This is the week when the Eagles get down to the business of shaping the 90-man roster. There are going to be moves – additions, subtractions, and plans for the future. The weeks of speculation and creating scenarios are over, and with free agency here, the Eagles will wheel and deal and do what they need to do to improve the roster.
As the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis closes shop on Monday, the Eagles and the rest of the league will look forward to Tuesday when the period for pre-free-agency negotiations take place. Teams are able to conduct contract discussions with representatives for scheduled unrestricted free agents. No contracts are to be consummated; only the structure of deals is permitted to be put in place.
On Thursday at 4 p.m., free agency begins, and with it comes some of the craziest days of the sports year. It’s fun, it’s frantic, and, too often, it is unpredictable. With that in mind, here are some thoughts on what is ahead for the Eagles ...
- What is Howie Roseman going to do to create some room within the salary cap here? The Eagles have approximately $8.5 million under the projected $167 million salary cap (increased from $155 in 2016). That ranks 29th in the NFL. Teams are flush with money, and even if Roseman moves some players via trade or release, the Eagles are still going to be relative paupers in the league. And that’s OK, honestly. It really is. The Eagles want to be disciplined in their personnel moves this offseason. They want to have a high “hit” percentage. There are quite a few needs on this team, and the Eagles have to consider every option to add to the 90-man roster.
- A message that every team has to abide by during this time of the year: You can’t fall in love with players – particularly those on your current roster who mean so much for what they’ve done in past seasons. The point here is this: It isn’t about what a player has done in the past. It’s about what he is going to do moving forward. So, the Eagles have a lot of tough decisions to make. Every team is in the same boat. Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson and vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas are going to be honest and aggressive and, hopefully, team together to make some outstanding decisions.
- What do the Eagles need to target, in terms of positions, starting in free agency? It’s easy to say that wide receiver, cornerback, and running back – in no particular order – are needs for the Eagles. Nobody would argue those positions must be addressed in the months ahead. But isn’t that kind of the case for every position on the roster? Seriously, think about it. What positions are absolutely, no-doubt-about-it set in stone? Seems to me it makes sense to challenge every corner of the roster. Just add good players. That’s the mantra of this offseason.
- A few key Eagles will become unrestricted free agents on Thursday, namely defensive tackle
Bennie Logan, cornerback Nolan Carroll, and special teams standout Bryan Braman. No doubt the Eagles have considered all the angles here, but all three players took a lot of snaps last season at their respective positions.
- Tons of rumors swirling around. Which of them will come true? Sure would be fun to look back each year at the names and the deals that the media report and see which of them actually come to fruition. Good stuff. Good fun.
- Pederson, as did former head coach Andy Reid, would ideally love to draft a quarterback each year and develop him for down the line. If it happens this spring, it won’t go down until later in the draft, after the strength of the quarterback prospects will be taken. This is a group that has “developmental” written all over it and the Eagles, with this quarterback-rich coaching staff in place, is well equipped to take a young prospect and take the proper time to get him ready for the NFL.
- A guess here is that the Eagles will sign two to three free agents, and I’m not sure we’ll see any action in the first few days. The lack of cap room is a real challenge in this day and age. Teams are going to throw a lot of money at this crop of free agents.
- A prediction, and I’m not sure why I feel this way: I say receivers aren’t going to get the astronomical dollars that many feel are coming. Why pay receivers when another strong group is coming in the draft? To me, it makes more sense to give the big money to the interior positions and the difference-makers at cornerback. Running backs, for sure, are going to scratch for big contracts, particularly veterans like Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson. Which receivers are going to get huge dollars? I know, I know, it only takes one team ...
Jaylen Watkinshas a bit of security for the first time in his career, but nothing is guaranteed. He made some nice strides in 2016 and maybe he’s ready to carry that momentum moving forward. Watkins set career highs for games played (16), defensive snaps (338), total tackles (51) and passed defensed (6) last season.