BOCA RATON, Fla. – There is a need at the running back position for the Eagles, that much we know. How the Eagles plan to address it, and to what extent they use their resources, is the question. Howie Roseman talked about running back, and more, at the NFL Annual Meeting on Monday, pointing to some research that he says is fairly conclusive about the running back spot.
“We’re looking to add depth. We’re building. We’re looking to add depth everywhere,” Roseman said. “You take what’s in free agency and you also take the young players in the draft. We feel really good about Ryan (Mathews), Darren (Sproles) and Kenjon (Barner) is coming back as well. It’s also a position where we’re constantly exploring and seeing if we can add some guys.”
The Eagles have the eighth pick in the NFL draft on April 28 which, Roseman said, allows to focus in on a “limited number of players” and that allows them to gain more knowledge of that group and hone in on the candidates to take at eight. Will the Eagles move out from eight? Yeah, maybe, but Roseman certainly seems interested in seeing how the board looks when the early picks come off the board.
Is, then, a running back a possibility early in the draft for the Eagles? Maybe even in the first round?
“We studied this. There is this narrative that you can get running backs in the fifth, sixth, seventh round and in (rookie) free agency,” Roseman said. “When you look back at the last 10 years at guys who were in the top 10 in rushing, those guys are high picks. When you find a special talent at that position, that guy who can run the ball, who can pass protect, who can catch the ball out of the backfield, that’s a unique weapon. I don’t think the position is de-valued. Talking to Doug (head coach Pederson), we come from the same school of Andy (Reid, former head coach) and what he could do with those kind of guys.
“When you go back and really look at it, it really is hard to get top guys later.”
And while the Eagles have been able to get some mileage from running backs like Bryce Brown (former seventh-round draft pick) and Chris Polk (signed after draft), they know that Reid made it work with draft picks like Duce Staley (a third-round pick on the roster when Reid became head coach), Brian Westbrook (a third-round draft pick in 2002) and LeSean McCoy (a second-round draft pick in 2009). They weren’t taken in the first round, but they were early draft picks nonetheless.
“There’s a difference between a special player and a role player at the position,” Roseman said. “Those guys (Brown and Polk) are good players, but when you talk about 1,500-yard rushers and guys teams are game planning for, those are hard to get later in the draft.”
So we’ll see. The Eagles, like all of the league’s teams, are here for state-of-the-NFL conversations and also to vote on the 19 proposed rules changes. Roseman says that the Eagles are “building the team” and looking to improve every corner of the roster. That’s where they stand. Free agency has slowed to a trickle. This is the transition period.
Head coach Doug Pederson, who meets the media on Wednesday morning, has integrated well with the organization and the goings-on through free agency, Roseman said.
“Tremendous leadership, he’s got an infectious personality, tremendous energy,” Roseman said. “He’s excited to be here. He’s excited about the team. The communication with the players is really good. It’s important to him that he does that. It’s been fun. Right now, it’s a fun time. You’re building a team, you’re adding players. It’s a fun time and it’s how it should be.”
Roseman touched on the deal that sent quarterback Mark Sanchez to Denver for a 2017 conditional draft pick. Knowing Denver personnel executives Tom Heckert and Matt Russell helped the deal go through quickly, Roseman said.
“It was a win-win situation. They’ve got John (Elway, general manager and executive vice president of football operations) and Matt (Russell) and Tom Heckert and being able to have honest conversations about what Mark brings to the table helped and so that deal came together pretty quickly,” Roseman said. “It’s a great situation for Mark. When I spoke to Mark he had great respect for Philadelphia, but what a great situation for him to be in as well. He’ll do a great job there.”
What is the tenor now that free agency's faucet is slowed to a trickle? The big money is off the table, but there are still some talented players on the streets. When Roseman and the Eagles talk to agents now, as opposed to March 9 when free agency began, the conversation is a lot different.
"You're trying to sell opportunity. I equate to the (period of time) after the draft when you're trying to recruit and sell," Roseman said, "where I think the money does a lot of the talking early on in the process."
The draft is deep in certain areas, said Roseman, who mentioned the interior defensive line, the offensive line group ("pretty good," he said) and for a team that is building at the line of scrimmage, the Eagles feel good about what's ahead.
Running back? There will be a lot of talk between now and April 28th's first round. The Eagles have the void created when they traded DeMarco Murray to Tennnessee. Would they? Could they? Stay tuned for the next five weeks.