It’s a high-wire balancing act for Howie Roseman or any GM.
Try to win now at all costs and risk being stuck with an aging, over-priced roster or slowly build for the future and try to enjoy sustained success.
“That’s the biggest challenge that we have and that I personally have,” Roseman said. “Balancing what we’re doing today with where we’re going to be two or three years from now.”
The 2017 Eagles team that won the Super Bowl was an older team, a typical win-now type of team, built around a lot of free agents who are no longer even in the league.
That team had 21 players 28 or older, and only three of them – Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks – are still here. Eleven of the 21 are no longer in the NFL. Three others are unsigned.
But there was a parade. So it was worth it.
But it leads to difficult decisions, like when to cut ties with popular all-time greats like Jason Peters and Malcolm Jenkins.
Roseman this offseason is trying to pivot the Eagles from the win-now mentality that produced a Super Bowl champion for the first time in franchise history to a team built around younger players that can win over a period of years and be in the mix for a deep playoff run any year.
The Eagles the last two years were still good enough to make the playoffs, but they weren’t championship contenders.
The idea is to try and draft or sign as many players in their prime or just entering their prime at once so you can string together a bunch of 11- or 12-win seasons and get hot in January.
“That puts me in a situation where sometimes I have to be the bad cop,” Roseman said in a conference call last week. “I understand that’s my responsibility. If you had asked me three years ago and said, ‘Hey, here’s the trade off: You can win a Super Bowl, but you’re not going to be able to compete for the next two or three years. Quite honestly, I probably would have signed up for that.”
It’s great in theory, but the problem is you have to hit on a high percentage of draft picks and have an elite quarterback to make it work.
Otherwise you’re patching with Band-Aids, and this franchise has been forced to do way too much of that.
In 2017, they just hit on a perfect blend of Band-Aids.
For the Eagles to surround Carson Wentz with enough talented young players to build the kind of team that contends every year they will need to draft better. They’ll need to avoid picks like Sidney Jones and – it appears – J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. They’ll need first-round picks like Andre Dillard and Derek Barnett to be stars, not just average players. They’ll need their handful of remaining older veterans like Jason Kelce and Zach Ertz to continue at their Pro Bowl level.
The perfect balance that Roseman is trying to achieve is building for the long-term while Wentz is in his prime while still trying to be competitive with the NFC’s best teams along the way.
“Where we are now, we would try to do anything we possibly could to win a Super Bowl in the next couple of years,” he said. “But you really can’t put all of your chips in the center of the table when you have a 27-year old quarterback. So we’re trying to balance being in a position where every year we give our team an opportunity to compete and get in the tournament and then try to be as hot as we possibly can.”
The plan is a sound one. All that’s missing is about a half dozen more promising young players to fill in the blanks and make the whole thing work.
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