Eagles

Eagles confident another parade is coming soon

Eagles confident another parade is coming soon

Thursday was a pretty incredible day in Philadelphia history. Eagles players, coaches and front office executives met with a few million of their closest friends for a parade down Broad Street. 

A parade many had been waiting on for their entire lives. They all hope they won't have to wait as long for the next one. 

After festivities from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art began, owner Jeff Lurie got on stage and talked to the crowd of millions. He left them with one thought on what seemed like a perfect day. 

"And I have one final message for you," Lurie said. "We are just beginning."

Lurie's message was echoed throughout the ceremony on Thursday afternoon. The Eagles just won their first Super Bowl in franchise history, but they don't expect it to be their last. With a coaching staff and front office set up and with most of their 22 starters returning under contract, they hope this is just the beginning. 

The Eagles hope they didn't just end the Patriots' dynasty. They hope they started their own. 

"We brought you guys a world championship and just like Mr. Lurie said, we are not done yet," head coach Doug Pederson said. "We have more to go, more to prove. This is our new norm. This is our new norm, to be playing football in February."

Howie Roseman, the man responsible for putting the Super Bowl team together, didn't take a long time at the podium. His speech was short and sweet, but had the same sentiment. 

Come March, he'll be trying to sign free agents and the draft won't be far behind. He lives for the offseason and his greatest challenge will be to recreate another world championship team. It won't be easy. 

"This is the best city in the world, with the best fans in the world," Roseman said. "And now we have the word championship. Get used to it! Let's go!"

On the surface, it would seem crazy to at least not think the Eagles won't have a chance to repeat next year. In addition to bringing back most of their starters, they'll also bring back several injured players like Carson Wentz, Jordan Hicks, Jason Peters, Chris Maragos and possibly Darren Sproles. 

Of course, Wentz is the big one. Foles played great in the Super Bowl, earning the MVP award, but Wentz was the league MVP before going down in December. If he's able to return to form, the Eagles will have a chance to become a dynasty. He even has two more years left on his cheaper rookie contract, before the Eagles will have to pay him a crazy amount of money. 

"From the moment I got here, I knew this was a special place," Wentz said. "Special locker room, a special organization, special coaching and some seriously special fans. I knew it wouldn't take long until we were standing up here. And here we are today as world champions. Last thing I gotta say is I hope y'all can get used to this." 

The Eagles hope they've not just broken through; they hope they've changed the culture. They now expect to be fighting to earn a parade down Broad Street every winter. 

Poor Zach Ertz had to follow Jason Kelce's epic speech on Thursday. Not an easy task. But if you didn't hear what Ertz said, he more than held his own. 

"We're world champions," Ertz said, "and I promise this ain't the last time we're going to be partying on Broad Street."

It'll be a tough promise to keep. But doubting the Eagles just doesn't seem wise anymore. 

Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

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Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

One thing Andy Reid was spot on about during his long tenure with the Eagles was the importance of building around both lines. 

Big Red always made the offensive and defensive lines a priority, and during the Eagles’ stretch of deep playoff runs — from 2000 through 2009 — the O-line was anchored by guys like Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, Jermane Mayberry and Todd Herremans and the D-line by Corey Simon, Trent Cole, Mike Patterson and Hugh Douglas.

During that 10-year stretch, the Eagles had the most wins in the NFC and the third-most wins in the NFL, and the one constant during that stretch was solid line play. 

Donovan McNabb was very good when healthy most of those seasons, and the Eagles always had good running backs and corners, but the heart of those teams was up front.

Just look at how Big Red drafted. Eight of his 11 first-round picks were linemen. All six of his picks in the first half of the first round were linemen. 

They obviously didn’t all work out, but Reid was committed to both lines, and Howie Roseman, then a young, rising personnel executive, was paying attention.

The Eagles have done a lot of things differently in the five years since Reid's final season here, but one thing Doug Pederson and Roseman believe in is building around the lines, and it sure paid off last year.

According to figures on salary cap website Spotrac, the Eagles in 2017 were the only team ranked among the top five in the NFL in both offensive line and defensive line spending.

And the only team that had a parade in February.

And they’re only going to spend more this year.

The Eagles will spend 22.36 percent of their 2018 cap money on the offensive line, fourth most in the league, and 28.84 percent to the defensive line, fifth most.

That’s more than half their 2018 payroll on the big guys up front.

The Jets — sixth in O-line spending, 10th in D-line — are the only other team in the top 10 in both.

Seven of the Eagles’ 10 highest-paid players last year were linemen, as are eight of their 13 projected highest-paid players in 2018.

And five of those guys — Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Vinny Curry and Jason Peters — are actually holdovers from the Reid era.

Think of them as Reid’s parting gifts to the 2017 championship team.

Creating a Super Bowl roster was a complicated process for Roseman, and to be able to make this sort of financial commitment to the two lines means you just don’t have much money left for everything else. 

The only way to make that work is to build with cheap labor elsewhere. 

And that means younger players on bargain-basement rookie contracts, cheap but productive quarterbacks and low-round picks and undrafted players with cheapo contracts excelling.

It means drafting well and making exceptional free-agent decisions without overspending.

It’s a crazy juggling act, and Roseman juggled all those things magnificentely last year.

In fact, according to Spotrac’s data, the two lines are the Eagles' only positional groups ranked even among the top 15 in the NFL.

The secondary and QB positions rank 16th in cap allocations, tight end 18th, running back 21st, wide receiver 27th, linebacker 31st and special teams 32nd.

These numbers are all based on the 53 highest-paid players currently under contract, so they will change slightly once the final roster is set, but they won’t change much.

The Eagles were very good in a lot of areas last year — really, in every area — but their offensive line was the best in football and the best in Eagles history, and the defensive line was easily one of the two- or three-best in football.

Everything the Eagles did, everything they accomplished, started up front.

Put Peters back on the O-line and add Haloti Ngata and Michael Bennett to the D-line with an increased role for Derek Barnett, and both lines could conceivably be even better this year.

It’s going to get harder for Roseman to keep paying the Eagles’ linemen the way he has. Once Carson Wentz signs his next contract, the Eagles’ entire salary cap balance will change. 

Those $25 million annual cap hits for one guy have a tendency to make roster decisions way more challenging.

So it will be tricky for the Eagles to re-sign Graham. He wants a fortune, and he deserves a fortune. 

But even if Roseman can’t get that done, Barnett has three more years on his rookie deal, and that’s the key to making this whole thing work. 

You can’t re-sign everybody, so if you want to remain elite, you have to draft well so you can replace the people you invariably lose.

You lose Patrick Robinson, you have Sidney Jones waiting. You lose LeGarrette Blount, there’s Corey Clement ready to go. You lose Mychal Kendricks, you hope a Nate Gerry can contribute. Trey Burton leaves, and Dallas Goedert is cheaper and better.

You get what you pay for. And the Eagles right now are paying for the best in the business.

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Even after winning Super Bowl, Doug Pederson is still himself

Even after winning Super Bowl, Doug Pederson is still himself

On Feb. 24, Moorestown, New Jersey, held “Doug Pederson Day” to honor the Super Bowl-winning head coach, one of the town’s most famous residents. 

It’s estimated that a couple thousand people showed up on the lawn of the Moorestown Community House to celebrate Pederson’s big win in Super Bowl LII. For a guy who was once loathed as a player and doubted as a coaching hire, to become this revered is pretty incredible. 

It’s also the type of attention that would change a lot of men. It’s the type of attention that would swell the heads of most. 

Not Pederson. 

"Hopefully, one of the things you guys have seen and noticed from me is that I'm going to be the same,” Pederson said to a group of reporters earlier this offseason. “I don't want [success] to ever change me. I don't want it to define me.”

This, more than anything, is Doug Pederson. He’s genuine, he’s real, he’s dependable, he’s the same guy today that he’ll be tomorrow. Sure, he’s aggressive as a play-caller and he’s shown himself to be a brilliant offensive mind, but that’s not why his players love him. 

This is why his players love him. 

And, boy, do they love him. 

Pederson might aim to stay the same, but the world around him has certainly changed. There’s no arguing that. He went from an afterthought in the NFL to becoming one of the most revered coaches in the league. He went from being ignored to being copied and it happened in a pretty short timespan. 

I remember running into Pederson at the owners meetings in late March the night before an hour-long sit-down breakfast with reporters. Pederson was gracious enough to chat with me for a while, even while knowing he’d be stuck with me for 60 minutes the next day. The one thing that struck me that night was that Pederson was the big man on campus. While me and Pederson and another reporter chatted for about 10-15 minutes, I couldn’t help but notice how many other coaches and front office men came to congratulate him. I could tell Pederson was proud, but he wasn’t boastful. That’s not his way. 

Recently, Pederson said he feels respect from the NFL coaching fraternity and he appreciates it. 

But ask him about being considered one of the best coaches in the NFL and Pederson gets a little uncomfortable. 

“I don’t think about it. I try not to,” Pederson said just before these past spring practices wrapped up. “I don’t want to get there. That is probably not my personality. I try to just stay in this moment, today. I think that is for sports writers to talk about and put me in that spotlight. And that is fine. That is great. But again, when it is all said and done, I think for me it is about focusing on today and the team, and these next three practices and training camp. 

“Now if I’m sitting at home and there is nothing else to do? You kind of sit back, my wife and I might have a conversation like, ‘Man, this is kind of cool.’ It is cool to be mentioned that way. For a guy that, you know, didn’t have probably a lot of support coming into this job initially. To be on the other end of that spectrum is cool. But I know what it took for me to get here. And I have to continue that for myself.”

I always come back to that emotional intelligence Jeff Lurie mentioned after he fired Chip Kelly. We laughed at Lurie then, but it turns out he was right. That’s an incredibly important part of who Pederson is as a person. 

And it’s extremely good news for the Eagles that it doesn’t seem like Pederson is going to change. 

Pederson said he doesn’t want his success to define him. That’s a tough ask, because his win-loss record and that Super Bowl ring are what most fans will always remember him by. But if Pederson had his way, how would he be remembered? 

What does he think defines him? 

“I think the things that can define me is that I’m going to be honest, I’m going to be transparent, I’m going to be as open as I can,” Pederson said. “I’m sort of a father figure to a lot of these players. Kind of what you see is what you get. There’s no fluff anywhere. I don’t try to come across that way, and I basically just want to do my job. That’s what I was hired to do and that’s what I want to do is coach football. I’m obviously a spiritual man and hopefully that comes out sometimes. 

“It comes out with the players, too, and I think the team can reflect the coach’s personality and my personality and hopefully that’s been evident the last couple years. And I think those are some things that define who I am and what I’ve done.”

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