This is "building mode" for the Philadelphia Eagles, an offseason different from the one 12 months ago. In that mode, deemed "transitional," the Eagles accumulated as many NFL Draft assets as they could, dug themselves out of a salary cap squeeze with the goal of making the roster younger while contending for the postseason at the same time.
Now the Eagles are on to a new phase, one that General Manager Howie Roseman talked about on Wednesday.
"We are in this mode of trying to build this team and build this team and get as many talented players that we possibly can to compete for championships going forward," Roseman said. "We have a great opportunity to do that this offseason to keep building."
What are the Eagles building around, then? It's pretty easy to see if you paid attention to the 2021 season, which no doubt you did. The Eagles infused the lineup with young players blended in with experienced veterans and enjoyed watching the growth. Now, the Eagles are moving into a new phase led by younger guys at key positions.
"We're all growing together and that's exciting to see," quarterback Jalen Hurts said. "I think that's the biggest part of what has brought us together in the second half of this season. We're kind of growing up together."
Hurts is a player who finished his second NFL season amid noticeable growth. He's the kind of player who benefits from every experience and who challenges himself every day. His improvement at quarterback was a primary reason for the 2021 playoff push and a reason for optimism in the future. But he's not alone.
The Eagles gained a great deal of contribution from the 2021 Rookie Class with wide receiver DeVonta Smith and guard Landon Dickerson starting and playing at high levels and with defensive tackle Milton Williams and running back Kenneth Gainwell playing meaningful and productive snaps throughout the season. Cornerback Zech McPhearson played well on special teams and gained valuable experience in the defense late in the season. Defensive end Tarron Jackson earned the trust of the coaching staff with some solid reps. Linebacker Patrick Johnson was a core member of special teams and showed he belonged when he played at linebacker. Tight end Jack Stoll emerged as a physical run blocker who looks like he can develop into a complete tight end.
Combine the 2021 rookies with a 2020 group led by Hurts and wide receiver Quez Watkins, offensive lineman Jack Driscoll, and linebacker Davion Taylor, who all should be a prominent part of the 2022 Eagles. The No. 1 draft pick from 2020, wide receiver Jalen Reagor, is also expected to be a piece of the offense.
There are still plenty of veterans around who are critical to what the Eagles are going to be – tight end Dallas Goedert, offensive tackle Jordan Mailata, cornerback Avonte Maddox, and defensive end Josh Sweat from the 2018 draft, running back Miles Sanders from 2019, and a host of more experienced Eagles like center Jason Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson and guard Isaac Seumalo and a strong group of defensive players – but it's the youth the Eagles are counting on to grow. And grow. And grow.
Now, the Eagles are in position to add to that, instead of what they did last year when they smartly added low-risk, high-reward pieces to the lineup. They weren't in salary cap position to be Day 1 players in free agency, but now they are. They weren't in position to own the NFL Draft, but they are now.
The Eagles are building – upward and onward – around a talented young core blended with veterans who are performing at a high level. It's a playoff combination. But the goal isn't to just reach the postseason. It's to dominate the postseason, and as the offseason begins, that's the mission for Roseman and the personnel staff and the coaching staff. To win in the regular season and in the playoffs, you have to win in the postseason. The work has already started for the Eagles, who are looking forward to playing from a position of strength in the months ahead.
Take a look at the very best photos from the 2021 season.