

Blount began the year as the Eagles' top running back, but lost some of his role once the team traded for former Pro Bowler Jay Ajayi. But Blount still played a significant role in the Eagles' run to winning Super Bowl LII. 

During the season, he was the team's top rusher with 173 carries for 766 yards and two touchdowns. But then in Super Bowl LII, he had 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown, helping the Eagles to a 41-33 win over his former team, the Patriots. 

The Eagles are going to bring back Ajayi and second-year player Corey Clement. After that, things get murky. Blount and Darren Sproles (coming off injury) are both set to become free agents. 

Blount wasn't shy about his love for the Eagles during his interview on Sunday. He cited trust and how they handled the Ajayi trade with him as big reasons why. 

"They talked to me throughout the process of it happening," Blount said. "They were like, 'we're trading for Jay Ajayi, we just want to let you know.' Like I said, that's obviously another big thing for me, the honesty in that building and how open they are and how they don't keep any kind of secrets for you. They just tell you how it is. It's a big respect thing. Duce was the first person to reach out the me and be like, 'hey, we traded for Jay Ajayi. I just want to let you know.' Again, man, that's why it's a place that I love and I hope to stay there." 

Late in the six-and-a-half minute video, the crew brought out Clement while Blount was answering a question about the rookie. Blount laughed during the middle of his answer, but then got back on track and praised Clement. The two became very close during the 2017 season. 

After Blount's answer, Clement got to chat with his teammate and said getting to work with Blount was a "tremendous opportunity" and would clearly like to keep the core group together in the running back room next season. 

Obviously, it's not up to Clement, but Blount will play a big role and we already know what he thinks of the Eagles.