INDIANAPOLIS – Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson spoke at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday before diving full-on into the process of watching the prospective draftees run through the week-long gauntlet of on-field workouts as well as engaging in as many as 60 15-minute interviews with the players. What did Roseman and Pederson really say during their press conferences and their other media interviews? Let's take a look …
- On the decision to allow quarterback Nick Foles to become an unrestricted free agent, it's clear the Eagles took their time coming to a final call. Roseman gauged the trade market. The Eagles discussed the ramifications of using the franchise tag on Foles. In the end, the team gave Foles the opportunity to make his own call as to his next NFL team. The Eagles will be in line, then, to receive a compensatory draft pick from the NFL in 2020.
- The next order of business on the quarterback front is to make sure that backup Nate Sudfeld is tendered prior to the start of free agency. He will likely be tendered at a high level – a second-round pick as compensation should another team try to pry Sudfeld loose? – as the Eagles want to make sure that Sudfeld stays around in 2019. After Sudfeld, the Eagles need to add a third quarterback, so they can invest in free agency on a veteran or use a draft pick and develop him.
- Carson Wentz is making terrific progress recovering from a back injury. Pederson said that Wentz could return to the practice field when the Eagles reach Phase 2, the on-field portion of the Organized Team Activities this spring. That would be great to see, but it's not necessarily how it will play out. Wentz has put a great deal of work into his recovery and he's more than excited to get back into action.
- Pederson said that the Achilles tendon injury suffered by Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks in the playoff loss to New Orleans "will take time" to recover, but that Brooks is making good progress. What "will take time" means remains to be seen, but the Eagles clearly have to be prepared should Brooks not be ready to go for the opening of the regular season, which would roughly be nine months from the time of the injury.
- The Eagles are excited to see how second-year offensive linemen Jordan Mailata and Matt Pryor fit into the mix in an offensive line that has some questions – notably the health of Brooks, the status of left tackle Jason Peters, and the plans of center Jason Kelce, who was graded by Pro Football Focus as the third-best (and top at the center position) offensive lineman of 2018. Of Kelce, PFF wrote, "The debate for best center in the NFL has been overwhelmingly decided over the last season and a half. It's Jason Kelce. The PFF All-Pro from a season ago, Kelce can simply make blocks at the center position with his athleticism that others can only dream of." There was a report, not substantiated nor, in fact, denied by Kelce at the end of the season, that he was considering retirement.
There is no official update with Kelce. So, yeah, the offensive line is an area to keep an eye on as the Eagles make their offseason moves. "It's always going to be a priority for us to make sure that our offensive line starts with protection," Roseman said. "We're going to show that with our actions as well as our words." Right tackle Lane Johnson was graded as the 16th-best offensive lineman in the NFL and Brooks came in at No. 22.
As for Peters, Roseman said, "He's a freak. He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Normal rules don't apply to Jason."
- How active can the Eagles be in free agency? "I expect us always to be aggressive in every aspect. That's kind of who we are," Roseman said. "With that, obviously there come risks. We're not going to be risk-averse. If there's an opportunity to improve our football team, we'll do that. We have the flexibility. We're not going to use the cap as an excuse, but we're also going to try to be smart about it."
- Running back is going to be an area to address with both Darren Sproles and Jay Ajayi scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. Are the Eagles looking for primarily a one-back system, or will they continue to rotate? "There are different ways to skin a cat," Roseman said, noting that the Eagles used a committee approach and won Super Bowl LII with Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, and Corey Clement sharing carries in the 2017 season. Certainly, it's worth watching in the draft, where the Eagles have eight picks.
- On the idea of adding more "speed" to the offense, Pederson said: "I think there's many ways to open up your offense, not just having a vertical speed guy. Every team can just drop back and throw it deep. There are ways of being creative. There are ways of utilizing play-action pass, there are ways of creating a gadget-type play, whether it be a flea-flicker or things of that nature. Yeah, ultimately would you like to have a guy who can stretch the field and you've seen that out of Nelson (Agholor) the last couple of seasons with his opportunities to go deep. Anytime you can add talent, add speed, add depth to any position, you can help your team."
- And finally, I brought up the idea to Pederson that it "seems like a lot of change" is coming for the Eagles in this offseason and he provided the appropriate response: "I feel it's that way every year," Pederson said. "That's the nature of this business." He's right, no doubt. The Eagles are going to have change, just as they've changed every year. The NFL has a transitory feel to it in every locker room. The Eagles are no different. And that's what makes every offseason so interesting. The word Roseman repeated in our interview on Wednesday was "flexible." Things are going to be moving at a rapid pace once the Combine ends. Roseman is a master of being flexible and anticipating moves and the tone of the league when he's working deals.