Through 2020, no team in better shape than Eagles

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Through 2020, no team in better shape than Eagles

The Eagles are in awfully good shape this year, sitting at 10-2 with four games left. Just as importantly, they’re in pretty good for the future, as well. 

In fact, you can make a case that they’re better positioned for the future than any other NFL team.

Thank Howie Roseman for that.

With Alshon Jeffery signing a four-year contract extension last weekend, the Eagles now have 19 players under contract through the 2020 season. That means at least three more years with the current nucleus that's been so impressive so far this year.

No other NFL team has more players signed for the next three years. The Browns and Redskins are close. Both have 18 players signed or with a team option through 2020, but both also have very serious quarterback questions. 

The Browns haven’t been settled at quarterback since the days of Bernie Kosar, and the Redskins still don’t have Kirk Cousins under contract beyond this season. Carson Wentz is under contract through only 2019 under the terms of his four-year rookie deal, but it’s only a matter of time before Roseman has him locked up long-term.

The Eagles also have 32 players signed through 2019 and 44 through next year.

Among those signed through 2020 are the hearts of both lines: Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks on the O-line; and Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Derek Barnett on the D-line.

Also locked up for at least the next three years behind this season are key guys such as Jeffery (2021), Zach Ertz (2021), Malcolm Jenkins (2020), Rodney McLeod (2020), Sidney Jones (2020) and Rasul Douglas (2020).

Since his return from Chip Kelly exile nearly two years ago now, Roseman has done a masterful job of navigating through salary cap challenges to re-sign key players to long-term deals while trading away undervalued assets to clear cap space.

Right now, the only starters due to hit free agency after this season are LeGarrette Blount, Patrick Robinson and Nigel Bradham. Blount and Robinson have both been very good, but both are in their 30s and play positions where the Eagles are very deep, so the Eagles could certainly move on from both. 

Bradham, now in his second year here, most likely will be one of the Eagles' top offseason priorities.

Also up are guys like Trey Burton, Kenjon Barner, Corey Graham, Jaylen Watkins and Beau Allen. That group falls into the category of contributors the Eagles value but who are ultimately replaceable depending on their contract demands.

Kicker Caleb Sturgis, who has been very good since replacing Cody Parkey, is also up but Doug Pederson has already said the team plans to let him go via free agency and retain Jake Elliott.

Darren Sproles, who has spent the last few days with the team in Los Angeles, is also scheduled to become a free agent. That's a complicated situation because as popular and productive as he's been, he's 34, he's currently rehabbing, and he plays a position that's very crowded right now.

The Eagles currently have just over $5 million available under their adjusted 2017 cap figure of $174,933,869, according to Spotrac.com, which tracks NFL salaries, contracts and cap figures.  

They're also already over their projected 2018 and 2019 cap figures, according to Spotrac. So there's no question they'll have some difficult decisions looming over the next couple offseasons.

This is why it's so important to draft well. When you're forced to cut ties with proven veterans because of cap issues, you need younger players to capably replace them.

That all sounds alarming, but Roseman has proven to be adept at juggling contracts, restructuring deals and shuffling the roster to create cap space, and the addition of Joe Douglas to the scouting department seems to have made a difference when it comes to talent evaluation and acquisition.

Here's a look at the Eagles' current roster and how long each player is signed for:
Signed through 2017 (14)
Trey Burton
Darren Sproles*
LeGarrette Blount
Kenjon Barner
Chance Warmack
Beau Allen
Nigel Bradham
Najee Goode
Dannell Ellerbe
Nate Gerry
Corey Graham
Patrick Robinson
Jaylen Watkins
Caleb Sturgis*

Signed through 2018 (12)
Nate Sudfeld 
Nelson Agholor
Marcus Johnson
Jay Ajayi
Brent Celek
Brandon Graham
Destiny Vaeao 
Ronald Darby
Rick Lovato
Jake Elliott
Steven Means 
Jordan Hicks*

Signed through through 2019 (13)
Carson Wentz  
Wendell Smallwood
Corey Clement
Jason Peters*
Stefen Wisniewski
Isaac Seumalo
Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Mychal Kendricks
Kamu Grugier-Hill
Joe Walker
Jalen Mills
Donnie Jones
Chris Maragos*

Signed through through 2020 (12)
Mack Hollins
Shelton Gibson
Brandon Brooks
Jason Kelce

Vinny Curry
Elijah Qualls
Malcolm Jenkins
Rodney McLeod
Sidney Jones
Rasul Douglas
Nick Foles (club option in 2019 and 2020)
Donnel Pumphrey*

Signed through through 2021 (6)
Alshon Jeffery
Zach Ertz
Lane Johnson
Tim Jernigan
Chris Long
Derek Barnett (club option in 2021)

Signed through through 2022 (1)
Fletcher Cox

*Injured reserve

How Eagles could shut down Vikings' receiving duo

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How Eagles could shut down Vikings' receiving duo

When you think about the best wide receivers in the NFL today, names like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and DeAndre Hopkins come to mind and rightfully so, but the Minnesota Vikings have a pair of wideouts who have given opposing secondaries fits.

This season, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have been the perfect complement to each other. Thielen finished the regular season with 91 receptions (eighth-best in the league), 1276 yards (fifth-best) and his 20 catches for 20 or more yards tied for fifth-best overall. As for Diggs, he finished with 64 receptions for 849 yards.

Together, Thielen and Diggs accounted for 54 percent of the Vikings' receiving yards this season. They also combined for 12 touchdowns. In the Vikes' miraculous playoff win over the New Orleans Saints, they accounted for 66 percent of the passing game. They have been the safety valves for Case Keenum all season long.

Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has the rare luxury of lining up either one of them on the inside or outside on any given play. Both are excellent route runners — whether it's doing deep or intermediate routes or crossing routes, and both are excellent blockers.

So how should Jim Schwartz defend against these two? Some believe help over the top on Thielen and playing single coverage on Diggs is the way to go. We may see that concept occasionally in the NFC Championship Game but I have a feeling Schwartz will come up with some variation we have not seen before. The Eagles are not going to completely shut these two down, but their damage can be minimized. Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and the other DBs will put in a full day’s work shadowing these two.

Howie Roseman honored for his tremendous offseason

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Howie Roseman honored for his tremendous offseason

As the Eagles practiced on Thursday afternoon, just a few days before hosting the NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field, vice president of football operations Howie Roseman stood next to owner Jeff Lurie and watched the team he created. 

Of the 53 members on the Eagles' roster heading into this championship game, 25 weren't on the active roster last season. Roseman had a very busy offseason, molding the Eagles into a Super Bowl contender. 

For his efforts, the 42-year-old Roseman, who began with the Eagles as an intern in 2000, has been named the NFL Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America. 

Roseman helped turn over a roster that went 7-9 last season into a team that went 13-3, earning the first-overall seed in the NFC. He built the team with enough depth to survive major injuries to Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Jordan Hicks, Chris Maragos and Caleb Sturgis. 

Never afraid to make a trade, Roseman came back from his time away from football operations more aggressive than ever. He claims his year away from GM duties while Chip Kelly took over was both humbling and eye-opening. 

For this season, Roseman traded 25 spots in the third round to bring in veteran defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, traded away Jordan Matthews and a pick to bring in cornerback Ronald Darby and pulled the trigger on a midseason move to bring in Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi. 

In free agency, he signed Alshon Jeffery, Chris Long, LeGarrette Blount, Nick Foles, Patrick Robinson and Chance Warmack. He brought in several of those players on one-year prove-it deals, and for the most part, the team has gotten more than their money's worth out of them. 

He also helped hire VP of player personnel Joe Douglas to revamp the scouting department. That hire of a top personnel man was one of the conditions when Lurie reinstated Roseman to power following Kelly's dismissal. 

Roseman and Douglas spearheaded drafting a class that included Derek Barnett in the first round, an injured Sidney Jones in the second and some other contributors in the next five rounds. 

Aside from just bringing players in, Roseman has been able to manipulate the salary cap better than anyone in the league. It's been a strength of his since his arrival in Philly, so that should be no surprise. 

You could actually argue that Roseman's 2016 was more impressive. That's when he laid the groundwork for this playoff season by moving up and drafting Carson Wentz. But 2017 is when it all came together.