INDIANAPOLIS -- It was a joyous day in late July of 2011 and Howie Roseman -- then a second-year general manager -- made a beeline toward the training camp sideline at Lehigh University. He wanted to personally deliver the good news.
The Eagles landed Nnamdi Asomugha!
In what quickly became a longstanding example of buyer's remorse, the Eagles at least won that day in the later-than-normal free-agent period thanks to the lockout. They signed the biggest free agent on the market to fill their most glaring deficiency.
These days, the Eagles and Roseman have a different approach to free agency.
"It's nice to win press conferences in March," Roseman said Wednesday, just off the podium from his press conference in the Indiana Convention Center at the NFL combine, "but for us, we're trying to build something."
Unless they make more moves to free up space (very possible), the Eagles will have around $12.5 million of room to work with when free agency opens on March 9. On Wednesday afternoon, Roseman said $12.5M still gives them enough flexibility to be players in free agency.
It's just that being a player in free agency means something different to the Eagles now than it did a few years ago. A lot of that has to do with the situation the team is in. And it requires some honesty.
The Eagles have a good building block in Carson Wentz, but they're not one big free-agent acquisition away from being a contender.
"I think it goes to, 'What is our ultimate goal and how do we get there?'" Roseman said. "And some of that is you have to take some short-term pains. And hopefully, when you do that, you get the long-term gains. And again, we keep going back to this, but it's the way we think.
"When you have a quarterback who's 24 years old and you have a defensive tackle who's 26, you want to do something so that two, three, four years from now, when maybe you have that opportunity to add the missing piece or one piece, you have that flexibility. When you want to re-sign some of these guys coming through these next couple of drafts, you have that flexibility. Whereas now, does it makes sense?
"Are we in a position where if we sign this one guy, does it put us over the top? And we have to be honest about that."
Wednesday's talk at the combine seemed to fit into the same idea Roseman talked about in his end-of-the-season press conference, when he said the Eagles' goal is to be a team that wins 13 games and not just 10. He said the Eagles desperately want to get to a point where they're not just in the playoffs but a favorite, playing at home. That only happens with a long-term plan in place.
Roseman gave a history lesson on Wednesday. He remembered 2010, when the Eagles were planning on turning the keys over to Kevin Kolb until he got hurt and Mike Vick took over and they were "maybe a shoestring tackle away from maybe beating the Super Bowl champions (the Packers)." So of course they went big in free agency: the Dream Team.
In 2011 and 2012, the Eagles had a 30-plus-year-old quarterback in Vick under center, so time wasn't standing still. Then in 2013, they won 10 games and decided to push things, according to Roseman, who then said they haven't been in this position, with a young franchise quarterback in place, since Donovan McNabb was around.
Last offseason, the Eagles signed guys like Brandon Brooks and Rodney McLeod, who weren't the biggest fish in the free-agent pond, but were young enough to continue to grow with the Eagles. Ideally, those are the kind of signings the Eagles want.
"I think you have to adjust your thinking a little bit to what you have and what you need," Roseman said. "Certainly, we're not sitting here saying we're one player away and if we sign this one guy, it's going to put us in a position to get over the top. So we're going to try to build it piece by piece and be aware of the risks involved. That doesn't mean we're not going to take some risks or do something to get through the moment at certain positions. But that's our plan."