Andrew Sendejo

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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Eagles are getting older, and that's a growing concern

Eagles are getting older, and that's a growing concern

Taken individually, all the Eagles’ moves so far this offseason make sense. 

Taken as a whole, they raise concern whether the Eagles are getting too old. More specifically, whether Howie Roseman is committing too many dollars to guys on the back end of their careers.

Jason Peters got another year. He’s 37. Jason Kelce got another year and is now signed through 2021. He’s 31. Brandon Graham got a pretty big three-year deal. He turns 31 in a couple weeks.

DeSean Jackson got a sizable contract for a guy who’s 32. Andrew Sendejo is 31. Vinny Curry turns 31 this summer. 

I’ve got no problem with any of the moves taken apart from the others. But the analytics make it pretty clear that older guys are more likely to get hurt or see their production diminish dramatically. 

We saw it last year with guys like Peters, Darren Sproles, Haloti Ngata and Mike Wallace. 

Now, young guys get hurt too, but the older you are as a team, the more you’re at risk. And when those older guys have high cap figures, it makes it tough to function when they start missing time.

According to pro sports salary cap tracker Spotrac, the Eagles had the 17th-oldest team in 2017, when they won the Super Bowl, and the ninth-oldest team last year, when they advanced a round deep in the playoffs. 

Today — and obviously rosters are nowhere near settled — the Eagles have the fifth-oldest team in the NFL.

The Eagles’ nucleus is guys in that 28-to-32 range. Alshon Jeffery, Malcolm Jenkins, Kelce, Nigel Bradham, Fletcher Cox, Zach Ertz, Jackson, Graham, Malik Jackson. 

Who are their best players under 28? Carson Wentz is 26, Nelson Agholor is 25, their promising young defensive backs like Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones are all in their early 20s. Derek Barnett is only 22. 

But there are question marks about every one of them.

This is why Roseman, Joe Douglas and Co. have to nail this draft and the next couple drafts. This is a roster that really needs an infusion of young talent. 

When this current group of veteran stars moves on, who takes over?

Roseman has had only three drafts since being returned to power, and he’s taken only six guys in the first three rounds. Of that group, Wentz is a certified Pro Bowler and a star, although he still needs to show he can stay healthy. 

And Dallas Goedert certainly seems like a stud. 

But the others — Barnett, Jones, Isaac Seumalo and Douglas — are works in progress.

The Eagles have found one Pro Bowl defensive player in their last 13 drafts, and that was Cox in 2012. 

Their draft record has been better on offense, but the Lane Johnson/Ertz draft is now six years old.

The Eagles aren’t in the danger zone. Not yet. But things change quickly in the NFL and teams that can’t keep up in terms of young talent inevitably fall by the wayside.

The Eagles have three of the first 57 picks in next month’s draft, and as of now they have their own picks in the first four rounds of the 2020 draft, plus two 5’s in addition to the compensatory picks they’re stockpiling.

So the opportunity is there to get younger. To get faster and more durable. To find the talent to remain a perennial contender for a deep postseason run.

Right now, the Eagles have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. I see them as a legit Super Bowl contender.

But in the next few years, the face of the Eagles will change dramatically. 

To remain competitive, to remain elite, they need stars to emerge once guys like Peters, Graham, Jenkins, Jackson and Kelce either move on, retire or experience a downturn in their productiveness.

All they have to do is find them.

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Eagles safety Andrew Sendejo happy to be on this side now

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USA Today Images

Eagles safety Andrew Sendejo happy to be on this side now

When veteran safety Andrew Sendejo signed his one-year deal with the Eagles on Thursday, it might have very well been his first happy memory in Philly. 

The 31-year-old has only played in Lincoln Financial Field twice.

He was a part of the Vikings team that got demolished 38-7 in the 2017 NFC Championship Game. 

And then last year, even though the Vikings got a win over the Eagles, Sendejo suffered a season-ending groin injury at the Linc in Week 5. 

“Obviously being an opponent coming here has always been tough, so I’m looking forward to being of the good side of that now,” Sendejo said on a conference call with Philly reporters on Thursday afternoon.

“I’m excited to just be here and have the fans cheering for me as opposed to screaming obscenities at me.”

Fans will probably most remember Sendejo as the speed bump on LeGarrette Blount’s touchdown run early in the second quarter of the 2017 championship game. 

What was it like to be on that side of the play? 

“Did you watch the play?” Sendejo fired back.

Yup. 

“Well, then you know exactly what it felt like then.” 

OK then. 

Sendejo came into the league as an undrafted player in Dallas but joined the Vikings in his second NFL season and worked his way up as a special teamer first and then as a starter. He spend his last four seasons as a full-time starter. His streak as a starter, barring something unforeseen, is surely going to stop in 2019. 

The Eagles still have Malcolm Jenkins, who is one of their top players and leaders on defense. So he’s not getting bumped. And then Rodney McLeod reworked his deal to stay with the Eagles this season. He’s going to start next to Jenkins. 

But with Corey Graham gone, that leaves the very important third safety role up for grabs. Sendejo will either just take that role for himself or will split time with Tre Sullivan, who came on strong toward the end of last season. Sendejo said the Eagles haven’t yet discussed role with him yet. 

“I’m not going to make decisions on the depth chart or who goes where, I’m just here to help us win wherever I can do that,” he said. “If you want to ask about the depth chart or whatever, you can call Coach Pederson and he’ll probably be able to answer that question. I’m just happy to be here, happy to be with these guys, get to know these guys.”

Full disclosure: I didn’t call Doug. But we’ll talk with him next week for an hour at the owners meetings and we’ll try to get a better idea of what the Eagles’ secondary will look like this year.  

Sendejo said one of the things that drew him to the Eagles was the way the franchise has been able to overcome adversity over the last two years. They did it with a lot of will power, but also with talented role players. Sendejo is now in the mix as one of them. 

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