One of the greatest dangers of free agency, as general manager Howie Roseman explained it Wednesday, is the inherent mystery about how new pieces will fit in when they get to work for a new team. Sure, you can see how a player performs on tape, but there's always projection involved in guessing how that player will fit in a new system and how his personality will mesh with the franchise structure in place.
"When you're going through free agency, it's like an arranged marriage in some aspects because you've never really lived with the person, you've never dated them, you've seen them from afar," said Roseman. "That's the tricky part about free agency and when you have the information and when you have people who've been with them, it makes you feel a lot better."
That's why you'll notice some connections from the current Eagles staff to several of the players signed by the Eagles over the past 24 hours. Safety Patrick Chung played collegiately at Oregon, where he overlapped with head coach Chip Kelly for two seasons and worked with several other members of the current Eagles coaching staff. Defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga plied his trade with San Francisco, where he was watched closely by new vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble. And cornerback Bradley Fletcher played in St. Louis, where he overlapped for two seasons with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
"You try to get as much information as you possibly can to make you feel comfortable because, again, that is the biggest dilemma in free agency," said Roseman. "You don't know these guys, you haven't lived with them, so you don't know what they're doing every day in practice. You don't know what they're doing every day in the meeting room. So as much as you can, taking the guesswork out of it."
Prior to the opening of free agency, Roseman and the rest of the player personnel department created a baseline list of players who intrigued them and who might fit with the Eagles. From there, the personnel department and the coaching staff would meet together to discuss the potential targets, who would then be viewed on film extensively by Kelly, either Shurmur or defensive coordinator Bill Davis, and the would-be position coach for that prospect. After all that legwork, the Eagles settled on a list of players and set the parameters of what they'd be willing to offer those players.
"I think it's all in the context of how many resources you're putting on it," said Roseman. "For us, everything that you pay - a dollar to one player is going to be a dollar that you can't play to another player. Same thing when you trade a pick or when you pick someone in the draft, that's a pick you can't get back. We talk all the time about, you only have seven or eight chances in the draft, you work all fall, all spring, all summer to get these picks and so they're pretty valuable. That's all part of the equation for us, trying to figure out what makes sense in terms of money for each player and there's 'walk-away money' for each of these guys."
Of course, as the Eagles move forward into this year's free agent market, it's easy to contrast the type of contracts the team is giving out to the ones doled out back in the summer of 2011. With the likes of Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin no longer with the Eagles, Roseman said that in free agency, as in all things, you learn from the past.
"Certainly you want to go in with an open mind in every free agent period, every draft period, but you've got to learn from the things that you've done and people around the league have done," he said. "For us, this is what we felt was right for our team at this particular time, and we're extremely excited to have the people that we've added."
So should we expect anything else down the pike for the Eagles in free agency? Are there any specific 'needs' that need to be addressed?
"I don't think it's necessarily needs," said Roseman. "I think it's value for us, and looking over the list and doing the homework on the guys prior to the free agency period and making sure that we're bringing the right kind of guys in. There's an opportunity to get that kind of guy that fits us both from a culture and a scheme perspective, then we're going to look at that option and just see if it fits."
In other words, stay tuned.
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