The offseason began with a malcontent franchise quarterback, a clumsy head coach firing, a disgruntled Pro Bowl tight end and some pretty severe salary cap issues.
It was not a good place for a franchise to be. Coming off a four-win season with question marks surrounding every facet of the operation and a cap crunch that threatened to make it very difficult to right the ship.
Now here we are a few days out from the start of training camp and with Sunday’s signing of veteran cornerback Steven Nelson putting an exclamation point on the offseason, you have to feel good about what Howie Roseman and the front office have done over the past few months.
Are the Eagles a contender? Who knows. In this division, anything is possible. And we still don’t know what we have in Jalen Hurts or Nick Sirianni.
But considering where the Eagles were back in the winter? It’s hard to complain.
Once the Eagles decided they had no choice but to move on from Wentz, the first challenge was finding a taker, and getting a likely 1st-round pick for a 28-year-old quarterback who has 3 career postseason passing yards, is 17-21-1 over the last three years and was the NFL’s worst QB last year was huge.
The series of restructures that Roseman orchestrated created desperately needed cap space. He used some cap wizardry to make it easier for the Eagles to cut ties with overpaid Alshon Jeffery and Malik Jackson and then he convinced Brandon Graham, Brandon Brooks, Javon Hargrave, Darius Slay, Jason Kelce and others to re-do their contracts.
That created the cap space for the Eagles to add some key veterans such as linebacker Eric Wilson, edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan, running back Kerryon Johnson, safety Anthony Harris and now Nelson.
None of these guys are Pro Bowlers, although Kerrigan was four times between 2012 and 2018. But they’ve all been productive pros, they’re all better than what the Eagles had before free agency began, they all come with reasonable, cap-friendly contracts and they all help fill important needs.
Now, most of the Eagles’ cap problems were the result of bloated contracts for under-achieving veterans, like Jeffery, Malik Jackson and DeSean Jackson, and because of those moves and Wentz’s dead money, the Eagles couldn’t go after premium free agents this offseason. But Roseman did do a good job of undoing as much of the damage as possible.
The draft remains a great unknown, and Landon Dickerson’s injury history scares me. But taking DeVonta Smith at No. 10 potentially gives the Eagles the elite game-breaking wide receiver they haven’t had since Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were in their prime. And that was eight years ago for D-Jack and seven years ago for Maclin.
This was also a successful offseason in terms of who the Eagles brought back.
Getting Jason Kelce to return for an 11th season in Philly was huge. Having a Hall of Fame-caliber player who considers retirement every offseason and was close to Doug Pederson come back is instant credibility for Sirianni. Plus, he’s still one of the NFL’s best centers.
Convincing Jeff Stoutland to come back for a 9th season was huge. Remember, Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson never made a Pro Bowl before Stout was their coach. They’ve made 10 playing for Stout. (Johnson hasn’t played for another coach.)
And if the combined efforts of Sirianni, Jason Michael and Roseman really have convinced Zach Ertz to willingly come back for a 9th season, that’s huge too. I know Ertz had a bad year last year, but everybody had a bad year last year. He can still play. And what could be better for a young quarterback than a veteran tight end who’s one year removed from an 88-catch Pro Bowl season, catches everything and knows how to move the sticks?
Make no mistake about it, there are still some enormous questions facing the Eagles.
We’ve heard good things early on from his players, but we don’t know what kind of motivator or play caller Sirianni will be. We saw flashes from Hurts, but we don’t know what kind of quarterback he’ll be. This team’s best players – Kelce, Graham, Brooks, Ertz, Darius Slay, Johnson, Fletcher Cox, Rodney McLeod – are all in their 30s, which is a little scary. A bunch of key players are coming off serious injuries and who knows how that will go. Jonathan Gannon has never been a defensive coordinator, so he has a lot to prove.
But considering where the Eagles were back in February, it’s hard to imagine the last few months going any better.
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