The big news, of course, was the team's acquisition of Asomugha. Because the former Raiders cornerback was unquestionably the best player on the free agent market, his courting received around-the-clock coverage from the time teams were permitted to talk to free agents. And yet, the Eagles were rarely mentioned as a possibility and were all but ruled out by the time the signing period began yesterday at six PM. Then, in a flash, the 2011 outlook for the Eagles and the rest of the league changed considerably.
"It's dramatic," Banner said of team's moves. "We went in with an aggressive plan. You never know how much of your plan you're going to be able to successfully execute. We're trying to do things for competition for all those players we were able to acquire. We got a little good fortune, we were very aggressive about it and I think we're at the point where we're considered one of the most desirable places to play in the league. I think all those things came together. You have a lot of players who want to win a Super Bowl. They view this as a place they have a real chance to do that at this point."
Banner said the Eagles were closely monitoring the Asomugha sweepstakes from the beginning, but were not sure they would be able to find a match economically without restricting their ability to construct the rest of the roster. Then, Thursday night, there appeared to be a potential fit which ultimately was consummated mid-afternoon on Friday.
"He really wanted to be here," Banner said. "We play very aggressive defense. The passion of the city for football ... The opportunity to win a Super Bowl. The chance to really showcase what he thinks he is playing against the best in the NFC East. There are going to be some very good teams in it every year, this year will be very strong. You know he wants that challenge. So I think things that weren't replicated any place else were important to him."
Of course, Asomugha wasn't the only addition the Eagles made over the last 48 hours. Also on board are Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin, he of the 12.5 sacks in 2010 under Jim Washburn, Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, acquired along with a 2012 second-round pick for Kevin Kolb, and Pro Bowl quarterback Vince Young, slated to be the No. 2 behind Mike Vick. Those moves, combined with an already stacked roster, have made the Eagles one of the favorites to bring home the Lombardi Trophy this season. That's a pressure the Eagles welcome.
"Sometimes to our disadvantage, we've never put our goal any lower than winning the Super Bowl," said Banner. "Sometimes that's resulted in expectations that we haven't hit and even though we've achieved a lot, it's left people disappointed. There's no other way to do that. You run the risk, if you don't do that, of people shooting for a lower bar. That really has been our goal all along. I don't mind that. There's pressure in that and that's fine ... I want the players to feel like that's the goal. If we fall short of that then we didn't hit the goal. It's really that simple. I'm glad that the mindset is that we have a shot to do that, that's the goal, that's what we're shooting for and the expectations are high internally as well as externally. I think that's a good place to be.
"Somebody wrote the words, 'The Eagles are all-in,' and that's how we look at it. We're doing anything and everything we can and we're being aggressive and the expectations are high and I'm glad the players are excited as well about what they see being put together and their own optimism and excitement about seeing themselves surrounded with other high talent, and, as importantly, people that really want to be here and really want to win. And they're not afraid by a goal as high as we must win the Super Bowl to feel satisfied with the season."
Logistically, there's now a question as to whether the Eagles have room for three Pro Bowl cornerbacks in Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel, who is still excused from training camp for personal reasons. Banner said the team's abundance of talent at the position is actually akin to the overload of quality the Eagles had at quarterback in 2009 with Vick, Kolb and Donovan McNabb.
"Asante is somebody we hold in very high regard," Banner said. "He's a Pro Bowl-caliber corner. There are a few positions, we've been in this position with quarterbacks the last few years, where you can't have too many good players. And then you see how that plays itself out, and I think that's what we'll all see, but we feel like we're in great shape. We have one of the most important positions, we have the strongest group of players in the whole league at that position and we'll have to see what way we utilize that in the best interests of putting the best team on the field we can."