Howie Roseman said he built the Eagles' roster with an eye not just on today, but also on tomorrow. The 53 best players not just for the short term, but for the long term.
And that means keeping guys like Marcus Johnson, Donnel Pumphrey and Elijah Qualls, who might not play this year but could one day be impact players.
“We’re not trying to sacrifice the roster as it goes into Washington (for opening day)," Roseman said Saturday. "We’re trying to compete and win as many games as we possibly can.
"But we also don’t want to be short-sighted about losing guys that we think down the (line) could become starters. Guys who look like they have traits to become a starter and have a high ceiling, we’re going to try to invest in those guys and be more patient with them."
This is a departure for the Eagles and Roseman, who in past years has simply kept the players he feels are most ready to play now.
That has meant cutting ties with promising young players like Eric Rowe, Jordan Poyer, Alejandro Villanueva and even Jaylen Watkins, who's back now but was released before his second season.
“I think that when I was (general manager) in ’13 and ’14 and we’re winning 10 games, you’re sitting there and you’re going, 'Hey, let’s try to win a playoff game, let’s try to get over the hump," Roseman said.
"And now we’ve got a 24-year-old quarterback, and that doesn’t mean we don’t want to win right now, because we do. But we also want to build this the right way. Some of that means doing some things (to trust) in our development system."
Johnson, a second-year pro who earned his way onto the 53-man roster but as the sixth receiver, probably won't even be active this year unless there are injuries.
But considering that Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith could both be gone next year, keeping Johnson under contract is significant.
"I think Marcus Johnson is a huge plus for us," Roseman said. "You look at a guy like that — who came back after a year and took a big step and looks like (he has) traits to be a starter — and what our coaches and conditioning staff and trainers did with a guy like that and you say, ‘Hey, you worked with these guys, what’s their ceiling? What can it be?’
"And we’re trying to be more developmental, certainly on the guys who aren’t on the 46 than we have been maybe in the past."
Roseman emphasized that the 46 guys who will dress on game day need to be the 46 best players the Eagles can get their hands on.
But there are 17 other spots available that the Eagles control — the seven guys who don't dress out on game day and 10 players on the practice squad.
That's the part of the roster Roseman kept in mind when the Eagles made final cuts Saturday.
"I think it's important for us when we make these decisions, we're talking about the 46, the 53 and then the 63," he said. "We want to make sure our coaches have the best 46 guys that they need to go into Washington. And then from there, there are also guys that we want to develop, that we want to sit there a year from now and hope that they have taken another step."
Pumphrey, who made the team despite struggling throughout the preseason, also fits into that category, as does wide receiver Shelton Gibson, who made the team despite having trouble catching the ball during most of camp.
"We knew that if Shelton went back to school and didn't come out early, he's probably drafted higher and that we were going to have to spend time to develop him and his skill set," Roseman said.
"And he does have a (unique) trait. He had more 50-yard receptions than anyone in college football last year. He can take the top off.
"Consistency for a rookie is, obviously, something that sometimes takes some time. But he works really hard. He has the traits we're looking for to develop into a player."
Nothing worse than seeing a guy who started out with the Eagles but never really got a chance enjoying success with another team.
The site of Rowe celebrating a Super Bowl championship with the Patriots a few months after the Eagles gave up on him — and continued to struggle at cornerback — certainly resonated with a lot of Eagles fans.
"We don't want to lose a guy that, a year from now or two years from now we think has starter traits," Roseman said. "We feel good about having a plan to develop these guys.
"When we make the decision to pick them, we have conversations like, ‘Hey, this guy may not be ready Day 1, this guy may need some time, here are the things he may need to work on.’
"We try to balance that. But we are also going to make a concerted effort to try to develop them and spend the time not just reading off cards on scout team, but really spending time with them and developing the person and the player and try to help them on some of the deficiencies that maybe they have."