Howie Roseman explains why Eagles have added so many older players

Howie Roseman explains why Eagles have added so many older players

PHOENIX — The Eagles aren’t starting a new over-30 league. They’re not building an NFL retirement community. 

They’re trying to win a Super Bowl in 2019 and they think signing some aging but still productive players is the way to do it. This offseason, the Eagles have added or extended several players who are over (or nearing) the age of 30. 

Typically, NFL teams try to find ways to get younger. 

So this seems to be a concerning trend. My colleague Reuben Frank even wrote about it

But at the annual league meetings in Arizona on Monday afternoon, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman offered up a perfectly reasonable explanation: 

I think the big thing is you look at the league and a lot of the free agents who are 26 and 27, they’re getting re-signed early, those better players. Teams are doing a better job of keeping their own players. So where you used to have value at that point, there is now value in older guys. 

You look at the Super Bowl, you look at the Rams, they added four or five guys in the pro player market, their left tackle, their center, their starting corners, their nose tackle, who are all over 30. 

There is also value in having good players. Players are playing longer, the science is better in keeping those guys healthier. And so you have opportunity to get these guys. And again, we would rather have really good players instead of signing lower-level starters or guys who are rotational players or backups that maybe are two years younger.

That’s an interesting answer and does kind of signal a philosophy shift from just a few years ago, when the Eagles signed several free agents in their mid-20s. But as Roseman said later, the market also dictates what they do. If players like Brandon Brooks, Rodney McLeod and Nigel Bradham aren’t out there like they were a few years ago, it makes some sense to pivot. 

Here’s a look at some of the players the Eagles have either brought in or kept (and their ages) this offseason: 

Jason Peters - 37
DeSean Jackson - 32 
Andrew Sendejo - 31
Jason Kelce - 31 
Brandon Graham - 30
Malik Jackson - 29 
L.J. Fort - 29 

Now, the Eagles did re-sign Ronald Darby (25) and extended Isaac Seumalo (25), but they didn’t bring in any free agents or trade for any players in their mid-20s. Earlier this offseason, Roseman talked about the importance of second-tier free agents, guys with one contract gone. Roseman said teams in recent years have become much more aggressive in re-signing their own players. 

The market determines what the Eagles do, Roseman said. They deemed their best bet was to give out contracts to some older players they think still have tread on their tires. 

When you look at the players we’ve signed, [Graham] is incredibly durable. Malik Jackson is incredibly durable. We try to sign guys that are older but also have the ability to withstand the age and what’s going on with the league. We don’t have any concerns that we’re getting guys that are anything other than difference-makers. That’s our job: to add difference-makers. It’s on us to find guys who can back up, who can be rotational players in the draft and maybe not spend money on those spots when you have difference-makers on your team.

Roseman is certainly right about those two. Graham has played 111 of 112 games since 2012. And Jackson has played in all 16 games in six of his seven years; he played 14 games as a rookie in 2012. 

It’s pretty clear the Eagles’ plan to get younger is to do it through the draft. They have been stockpiling draft picks and have gone to great lengths this offseason to ensure they’ll be given compensatory picks in the 2020 draft. Now, there’s even more pressure on Roseman and Joe Douglas to nail their draft classes over the next couple of years as the Eagles balance staying competitive and eventually paying Carson Wentz a huge contract.  

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Andre Dillard will likely start at right tackle if Lane Johnson can't face Seahawks

Andre Dillard will likely start at right tackle if Lane Johnson can't face Seahawks

It sounds like Andre Dillard will start at right tackle against the Seahawks Sunday if Lane Johnson is unable to play, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson indicated Monday.

Johnson suffered a concussion during the second quarter of the Eagles’ loss to the Patriots Sunday at the Linc and is now in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai, the Eagles’ starting left tackle during the 2017 Super Bowl run, finished the game at right tackle, but Pederson said it will be Dillard and not Big V getting first-team reps this week.

The Eagles scored 10 points and averaged 49 yards of offense on three drives with Johnson on the field. They didn't score a point and averaged 17 yards per drive after Vaitai entered the game.

Dillard, the rookie first-round pick from Washington State, played very well in his first three career starts — against the Cowboys, Bills and Bears — in place of Peters, who was dealing with a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery.

Peters returned Sunday for the Patriots, but when Johnson got hurt, the Eagles turned to Vaitai because Dillard hasn’t gotten any practice time on the right side and Vaitai has run scout team at right tackle. 

But Pederson said that will change the week.

“Going into the game, obviously J.P.’s status during the week, (Dillard) was still working at left tackle,” Pederson said. “But moving forward — again, depending on Lane’s status at the end of the week — the plan would be to work Dillard a little bit at right tackle.”

Asked what “a little bit” means, he said Dillard would get first-team reps. 

The risk is that Peters has been forced by injuries to leave numerous games early. He’s missed significant snaps in eight games over the last two years in addition to the three entire games he missed.  

Peters has played every snap in only 16 of the Eagles' last 38 games dating back to his season-ending knee injury against the Redskins in October of 2017.

If the Eagles start Peters at left tackle and Dillard at right tackle and Peters gets hurt again, now you have to either change two positions — Dillard moving to left tackle and Vaitai back in at right — or play Vaitai at his old left tackle position, which isn’t ideal.

Johnson has missed only two games with injuries in his seven-year career, although he did miss four in 2014 and 10 in 2016 because of positive tests.

He missed a game with a concussion against the Panthers in 2017 and a game the first Cowboys game last year with a knee injury.

Dillard, 24, was the 22nd pick in this year's draft.

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What did Eagles' defense think about that weak offensive showing?

What did Eagles' defense think about that weak offensive showing?

To a man, every Eagles defender who spoke to the media following Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Patriots agreed it was a total team loss, that the defense didn’t play well enough to win. 

And there’s some truth to that. 

True, the Eagles managed to gain just 255 yards of total offense and failed to get on the scoreboard over the game’s final 42 minutes. Their final 10 possessions ended in either a punt, turnover, downs or with time expiring. Most observers would lay the blame for the loss right there. 

But if members of the defense were at all frustrated by the lack of production on the other side of the ball, it didn’t show in the aftermath. 

“We’ve got these guys’ backs 100 percent, man,” Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “We’re not pointing fingers. That’s not what this locker room is about. We win together, we lose together. Nobody is pointing fingers at anybody.” 

Several players — particularly those in the secondary — took Cox’s sentiment a step further. 

“I thought we played well and definitely battled, but there were some drives that we needed to win the game and we didn’t make the plays,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We had a solid game but just didn’t make enough plays.” 

The Eagles limited the Patriots' offense to 298 yards, forced a trio of field goals — including two on short fields — and eight punts. Tom Brady completed only 55.3 percent of his passes for a paltry 4.6 yards per attempt and failed to throw a touchdown. 

Could anybody reasonably expect the defense to play any better than that against the greatest quarterback and dynasty in NFL history?

There was, of course, the trick play the Patriots used to score their one and only touchdown. Eagles defensive backs also got their hands on a number of Brady passes — five total, two or three of which looked like they could’ve gone for interceptions. 

Even one pick could’ve changed the outcome of the game. 

“The missed opportunities really probably affected the game the most,” said Eagles safety Rodney McLeod. “If we come up with one or two, it’s the difference in the game.” 

Though the Eagles struggled offensively, it was against a Patriots defense that ranks No. 1 in yards, scoring and takeaways. 

The Eagles were also without Jordan Howard and Alshon Jeffery and lost Lane Johnson to an injury early in the game. When the ball wasn’t going to Miles Sanders or Zach Ertz, Carson Wentz was handing off to Boston Scott or targeting Jordan Matthews, who was on the street a week ago. 

Given the circumstances, it’s not totally unreasonable to place a larger burden on the defense. 

“We knew it was going to be a defensive battle coming into it,” Jenkins said. “You can’t get frustrated in those situations. Our defense was playing just as well as theirs. We just have to stay patient and look for plays we can take advantage of.” 

Nobody can say the defense played poorly, but they didn’t take advantage of opportunities, either. That’s what the Eagles needed to knock off the Patriots on Sunday. 

“As a competitor, you always think you could be better,” Cox said. “As a group, as an individual, and as a team. There’s no excuses. We played a really good football team and came up short and now have to move on to next week."

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