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Spadaro: 5 common threads in the Eagles' free agency haul 

New Eagles RB Saquon Barkley chats with Head Coach Nick Sirianni.
New Eagles RB Saquon Barkley chats with Head Coach Nick Sirianni.

We enter the second week of the roster-building portion of this 2024 offseason and you can clearly see that the Eagles have taken a direct approach to adding to the football team what they want. There are certain qualities that top the list of what Philadelphia wants – no – insists upon and when you look beyond the names, the traits stand out.

1. Talent and versatility

Obviously, there is a lot of talent added to an already-strong roster and the veterans the Eagles have brought in have started games, won a lot in the NFL, and have outstanding resumes. There is no disputing those facts. Beyond that, though, there is the common thread of players who can help the Eagles in multiple ways, so let's examine for just a moment. Running back Saquon Barkley, of course, is a Pro Bowl talent who runs with explosiveness, threatens defenses in the passing game, and is sturdy and strong in the pass-protection game. DeVante Parker has played outside wide receiver mostly, but he's gone inside and had some success, so he brings that to team with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith as the Eagles look to create favorable matchups for quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Bryce Huff is a physical defensive edge player who can win with his hand in the dirt or from a standup position. He plays the run aggressively. He attacks the quarterback. Zack Baun can potentially play multiple linebacker positions and will be given a chance to impact special teams as well. Matt Hennessy is an interior offensive linemen who can help at all three of those spots. C.J. Gardner-Johnson is, we know, as versatile as they come in the defensive secondary.

You get the idea. Helping in multiple areas helps.

2. Love of the game

They all want it. You watch the new Eagles from their previous NFL stops and you see players who love the game, who are immersed in the game – how to prepare and the energy with which they play on gamedays. It's impressive stuff and it is no doubt a trait the Eagles evaluated very carefully as they studied the free agency field and targeted the players they wanted. This is a really important part of being an Eagle.

3. A mindset of embracing the culture

This is part of joining the Eagles family. You're either in or you're out, and the newest Eagles visited the NovaCare Complex in recent days and loved what they heard, who they met, and what they felt. Barkley talked about "the culture" quite a bit. Baun and Huff dug in deep. Gardner-Johnson already knows what it is like to be here, to play in this passionate football environment, and to give it up for the team first. It isn't just about the money for players in free agency, because many of them leave dollars on the street. Money matters, no question, but so does playing for a winner and being part of an organization that does it right on and off the field.

4. Coming in with "something to prove"

Hearing Saquon Barkley, a player who has accomplished as much as he has in his six NFL seasons, sitting at the podium talking about proving himself as an Eagle really set the tone for the players who came in and signed their contracts. Over and over, that was one of the themes: Players like Huff and Baun are going to have chances to take the next steps in their careers, and they are embracing that challenge. Hennessy missed all of last season with a knee injury. Gardner-Johnson returns to Philadelphia after his great 2022 campaign and then a 2023 season marred by injury in Detroit, so you know he has a chip on his shoulder. Quarterback Kenny Pickett was a first-round draft pick by Pittsburgh two springs ago, started and won games with the Steelers, and is now a backup to Hurts. None of these players is here to be a savior, and none come without some blemishes from the past. That's the nature of free agency. They all, every one of them, has the "prove-it" approach, and that should serve the Eagles well.

5. Coachable mentality

Kellen Moore and Vic Fangio are the new offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively, so every player is starting at the same level in terms of learning a "new" system. And the Eagles looked deep into the way these players responded in their careers to coaching changes – Barkley, of course, had several in New York, Huff made the Jets as an undrafted player, Baun has worked his way up the playing-time ladder with hard work and dedication, Parker has been in multiple systems as has Gardner-Johnson – who we saw in 2022 join the team and 10 days later make an instant impact learning the system quickly and playing great football, and Pickett is a student of the game who will team well with Hurts and Tanner McKee in the quarterback room.

Those are five common threads to what the Eagles have done to date in this offseason and they will continue to matter a whole lot to a football team that is pleased with where it's at early in free agency, understanding there is a long way to go before the roster is finalized.

Go inside the NovaCare Complex as the Eagles sign players – both new and returning veterans – for the 2024 season. Check out all of these exclusive photos in one spot.

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