We're closing in on the start of free agency, with the NFL Draft not far away. It's time to get excited about the possibilities for the Eagles as they dig into the process of building the roster for 2020.
When word came down on Tuesday that the NFL awarded the Eagles three compensatory draft picks for 2020 – a third-round selection (No. 103 overall) and two fourth-rounders (Nos. 145 and 146 overall) – the news was greeted enthusiastically at the team's NovaCare Complex. Those compensatory picks – three of the 32 total awarded by the NFL – officially give the team 10 draft picks starting on April 23, and the Eagles intend to make the most of those selections.
"The more draft picks you have, the better chance you have of hitting on guys.," Howie Roseman said at the NFL's Scouting Combine last month.
Now the Eagles have in terms of draft capital what they hoped to have after wheeling and dealing and piecing together drafts the last four seasons. What Roseman did starting in 2016 with the remarkable moves up to get in position to take quarterback Carson Wentz helped turn the franchise into a Super Bowl Champion and helped the Eagles for the period of seasons through 2019.
It's fair to say that 2020 represents a bit of a new era and maybe a new approach. The Eagles are "retooling" the roster for 2020. They're going to have some money to spend in free agency and to continue to build the team's core with long-term contracts. And if they could come close to duplicating the success of the 2016 offseason, well, they're going to upgrade the roster in a big way.
You remember 2016, right? The Eagles traded away running back DeMarco Murray and cornerback Byron Maxwell along with linebacker Kiko Alonso to A) free up some salary cap space and, B) move up from No. 13 to No. 8 in the first round of the NFL Draft. They eventually moved all the way to No. 2 – sending a fistful of draft picks to Cleveland – and selected Wentz, shoving the franchise and new Head Coach Doug Pederson in the right direction.
But that wasn't all that happened on that first day of free agency in 2016. The Eagles also signed offensive guard Brandon Brooks and linebacker Nigel Bradham and safety Rodney McLeod, three key players in the Super Bowl run and the three-year window during which the Eagles have been one of only four teams in the NFL to reach the postseason in each of those seasons.
"That was a really big day for our franchise going forward," Howie Roseman said in an interview that you can hear in its entirety on the next Eagles Insider Podcast, which will be available on Monday. "The most important thing in that whole day was that we were able to move from 13 to eight with players, not picks, which allowed us to keep our picks to go up and make the second trade to go from eight to two to get Carson."
As Roseman likes to say, the roster-building process is a 365-days-a-year project. During the interview, for example, he said that he remembers emerging from the 2017 NFL Draft believing that the running back position still needed to be addressed. The Eagles, if you remember, had a Super Bowl running back depth chart of Jay Ajayi – acquired at the league's trade deadline in mid-season, LeGarrette Blount – signed in mid-May, and rookie Corey Clement, who was signed after the draft.
And all three made huge contributions to the Super Bowl victory.
The Eagles are now in the position where they can really take advantage of the assets they possess. Free agency is very much of an unknown, as the Eagles, even with approximately $40-$45 million available under the salary cap limit of $200 million (still not official), are right in the middle of the NFL pack in terms of available dollars to spend.
The Eagles are going to be aggressive as they build the roster, as they always are. They've kept things close to the vest. They've been working on this plan, performing their due diligence, vetting the prospects, and the process. And now we're nearly here. The Eagles have needs across the board. They are evaluating the roster very honestly.
A team that exhausted all limits of the roster – and then some – in 2019 and swept the NFC East in December has a fresh start and a roster that is already of playoff caliber. The Eagles want more young talent, more blue-chip players, more depth. And they have the resources to make it happen, starting in one week.
While it feels the offseason has gone on forever, the wait is nearly over. Thank you for your patience. We're about to see the Eagles' plan unfold as free agency opens on March 18 – with legal negotiations with player agents starting on March 16 – followed by a draft in which the Eagles have two third-round picks and three fourth-round picks.
Be excited. Have anticipation. The offseason fun is about to start.