The music thumped and the players streamed into the auditorium of the NovaCare Complex on Thursday morning for the 8 AM special teams meeting. The Eagles continued their voluntary minicamp, business as usual. Except, we know, it wasn't. For the players and coaches, yes. Their job is to focus on the moment. The moves of this offseason indicate an organizational vision that encompasses much more than the "now."
What the Eagles have done since the end of the 2015 season is overhaul the coaching staff, solidify the roster with long-term contracts to the young core, add talent in an aggressive free agency signing period, get the salary cap in order and wheel and deal with some trades, including the biggest of the big one on Wednesday, aimed at the future.
It has been a multi-tiered approach aimed at making the Eagles contenders in 2016 and for many, many years to come.
"We're competing, and that's my goal," Howie Roseman said. "From my perspective the goal is to put together a team that over a period of time can continually get in the playoffs and then one year, hopefully, deliver that elusive title."
The Eagles want to win the NFC East and go on a deep playoff run in 2016. They want it to be the way it was from 2000 through 2008, when head coach Andy Reid took the Eagles to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. They want to be a Super Bowl winner.
And they've managed their business in the offseason with an eye on the present, on the near future and on the long-term future as well. The approach is one with roster continuity the goal, salary-cap flexibility important and the opportunities to acquire assets and, in the case of Wednesday's trade with Cleveland, put the team in position to draft a franchise quarterback, one the Eagles haven't had since Donovan McNabb was drafted second overall in 1999.
So the beat goes on at the NovaCare Complex for the final day of the voluntary minicamp, which is followed next week by Phase 2 of the offseason and, after that, Organized Team Activities. The front office, Roseman and his personnel department specifically, have the draft starting April 28 with seven selections, No. 2 and No. 79 at the front of the list.
The Eagles want to get back to year-over-year success for a franchise that hasn't won a playoff game since 2008. They want to have a franchise quarterback and have certainly addressed the position by signing veteran Sam Bradford to a two-year contract, adding Chase Daniel with a three-year deal and putting themselves in position next Thursday to select either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz in the draft.
The questions, then, are natural: Can the Eagles compete for an NFC East title in 2016 and reach the playoffs? That is the goal and the expectation. The defense has added key pieces in the secondary (cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks and safety Rodney McLeod) and at linebacker (Nigel Bradham). Jim Schwartz brings a 4-3 front and an aggressive approach to a personnel group that has that kind of mentality. The offense added a huge piece at right guard (Brandon Brooks), solidified the quarterback position and improved the competition at wide receiver (Chris Givens, Rueben Randle). Bradford is the starter and he's healthy and he's got a chance to be outstanding in this offense, one similar in scheme to what he had in St. Louis with the Rams. Daniel is a trusted veteran here as a No. 2 quarterback.
Are there still needs on this football team? Absolutely. The Eagles are in building mode. This is not going to be a piecemeal operation if all goes according to plan. By signing Zach Ertz and Vinny Curry and Malcolm Jenkins and Lane Johnson (and, hopeful that it happens, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox), the Eagles continued to lock up their young and in-their-prime core for years to come. They have been aggressive adding to the roster, and they need more. They need to be better at the line of scrimmage. They need to be more consistent in the passing game. They have question marks in the offensive backfield. The defensive front can always use more punch.
But the Eagles have put themselves in position to this point where they can line up as they stand now and win games. They've got new schemes to learn on both sides of the ball and there are still some spots where the starter isn't necessarily as defined as others (left guard, for example), but this roster is a good one. And they've made some draft-related trades that don't hamstring the present - the Eagles have seven draft picks next week, including No. 2 and No. 79 overall and eight draft picks next spring.
When you evaluate the Eagles, it is important to look at this team with the proper perspectives. Today is important and the "now" goal is to continue to improve and to go out and win the NFC East and the Super Bowl in 2016. But, as Roseman said, the ultimate goal is to be a contending team for the next decade, so the big-picture view must include a vision of the roster three, four, five years down the line.
The new day of the Philadelphia Eagles is here with head coach Doug Pederson and his staff working in concert with Roseman and the front office to build something special. It doesn't happen overnight, but we've seen the fruits of a well-planned and aggressively executed offseason strategy that has this football team feeling good about its present and future one week away from the 2016 NFL Draft.