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Reasons to feel good about the roster with Training Camp on the horizon

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

The vision for the 2023 season started before the 2022 campaign ended in Super Bowl LVII and while there were always going to be twists and turns, things worked out largely as the Eagles expected. They knew there would be change. They knew they had a chance to have an impactful NFL Draft. They knew they had enough built-in flexibility to reload the roster.

They knew they would step on the gas pedal and not let up.

"You have a pretty good idea going into free agency who you are able to retain and who might be priced out of your level," Assistant General Manager Alec Halaby said. "You try to stay tuned in to all the markets early on in free agency, of course, but you prepare with as many scenarios going in as you can, and we did that. There are an infinite number of ways the market can go, and that's where you have to have a lot of plans, but at the same time, you have to be able to adapt on the fly in those first couple of days of the offseason.

"We feel we've done that and it starts with building models – financial models for how the market will play out and on-field models for the way the roster is constructed. You try to look at it through both of those lenses. There were quite a large number of scenarios that we had in place, so then it was a matter of going out and getting as much done as we could."

As the Eagles get ready to open their 2023 Training Camp at the NovaCare Complex, they do so with a roster that is regarded in league circles as one of the best in the NFL. How did it happen? How did the Eagles rebound from the loss to Kansas City in the Super Bowl, withstand some anticipated departures in free agency, and emerge with such a top-to-bottom impressive 90-man roster heading into the preseason?

It required a lot of internal communication, coordination, creativity, and on-the-fly decision-making to execute the plan. The Eagles got the ball rolling by making sure some key veterans – center Jason Kelce, defensive end Brandon Graham, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry – had their contract situations in order. Then the team, knowing it had limitations within the NFL's 2023 salary cap, entered free agency and judiciously signed veterans from other teams – running back Rashaad Penny, quarterback Marcus Mariota, linebacker Nicholas Morrow, safeties Terrell Edmunds and Justin Evans, and defensive tackle Kentavius Street – to set the stage for the 2023 NFL Draft.

Philadelphia began that week by signing quarterback Jalen Hurts to a contract extension through the 2028 season, taking care of a franchise-altering player in what is a signature move for the Eagles in many ways moving forward. Hurts enters his fourth season as one of the NFL's best quarterbacks and an undeniably critical piece for the team's success. Signing Hurts – a topic that was much discussed for its significance as a handful of teams faced similar situations in the offseason – kicked off a tremendous week of roster building.

In the NFL Draft, the Eagles – armed with two first-round draft picks – moved from No. 10 overall to No. 9 overall to select Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter. Then the Eagles stayed put at No. 30 to take edge player Nolan Smith. Their next two picks – back to back at Nos. 65 and 66 overall – were offensive lineman Tyler Steen and safety Sydney Brown.

All four selections have a chance to contribute in Year 1 of their careers. Halaby discussed what the Eagles liked about all four players.

On Jalen Carter: "Special talent. He has a powerful strike and he controls blockers and he is a violent player in the run game and in the pass game. He has get-off and twitch. He has the full package as a defensive tackle. It's hard to find weaknesses in his game and he can line up anywhere on the front. It's impressive."

On Nolan Smith: "His game is built on speed and get-off. I think he can threaten you upfield with that in both phases, but he's also a guy who is physical. He is a guy who plays with extremely high effort."

On Tyler Steen: "Tyler played both left and right tackle in the SEC. Fundamentally, he is a large man who is flexible with good feet, plays the game hard. You can see him as someone who develops into a starter-like player on the offensive line. We've seen him face really good edge rushers. We've seen him play guard in the Senior Bowl. He's a versatile athlete who can play multiple places along the offensive line."

On Sydney Brown: "He was a favorite of a lot of people in the building. He's a fun guy to watch who plays with extreme effort at an extremely high tempo. He looks like the fastest guy on the field. At Illinois, they used him a lot down in the box, but we feel like he can match up one-on-one and be a multidimensional safety and he will be a really good part of the culture."

The Eagles, on Day 3 of that Draft Weekend, swung a trade for running back D'Andre Swift, adding to an already-talented running back room with a versatile, playmaking back. It was an exclamation point on a terrific roster-adding portion of the offseason, and it is, of course, not yet finished.

But Halaby and the Eagles feel good about where they are heading into Training Camp, knowing there are so many more steps to take to get to where the team was in 2022, with the goal of taking it one step beyond.

"We had extensive and pretty meticulous planning. We had some breaks along the way and so I think it's a combination of trying to be intelligent and savvy in the different markets that we operate in and then when you are able to retain a rare talent like Jalen Hurts, such a scarce asset in the league, you feel very fortunate," Halaby said. "I see a team that has a lot of front-line talent, high-quality players, people that we call 'red' and 'blue' players in the lingo of the personnel world, solid starters, Pro Bowl-like players on our front line, and I think we have very good depth and some young players who are ascending.

"Those are some of the things that make me feel good about the roster – a good combination of front-line talent, young and ascending players, and the quality depth behind those guys. I think, together, that's what makes us feel good about where we are at this point."

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