Eagles

Don't expect Eagles to sign 'hottest item off the shelf'

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Don't expect Eagles to sign 'hottest item off the shelf'

On the heels of the Eagles’ five-point home wild-card loss to the Packers in 2010, the team’s brain trust decided that the best way to quickly bridge the gap from playoff team to Super Bowl team was to quickly fill holes through free agency.

You remember the thinking.

If the Eagles could go 10-6 and reach the playoffs, then by adding Pro Bowl-caliber players like Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, Steve Smith, Jason Babin, Ronnie Brown, Vince Young and Evan Mathis, they would logically go 12-4 or 13-3 and reach the Super Bowl.

They just needed those studs to take that next step.

We won’t use the phrase Dream Team in this story (oops), but the expensive free agency haul was such a disaster that it essentially ended Andy Reid’s tenure as head coach.

Only Mathis, a first-team All-Pro this year, remains from that group. Asomugha, Smith and Young aren’t even in the league anymore.

Lesson learned.

The Eagles are now in the exact same position as they were three years ago -- coming off a 10-6 season and a home wild-card loss that came down to the final play.

This time there will be no free agency haul. This time, the Eagles know better.

“We have to learn from that moment,” general manager Howie Roseman said. “I would say we’re going to continue to try to build this team the right way, and there are no quick fixes in the National Football League.

“It’s such a team sport that one player’s not going to make the difference and we have to build it so hopefully we’re competing for a long time.”

As the Eagles enter the offseason, this is crucial.

The last two drafts have been extremely productive, landing the Eagles three offensive starters (Nick Foles, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz) and three starters and a de facto starter on defense (Bennie Logan, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin).

Going hand-in-hand with Roseman’s belief in drafting the best available player instead of drafting for need is a free agency philosophy of adding a handful of mid-priced players instead of breaking the bank for potential stars who, if they don’t pan out, can wind up being very damaging both from a salary cap and team chemistry standpoint.

“I think you’ll see a markedly different approach from last time, both in free agency and the draft -- because I feel like we did that in the draft as well,” Roseman said. “But no matter where we are right now or what we finish with, we’ve got to keep the process right and build onto a young team and hopefully have a good core group of players that we can build on and with and do things the right way.”

It’s not like the Eagles weren’t active in free agency last spring. They were.

They did add a bunch of mid-level guys -- Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Patrick Chung, Donnie Jones, Connor Barwin, Isaac Sopoaga, Kenny Phillips and James Casey.

But unlike the 2011 Dream Team guys, none of them were particularly high-priced and most of them acquitted themselves very well.

Even though Phillips wasn’t healthy, Chung struggled all year, Sopoaga turned out to be expendable and Casey was underutilized, none of the moves was a financial disaster, and the way Williams, Fletcher, Barwin and Jones played made free agency a net success.

“It’s interesting, because when you look at it, if you can sign a bunch of guys that maybe aren’t the high-priced guys, you have a chance to kind of have a batting average, as opposed to if you sign one or two big-priced guys and one or two don’t work out, it kind of puts you in a bind,” Roseman said.

“So if you sign a bunch of good players, solid players, and you sign a bunch of them, you want them all to work out, but you don’t necessarily count on them and it doesn’t really hurt your team going forward if one or two don’t work out.

“That group as a whole, I think they contributed a lot to our football team. We certainly weren’t perfect on our free agent signings, but I thought it matched what was out there in free agency last year, and I thought served us well.”

The Eagles right now have $119,927,839 tied up in 2014 salary cap obligations and $107,078,390 tied up for 2015. The projected unadjusted 2014 salary cap is $126.3 million, a small increase over the $123 million from this year.

Those figures don’t include carryover adjustments, which are still being determined but will definitely help the Eagles.

Roseman said the Eagles will continue to explore free agency -- which opens this year on March 8 -- but will show restraint and avoid getting into bidding wars for the sort of overpriced veteran players that wound up damaging the franchise so badly two years ago.

“I don’t think we should sign anyone just for the sake of signing guys,” Roseman said. “We’ve got to sign guys that are upgrades for our football team and fit what we’re looking for from a position standpoint and a character standpoint.

“The money runs out quick as you look at the natural evolution of contracts as they raise and the cap continues to be flat. You kind of look at the [salary cap] number and you get a little bit excited about it and then you start plugging in some numbers and when you do, they go down pretty quickly.

"If we’re doing things the right way and trying to build a team that we can sustain ... we’re not rushing out and buying the new hottest item off the shelf.”

Alshon Jeffery doesn't think much of facing old team

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Alshon Jeffery doesn't think much of facing old team

Alshon Jeffery will be going up against his former team this Sunday, but he isn’t interested in looking back. The Eagles' wideout is happy with where he’s at now, and there’s only one thing on his mind.

“It’s a regular game,” Jeffery said Tuesday. “We’re just trying to win.”

Jeffery spent the first five seasons of his NFL career with the Bears before signing a one-year contract with the Eagles in March. Needless to say, the change of scenery has been beneficial so far. Not only is he on pace for his most productive campaign since 2014, but the sixth-year veteran is likely headed to the playoffs for the first time as a pro.

The Bears may be second-guessing their decision to let a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver depart in free agency. For Jeffery, the move was a no-brainer.

“I’m here in Philly,” Jeffery said. “I’m happy with that. It was the best decision for me. I love it.”

At this point, the tough questions for Jeffery aren’t really about the Bears at all. That’s in the past, and he’s fine with leaving it there.

The real questions are about Jeffery’s future, specifically whether he’ll remain a member of the Eagles beyond 2017 after his current deal expires.

To which Jeffery replied, “I hope so.”

“I let my agent take care of that,” Jeffery said. “He and (Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman) do a great job. Whatever they have going, let them talk about that. I just play football.

“Philly is a great city, great town, everyone has welcomed me with open arms. I’m having a great time here.”

It’s easy to understand why Jeffery is enjoying himself.

For starters, Jeffery is beginning to pile up the numbers. Over the Eagles’ last three games, he has 12 receptions for 213 yards with four touchdowns.

Jeffery is heating up, and he’s getting on the same page with quarterback Carson Wentz. As for the Eagles, they like what they’ve seen all along.

“Even early on when the ball wasn't going to him as much, totally unselfish, hard-worker,” Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “These things take time — the chemistry, the opportunities — and so the confidence level grows.”

Jeffery is up to 38 catches, 567 yards and six scores — plus a league-leading three two-point conversions — on the season. With six games remaining, a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season is not entirely out of range.

Then again, statistical milestones don’t seem to be what drives Jeffery.

“As long as we get the division and that ring, I don’t care what happens,” Jeffery said. “That’s all that matters. Winning a Super Bowl, that’s all that matters.”

The Eagles are 9-1 right now, with the NFC East all but locked up and a chance to do some damage in the playoffs come January. The Bears are 3-7 and had only one winning season during Jeffery’s tenure, as a rookie, and still managed to miss out on the postseason that year.

The ball is coming Jeffery’s way, and his team is winning. Most of all, the 27-year-old says he’s having fun, and his Eagles teammates are a big reason why.

Jeffery can be a man of few words, but really opened up about why joining the Eagles has been such a great experience.

“It’s the guys in the locker room,” Jeffery said. “Everyone makes you feel like you’re part of the family, and everyone is together.

“Everything else is a bonus. Being on the football field, having fun, that’s a bonus, but what’s most important is the locker room. You have to have the right guys in the locker room. Everyone has to be able to feel like they love one another. It’s a brotherhood.”

So, no, Jeffery is not going to get caught up in the hoopla over going against his old team. He admits he still has some friends in Chicago, and some trash talk “comes with the territory,” but his focus is solely on the Eagles’ season and the task at hand.

As long as Jeffery and the Eagles continue down their current road, the future — Sunday included — should take care of itself.

Former Eagles Dawkins, Owens named Hall of Fame semifinalists

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AP Images

Former Eagles Dawkins, Owens named Hall of Fame semifinalists

Brian Dawkins and Terrell Owens are again one step closer to making it to the Hall of Fame.

Both former Eagles were named as two of 27 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 2018 class.

Their inclusion on the list Tuesday is not a surprise at all. Both were on the list of finalists last year, but did not make the 2017 class to the dismay of Eagles fans.

The 15 finalists will be announced during January and Hall of Fame voters will cast their votes for the inductees on Super Bowl Saturday.

This is Dawkins' second year of eligibility and Owens' third. Traditionally it has been difficult for safeties to make it into the Hall of Fame, which might have hurt Dawkins. Owens has likely been hurt by his abrasive personality. Both are very worthy candidates and have a shot to be inducted this year.

Joining them on the list of semifinalists are six who made it on their first years of eligibility: DB Ronde Barber, OG Steve Hutchinson, LB Ray Lewis, LB Brian Urlacher, WR Randy Moss and DL Richard Seymour.

The original list of 108 nominees was cut down to 27 semifinalists instead of 25 because of ties.

Here is the full list of semifinalists:

S Steve Atwater
CB/S Ronde Barber
OT Tony Boselli
WR Isaac Bruce
S LeRoy Butler
Coach Don Coryell
RB Roger Craig
S Brian Dawkins
G Alan Faneca
WR Torry Holt
OG Steve Hutchinson
OT Joe Jacoby
RB Edgerrin James
Coach Jimmy Johnson
CB Ty Law
LB Ray Lewis
FS John Lynch
C/G Kevin Mawae
LB Karl Mecklenburg
WR Randy Moss
DE Leslie O'Neal
WR Terrell Owens
DE Simeon Rice
DE/DT Richard Seymour
LB Brian Urlacher
CB Everson Walls
WR Hines Ward