PHOENIX – We all want this to be wrapped up in a neat, tidy 53-man roster and a deep and talented practice squad in record time.
That's the nature of a "Now Generation." But as Eagles Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman reminded reporters who spoke with him on Monday afternoon here at the NFL Annual Meeting, that isn't reality.
We're all of two weeks into the 2023 NFL season. The Eagles have been busy remodeling the roster and they've been able to pivot their approach and, at the end of the day, Roseman is happy with where the team stands at this point.
He knows there is much more to come.
"I think it's a good start," Roseman said.
What have the Eagles done? Well, you know, but it's always good to hear from the man who puts the roster together. Keeping veterans who are still performing at a high level – center Jason Kelce was a first-team All-Pro last season, defensive end Brandon Graham recorded 11 sacks in a rotation off the edge, and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox played with force and had production with seven quarterback sacks and power at multiple defensive line positions - was how it began for the Eagles, who value the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball as much as any team in the NFL.
They know the importance of the cornerback spots, so signing James Bradberry to a three-year contract and working out a new deal with Darius Slay – an All-Pro and a Pro Bowl cover man, respectively – was huge. There is still work to do here and the Eagles can certainly add in free agency and in the 2023 NFL Draft, but they know they have a heck of a foundation in place as Sean Desai takes over as the coordinator of the defense with, as Roseman says, some philosophical carryover from Jonathan Gannon's scheme.
"For us, it's going to start on the defensive line and the cornerback position," Roseman said. "Priorities are the defensive line and cornerback position. Those two spots are probably better (at this point) than I would have anticipated going into free agency."
And then there is the quarterback, and Roseman says Jalen Hurts, entering the final year of his rookie contract, isn't going anywhere.
"We want him here long term," Roseman said. "He's going into the last year of his deal and that's going to be a priority for us to extend him. We have a great relationship with him. You have to navigate the offseason understanding that we're not going to lose our franchise quarterback with one year left on his deal. Whatever that means, it means that 2024 is going to look different. We're not going to have a quarterback on a rookie deal. We're going into it with our eyes open and understanding that we've got to kind of flip it. A lot of guys on our team, especially on offense, have long-term deals. It's not like we don't have a bunch of guys who aren't on long-term deals."
The first couple of weeks haven't gone exactly as Roseman projected, but the good organizations are the ones who anticipate curves in the road. The Eagles have lost some players, some that they valued very highly, but simply could not match when those talents hit the open market.
Players like linebackers T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, safeties C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps, offensive guard Isaac Seumalo, and running back Miles Sanders signed with other teams.
The Eagles moved on. That's the nature of the business. You just can't keep everybody ...
"That's one of the most important things with free agency," Roseman said. "You can go in with a plan, but you have to be able to pivot and have other options, not get stuck with nothing. If you would have asked me a month ago, I probably wouldn't have expected to get some of these guys back, which is a good thing. You can go in with a plan in free agency and you can pivot and understand what the values are, a valuation on those players."
What the Eagles have done is go the one-year-contract route with the unrestricted free agents they have signed – Bradberry is the exception - who have a lot on the line in 2023: quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back Rashaad Penny, linebacker Nicholas Morrow, cornerback Greedy Williams, and safeties Terrell Edmunds and Justin Evans.
Hitting on one or two or three of those players would be enormously important for the roster in 2023 and the years to follow. Low-risk, high-reward deals have been good for the Eagles and for the players in recent seasons.
"When you're looking at these one-year guys, you want some high-upside guys, guys who have traits in their bodies, guys who we had a like for at some point in time," Roseman said. "They're young guys who have a lot of upside. I think we like these kind of high-upside-guys, lottery tickets with the understanding that they've got to prove it. They have a chip on their shoulder. They have talent. It hasn't worked out perfectly where they are and if you can hit on some of those guys it's mutually beneficial."
Roseman likes where the Eagles stand now, and he knows there is much to add with resources to do so. Everything is fluid. Everything is positive. A work in progress, just like every team, and the understanding that the best time to look at the roster is when we're close to the regular season and the pieces are in place and the Eagles have a really good sense of who fits where and how.