Common theme in Eagles' offseason has been culture-building

Common theme in Eagles' offseason has been culture-building

There’s been a common theme to this Eagles’ offseason: Culture. 

Not long ago, Howie Roseman agreed with my assessment that the Eagles can’t just try to recreate the Super Bowl team, that they have to remain innovative (see story). He did, however, say they can take lessons from the 2017 season. One of the big ones is about chemistry. 

He said this at the combine: 

Character and chemistry of the football team was unbelievable. And sometimes, that’s a big reason for your success.

Roseman also talked about the organization’s desire to sign its own players with top-of-the-market deals and supplement that with free agency. Now, that’s a lot easier to do when you have talent on your roster, but that’s the situation the Eagles are in. And they know rewarding their own is a great way to improve team chemistry. (Same goes for the coaching staff.)

If you take a closer look at just about every move the Eagles have made this offseason, team chemistry plays a role. 

First, the Eagles re-signed Brandon Graham to a three-year extension and didn’t let him hit the open market. Then they extended Jason Kelce and Isaac Seumalo a year earlier than they needed to. Then they figured out a way to keep Jason Peters for the 2019 season. They held on to Nelson Agholor despite a huge cap hit. They slapped a second-round tender on Nate Sudfeld, ensuring he’ll be back. And on Friday, they signed Ronald Darby to a one-year deal despite a defensive back’s room that is full of younger and cheaper talent. 

You can argue the merit of all those moves, but it seems pretty obvious that the Eagles like what they have going in the locker room and are trying to do what they can (within reason) to keep that chemistry. 

Look at that list of players. They’re all really well-liked in the locker room. Peters, Graham and Kelce are the three-longest tenured players on the team and are all leaders. There was also a possibility not that long ago that all three weren’t going to return in 2019. 

The Eagles rewarded younger players like Seumalo and Sudfeld for their efforts. Seumalo’s contract is very team-friendly, but he was probably happy to get a chunk of change in his pocket early and Sudfeld will also get a nice pay raise.

Agholor is making $9.4 million this year, which is very expensive. But the Eagles wanted to keep their own guys.  

And then there’s Darby. Despite having Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc, they are still bringing him back for one more season as he recovers from a torn ACL. This move can be questioned — and rightfully so — but Darby’s a well-liked guy too. And his teammates will be happy to have him back. 

That brings us to the guys who won’t be back. Nick Foles almost doesn’t even count. We all knew he wasn’t coming back. Jordan Hicks got a bigger contract than the Eagles could justify. And they have so much money tied up into their receivers that it was always unlikely Jordan Matthews or Golden Tate would return. Tim Jernigan’s departure was also a financial decision. 

After that, the Eagles traded Michael Bennett and didn’t pick up Stefen Wisniewski’s option year. Both those moves are slightly odd from a football perspective. Bennett was the team’s top DE in 2018 and Wisniewski’s $3.7 million salary wouldn’t have been too hard to swallow for a top interior backup, one who might have needed to start if Brandon Brooks isn’t ready to go. 

Sure, financials played a role. But what did Bennett and Wiz have in common? They were both vocal in their desire to be starters and with their unhappiness being reserves. I’m not saying either of them had been a problem in the locker room. In fact, their teammates seemed to like them. But unhappiness with role or salary doesn’t bode well for chemistry. 

Then there are the two major players the Eagles have brought in: the Jacksons … Malik and DeSean. 

Malik Jackson is a pro who, even though he was upset, didn’t cause any locker room problems last year in Jacksonville after he was benched. He’s also a former Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee. He’s going to fit in fine in Philly. 

And DeSean might still be DeSean, but he has matured a lot in the five years since Chip Kelly cut him. If he hadn’t, the Eagles wouldn’t have brought him back. Sure, the Eagles will have to keep an eye on him, but if they really thought he was a threat to their locker room chemistry, they wouldn’t have made the deal. 

It seems like they’re not going to make any deal that truly threatens the chemistry of the team. That’s part of the Super Bowl team they think they can recreate. 

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Dan Snyder is reportedly taking over Washington's draft

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Dan Snyder is reportedly taking over Washington's draft

For months, we’ve been so focused on the Eagles’ plan going into the draft without even thinking about another huge factor that should help them: 

The rest of the division might be an inept mess at the front office level.  

Let’s check in on Washington: 

Oh, really?

So the Eagles have a power structure with a supportive owner in Jeffrey Lurie who has delegated power to a front office with Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas. Both seem to get along great with each other and with head coach Doug Pederson, creating a sound and cohesive environment. 

Meanwhile, the Eagles share a division with two overbearing and meddlesome owners in Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones, not to mention a general manager in New York’s Dave Gentleman, who doesn’t seem to know what the hell he’s doing. 

At least you have to give the Cowboys a little credit. Jones is meddlesome, but they’ve had plenty of good draft picks over the last few years. 

But the Giants have picks No. 6 and 17, while the Skins have No. 15 and might move on up into the top five. Neither of those fanbases should have a high level of confidence those front offices will nail those picks. 

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Eagles' Nelson Agholor reportedly viewed as trade option around NFL

Eagles' Nelson Agholor reportedly viewed as trade option around NFL

Nelson Agholor survived speculation he could be released by the Eagles in March, but that doesn’t mean the club won’t part with the wide receiver in a draft-day trade.

At least, that’s what NFL teams believe might happen. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, front offices around the league view Agholor as a player who could be “available” and wind up on the trade block — if the Eagles take a receiver in the draft.

Rapoport cites Agholor’s guaranteed salary of $9.4 million in 2019 as reason why the Eagles would consider a move.

The possibility for a trade makes sense from several vantage points, including money. The Eagles have quite a bit invested in the position already between Alshon Jeffery, with his $14.7 million cap hit for 2019, and DeSean Jackson, due $12 million over the next two seasons. Agholor is also in the final year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020.

Acquiring another receiver in the draft, presumably early, creates a logjam for playing time as well, with 2017 draft picks Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson among the prospects still in the mix. Braxton Miller has also earned praise from the organization, while the Eagles recently signed AAF standout Charles Johnson as well.

It’s easy to connect the dots and see how the Eagles could be motivated to deal Agholor, which would create cap space and a roster spot, all while netting an asset before he reaches free agency.

Such a trade would not be without some downside, however.

Agholor only turns 26 in May and is coming off back-to-back 60-reception/700-yard receiving seasons with 12 total touchdowns. He’s a versatile weapon who can work the short and intermediate areas of the field and run with the ball in his hands, but is a threat to take the top off the defense, too.

Perhaps greater than Agholor’s on-field ability — the full potential of which he perhaps hasn’t reached — is his work ethic and presence in the locker room. A former first-round choice himself, this is somebody who has worked to shake the dreaded draft “bust” label, and in the process earned the utmost respect of the Eagles’ coaching staff and front office.

In February, Eagles coach Doug Pederson gushed about Agholor’s attitude while discussing how a mid-season trade for fellow wideout Golden Tate impacted his production.

“Nelson, oh man. Love this guy,” Pederson said. “He’s the first one in and the last one out. He’s a hard worker. Spends time before and after practice. Can’t say enough good things about Nelson Agholor and what he’s brought to the table and what he will continue to bring. I think last year, you look at the amount of guys we had, and then we added Golden (Tate) midseason.

“I’m not going to stand up here and say it didn’t affect Nelson. I think it did. The question was asked earlier about getting everybody the ball. In this league, it’s a challenge … And yet Nelson didn’t complain. He came to work every single day. He put in the time, he put in the work. He was a huge part of what we did … I’m excited, I love working with him.”

If the Eagles ultimately decide to move on from Agholor, it doesn’t sound like a decision that will be made lightly.

It’s impossible to say what the Eagles should do without knowing the return or how the draft will unfold. Agholor is even more valuable than his numbers suggest, though, so one would expect he’d fetch a nice price.

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