Taken alone, they’re not significant. Taken as a group, they just may give us an idea what Howie Roseman is thinking.
Roseman isn’t doing interviews these days, but we can get a sense of what he's thinking by what he's doing.
On Sept. 30, the Eagles shipped Johnathan Cyprien to the Falcons for Duke Riley. Cyprien is 29, Riley is 25.
On Oct. 14, they released Zach Brown, which meant playing time for T.J. Edwards. Brown is 30, Edwards is 23.
On Nov. 5, they waived Andrew Sendejo and signed Marcus Epps. Sendejo is 32, Epps is 23.
This might not be a trend, but it’s definitely a pattern.
The Eagles’ roster as Roseman built it through the spring and summer was too old.
We all knew it. We all saw it.
When the season began, the Eagles’ had the third-oldest roster in the NFL, and it wasn’t surprising to anybody when three of the most prominent older Eagles — 37-year-old Jason Peters, 36-year-old Darren Sproles and 32-year-old DeSean Jackson — suffered significant injuries.
You can win in the NFL with an older roster. The Patriots are the oldest team in the league, and the Saints and Chiefs are all among the top six in age. But it's risky because older players get hurt more often and generally start declining in their early 30s. You just can never predict when.
Any decent GM is going to have his eye not just on the current roster but the future roster, and if your older players aren’t producing, they’re just wasting space and blocking young guys who may develop into contributors.
Duke Riley? Who knows. He’s a linebacker by trade but has only played 11 snaps on defense in five games, although he has averaged 19 special teams snaps.
Marcus Epps? Who knows. He just got here, but he’s awfully small for a safety, although he should contribute on special teams if he gets on the field.
Why not at least get a look at younger guys when the older guys are giving you nothing?
The most significant beneficiary of these roster moves has been Edwards, who had 12 defensive snaps the first six games of the year but has 54 in three games since Brown was released.
If you have a guy 31 or 32 who’s able to stay healthy and play at a high level, there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s actually unusual. Only two Eagles since Brian Dawkins more than a decade ago have started 16 games after their 32nd birthday — Evan Mathis and Jason Peters.
That’s why the Eagles are in dangerous territory.
Most of their key players are 29 or older, and it’s safe to assume that in the next couple years key guys like Jason Kelce, Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Nigel Bradham and Brandon Graham either won’t be here or won’t be the same players. We’ve already seen that dramatic decline in Alshon Jeffery.
If you don’t nail your draft picks — or replenish the roster with young talent in other ways — you’re in trouble.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not under any illusions that Epps, Riley or Edwards are going to change the world, although I do think Edwards has a chance to be a solid linebacker.
What’s important is that it looks like Roseman finally understands that the roster he put together was too old, that guys like Cyprien, Brown and Sendejo were mistakes, and that if the Eagles are going to be a winning franchise for the next five years they must continue the pattern of getting younger that he's started these last few weeks.
The Eagles are now the 10th-oldest team in the league, which still puts them in the top third, but it’s really what these moves represent.
Roseman didn't have a terrific offseason. Counting so heavily on Peters, Jackson and Sproles was a mistake. Bringing in guys like Sendejo, Brown and Cyprien was a mistake. Guaranteeing Jeffery’s contract was a mistake.
This wasn’t quite Dream Team-level reliance on older veterans, but it was close. And it’s just not a sound way to build a roster.
There are a few encouraging signs. Miles Sanders is getting better every week, and his backfield mate Jordan Howard is very good (although unsigned past this year). Andre Dillard has looked terrific. Derek Barnett has shown flashes. Dallas Goedert is solid.
It’s a long way from watching Duke Riley and Marcus Epps run around on kick return coverage to developing a stable of young Pro Bowl talent.
The Eagles still don’t have any young superstars, but at least they seem to have a general manager that recognizes how badly this team needs them.
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