Eagles President Joe Banner made the media rounds on Tuesday, spoke with the reporters, stood and answered some questions for the television cameras, met for some one-on-one interviews and then headed back to his office at the NovaCare Complex, aware of the work ahead for this football team.
After weeks of expectations, the team officially used the franchise tag on quarterback Michael Vick on Tuesday. It was an exclusive tag, meaning that other teams can't even speak with Vick and that, yes, Vick will be the team's quarterback in 2011 with a salary estimated to be $16 million. Banner expressed an interest in keeping Vick for the long term, which makes all kinds of sense, but that is a story -- and a negotiation -- for another day. Vick was in a fine mood as he reported to the NovaCare Complex and he knows the high hopes that the future holds. The Eagles offense comes back virtually intact for 2011, and the Eagles are loaded on that side of the ball. The forecast for the offense is for green skies and a lot of touchdowns, with Vick in charge.
The Eagles also used the transition tag on placekicker David Akers, which allows them to match any offer sheet that he may sign in the offseason ahead. It is a move protecting the Eagles and giving them options, but Banner insisted that Akers is part of the plan here for now and perhaps -- pending on contract talks -- for years to come. The greatest kicker in franchise history has a strong leg, keeps himself superbly conditioned and remains a Pro Bowl talent.
So, Banner and the front office accomplished their agenda on Tuesday. There are many more pieces to the puzzle ahead.
"I think we are all excited about where the team is and what we have, today," said Banner. "We have a young team and a very talented roster and we have a lot of promise. But we also know how much is ahead of us. We have needs. Every team has needs. You don't look at the rosters of Pittsburgh and Green Bay and see teams that have answers at every position.
"We have one goal here, and that is to win the championship. To be where we are, without a Super Bowl title, I can't describe the words and the feeling that everyone here has. It is incredibly frustrating, but we are going to keep doing everything we can to get there."
Banner looks at the team and sees a roster that is as young as any in the Jeffrey Lurie. The Eagles are as stocked at skill positions on offense and speed throughout the team as they ever have been. There are holes, and, yes, the team has a list of needs and intends to hit those needs during whatever shape or form this draft and free-agency period holds.
What are the needs? Banner wouldn't say, specifically. He sees a talented roster and a team that has made the playoffs three straight seasons, one of only three teams in the league to have done so. But there is no Lombardi Trophy at One NovaCare Way, and that is beyond frustrating. What can the Eagles do to get over the top? What will it take?
The Eagles are in excellent shape financially, and they are prepared to strike when the time comes. Banner knows that if even if there is no free-agency period, per se; teams are going to shed good players simply because some teams aren't in as favorable salary-cap shape. Good players are going to come free and the Eagles are going to have their opportunities to land talent.
That doesn't mean the Eagles are going to sign a lot of veteran free agents. They had success reaching the Super Bowl in the 2004 season after a big offseason during which they acquired Terrell Owens in a trade and Jevon Kearse and Dhani Jones in free agency. They have had success playing it minimally in free agency. And, certainly, the Steelers and the Packers aren't exactly the most active teams in free agency.
The winners in this league build in the draft and then supplement with free agency and other avenues of player acquisition. The truth is, with so much uncertainty ahead, nobody knows what form free agency will have this year, although when he spoke to the reporters Banner said he hoped for some period of time in free agency.
What has happened is that the Eagles, after winning the NFC East with such an overturned roster, after hosting a playoff game, ripped apart the coaching staff more substantially than at any time in the last 13 seasons. Banner likes what Andy Reid did and he thinks the moves are going to pay off.
"It's created a real positive momentum within the locker room," said Banner. "The players are excited about these changes and these additions. We think it has made us better. You get to a point where very small incremental improvements can make a very big difference in winning just one or two more games, which is what we are trying to do."
These are going to be telling months. The teams that prepare for the most scenarios, that act quickly, decisively and correctly and those that coach up the players the best in what could be a very short period of time are the teams that are going to thrive.
Banner is ready. The disappointing end to 2010 -- Banner repeatedly mentioned how haunting it was to lose to Minnesota, and how that defeat came back to bite the Eagles -- is behind the team. Next year is already here, and the Eagles have been busy at work trying to improve any way they can.