NFL owners meetings

15 leftover Eagles notes and observations from 2019 NFL owners meetings

15 leftover Eagles notes and observations from 2019 NFL owners meetings

Now that I’m back from Phoenix and the annual NFL owners meetings, it’s time to clean out my notebook. 

First, here are the major stories from covering the meetings. Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson all spoke during the week.  

Explaining why Eagles added so many older players

Eagles will host Ravens for joint practices this summer

Optimism Wentz will be ready for OTAs

5 tidbits from Pederson’s hour with reporters

Is kelly green still in the works?

Eagles are preparing for Wentz’s big deal

Lurie explains why they let Foles free

Pederson, Wentz need to keep offense balanced

OK, now that we got all that out of the way, now it’s time to get to some other notes and observations that are left over. Sometimes leftovers are the best. 

1. The Eagles submitted a proposal to change the tradition that has the Cowboys and Lions hosting Thanksgiving games every year. The proposal, which was withdrawn before the owners meetings kicked off, would have still allowed the Cowboys and Lions to play every Thanksgiving, but would make them alternate between home and away games. 

Lurie explained they submitted the rule not to tinker with tradition but on the terms of competitive balance. It may have been viewed as petty for the Eagles to submit a rule that would hurt the Cowboys, but Lurie is right. That’s a decided advantage that those two teams don’t have to travel on short weeks like the teams who have to go to them. The Eagles have played in Detroit and Dallas on Thanksgiving in recent years and there are rumors they’ll be in Minnesota this coming Thanksgiving. 

“There wasn’t enough support at this point, but you have to start the conversation somewhere,” Lurie said. “On behalf of our fans, we start that conversation.” 

2. The biggest rule change to come out of these meetings was to make pass interference reviewable whether it was called or not. This rule change proposal wasn’t even on the docket, but things moved quickly and Lurie was at the forefront of getting it passed. He spoke to the group of owners and stressed the importance of integrity and getting the big-impact plays correct. 

“You’re asking people to devote their heart and soul,” Lurie said. “You’re asking your players, your coaches and your fans to devote [their] heart and soul to it. … If you’re asking people to deliver their emotions to the product you’re presenting, then you owe it to everybody you’re presenting it to, to be as accurate as humanly possible.”

I didn’t realize how big of a proponent Lurie is of expanding replay. He said he even supported Bill Belichick’s proposal a couple years ago that would have expanded it to every play. 

It also seems like Lurie is well established as an influential leader among the owners. He’s owned his team for just about 25 years and the organization is one of the most respected in the league. He isn’t afraid to throw his weight around. 

3. This is the second year in a row that the biggest rule change to come out of these meetings wasn’t even a proposal going in. Last year it was the helmet rule; this year it was replay. Lurie said he thinks the two pillars of the NFL should be player safety and integrity. Based on how quickly coaches and owners worked to get these two rules accepted in consecutive years, he’s not alone in that belief.  

4. Got a chance to chat with Frank Reich on Monday night. To let you know how humble of a guy he is, I congratulated him on his team’s success last season and he responded, “Thanks … we got off to a slow start.” They did. The Colts were 1-5, but finished with a 10-6 record and then beat their division rival in the wild-card round. Nothing against Mike Groh, but I think the Eagles just miss having Reich around. 

Before the Colts played the Titans on Sunday night in Week 17 for a chance to get into the playoffs, Reich said he was watching the Eagles’ situation, hoping for his former team to get in first. Both ended up getting into the playoffs and winning a game. 

5. When asked about players who might not be ready for OTAs, Pederson mentioned that it will be a chance for younger players to get more reps. He named a few: Matt Pryor, Sidney Jones and Tre Sullivan. 

• Pryor —> Brandon Brooks 

• Jones —> Jalen Mills/Ronald Darby 

• Sullivan —> Rodney McLeod  

6. Something Lurie said in his lengthy opening statement caught my attention. He said Pederson’s coaching job in 2018 was “as impressive as the year we won the Super Bowl.” 

Lurie has been impressed by Pederson’s resiliency and stoicism in the face of adversity. There has been plenty of it in his three years as head coach.  

7. But Pederson wasn’t perfect in 2018. In fact, he admitted he probably wasn’t as aggressive in certain situations as he might have been the previous year. I’d expect that to change in the coming season. 

8. Since the meetings ended early again this year, the commissioner’s press conference and the competition committee press conference got molded into one. It was convenient if the league would have rather talked about a rule change than one of its most influential owners’ getting arrested for soliciting prostitution. But maybe that’s just the conspiracy theorist in me. Anyway, eventually Roger Goodell was asked about Robert Kraft and said Kraft will be subject to the NFL’s personal conduct policy but not until all the facts are gathered. 

9. Pederson was asked about hiring women for coaching positions in the NFL and said he’s totally on-board. It came up because Bruce Arians was very outspoken about gender not mattering and the Bucs recently hired two female assistants. 

“If someone’s qualified, if a woman is qualified to handle a position, then I would be all for it,” Pederson said. “Right now, my staff is full obviously. But I’m encouraged by the direction in which we’re going.”

This is going to be a slow progress. The NFL has been a boys club for a long time, but it’s encouraging to see two of the top coaches in the league speak out in favor of hiring women in the NFL.

10. It’s encouraging that the Eagles are still completely committed to their approach with analytics. Lurie said they’re “obsessed” with it. But he also mentioned it’s not enough to just have raw data — the important part of the puzzle is understanding how to use it. I also like that he wants more of that data accessible to the public. He also (wisely) mentioned the rise of legal gambling in that explanation. It’s so refreshing to hear professional sports leagues and teams acknowledge that gambling is a big part of fandom. 

11. Lurie seemed to like the idea of the NFL’s international expansion. The Eagles played in London in 2018 and he is open to playing in Mexico and even China in the future … but he won’t give up a home game. 

12. When talking about the Michael Bennett trade, Pederson mentioned that new defensive tackle Malik Jackson will play on third downs. That’s an important development because it means the Eagles will keep Brandon Graham at defensive end in those situations. The Eagles’ starting defensive end can also be their best on third downs. 

13. The Eagles have been in a unique quarterback situation in the last couple of seasons, but maybe this is the year they start drafting QBs again. Pederson once said he’d like to draft quarterbacks every year and develop them. Lurie this week seemed to be on board with that idea. Pederson said the Day 3 crop of quarterbacks is “really good.” 

14. My favorite part of the owners meetings, and I think I say this every year, are the families who just happen to be on vacation at the same resort while it’s going on. The resort is almost always near-full with NFL folks, but imagine being poolside and John Elway just strolls by. Has to be a little confusing. 

15. You’ve probably already seen plenty of images of Pederson and his Roll-A-Bout in Phoenix. He had a surgery to get a bone spur shaved on his left ankle. It had been rubbing his Achilles and the surgery was preventative before a more serious Achilles tear. He’s in the boot for 10 weeks total but has just four more weeks of non weight-bearing. He says he’ll be good to go for OTAs, but he’ll have to be careful when he’s on the field. At the owners meetings reception, I sat next to Pederson for a short chat. Poor guy couldn’t get away. 

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Jeff Lurie explains why Eagles decided to free Nick Foles

Jeff Lurie explains why Eagles decided to free Nick Foles

PHOENIX — During Jeffrey Lurie’s nearly 38-minute session with reporters on Tuesday evening at the annual league meetings, the Eagles’ owner showed the most emotion when talking about Nick Foles. 

As he began to speak, his eyes started to well up just enough that at least a few reporters in front of him took notice. After all, this is Nick Foles we’re talking about. 

“Nick, as you all know, exceptional person,” Lurie said. “There’s no understating it. Exceptional person. It was hard. We went through every alternative we could think of as an organization on how to proceed here. Really, in the end, I think, Nick really did want to have a team to take control of and be the guy.”

The Eagles could have slapped a franchise tag on Foles. They could have done that and then tried to ship him off to a team of their choosing instead of letting him become an unrestricted free agent. Lurie, on Tuesday, said it wouldn’t have been right to franchise Foles. 

Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman at the combine on Feb. 27 (two weeks before the new league year) announced the Eagles’ intentions to let Foles hit free agency. 

Lurie was asked about his role in that decision and the timing of it: 

Certainly, Howie and I had long discussions about it. We thought the sooner we do it, the better because we wanted to give Nick every opportunity to be in the best possible situation and not have a team worry that we were potentially going to keep him and not have the opportunity to start, because there aren’t that many opportunities. We were also, to be honest about it, hoping that he would not end up with the Giants or the Redskins. That was part of it. We were very confident he was going to play for Jacksonville. 

That last part is pretty interesting. While Lurie and the Eagles clearly wanted to do right by Foles, I wonder what would have happened if one of the teams in the division became the front-runner to land Foles. Would they then have been more likely to franchise tag Foles and then pick his destination for him? 

That, of course, wasn’t the case. By the end of that week in Indy, the rest of the NFL world figured out what the Eagles already knew: Foles was going to Jacksonville. 

Lurie said he vouched for Foles to other teams, who asked him: “What’s Nick like?” and “Can he be dynamic for anyone but you?” 

Maybe in an alternate universe, Foles could have stayed in Philadelphia as the Eagles’ franchise quarterback. But in this universe, the Eagles have Carson Wentz and seem completely committed to signing him to a mega contract that will alter the future of the franchise.

But it sounds like Nick is welcome back for a visit any time. 

“He’s a legend in Philadelphia, he will always be,” Lurie said. “He will be a part of our family forever.”

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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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