Balls are in the air, and Howie Roseman is doing his early-offseason juggling. The Eagles have a salary cap to manage, so there's that as the team prepares for the 2021 business year and the uncertainty of the NFL's financial picture. There are bound to be changes to the coaching staff, as the team is well aware of the reports – not yet officially confirmed by the team – that Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz will "take a step back" from the league for at least the upcoming season. Biggest of the big, of course, is the quarterback picture and what the Eagles have planned at the position – Carson Wentz or Jalen Hurts or, maybe, both, for the season to come?
And then there is this, the foundation of how the Eagles are going to get back to the top of the NFC East, the conference, the entire NFL: The 2021 NFL Draft. The dates are April 29-May 1 and the Eagles are in prime position to make a profound difference in a roster that needs a boost of quality, young talent.
Roseman knows all of this, of course. He made mention of it on Monday when he virtually addressed the media in a tandem press conference with Head Coach Doug Pederson, and after reading through all of the words, these are the ones that mattered the most:
"We've had a lot of draft picks here who have done a really good job and we have to get back to that and make sure we attack this offseason," Roseman said. "This is, really, besides 2012, we haven't picked because of earning it in the top 10, we obviously traded up for Carson, but we didn't start that year, either that way. That's something we have to hit on, the sixth pick in the draft, in a huge, huge way, and I think that we have the right people to do that. I know that we're going to be incredibly focused on not only that pick, but the other picks we'll have in this draft and hopefully we'll have a bunch of picks and we'll go from there."
Yes, the Eagles have to hit on the draft, starting at No. 6, "in a huge, huge way."
There are plenty of "need" areas for an Eagles team that went 4-11-1 in 2020. The Eagles could have as many as 10 draft picks, including projected compensatory selections, in the spring. A strong draft, a big haul of young and talented players, helps this roster immediately. The Eagles played the NFC East Champions, Washington, right down to the wire on Sunday night with a team that, in some respects, was thrown together on the fly to have enough players to field a team for the finale. It was not the best of the Eagles, clearly. This is a team that is going to have its offensive line intact in 2021, with Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks and Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson healthy after injury-ruined 2020 seasons. The Eagles will have a clear direction at the quarterback position. They have playmakers at running back and tight end, and there is young talent at wide receiver to develop. A fourth-place schedule never hurts, either.
But it's not going to be a simple switch to be flipped. Roseman knows it. The project he took on in 2016 in the wake of the Chip Kelly mess resulted in a Super Bowl LII Championship a couple of seasons later and a three-year postseason run. The Eagles partially flipped the roster moving into 2020. Perhaps a more thorough washing is ahead as the team looks for more youth, more talent, more speed, more sustainability. It's time for another cycle of success to be built.
And it has to happen via the draft, supplemented by whatever adds the Eagles can make in free agency. The team has its back against the salary cap wall, so the early expectations here for free agency are modest, at best. The long-term course of action is to own the NFL Draft, where it is always a coin flip for success. With the sixth pick overall and three of the first 70 selections, the Eagles are going to have opportunities to greatly enhance the depth of this roster and add blue-chip talent that is surely needed.
We are a long way from that point, of course. January and February are going to be long months that will require patience for all of us. There just isn't going to be a lot out there to satisfy our appetites for Eagles news and notes. Behind the scenes, though, the Eagles are going to put together their blueprint and start executing their vision and they're going to touch on all of the above – coaching staff, salary cap wrangling, roster manipulating, depth chart juggling, NFL free agency grades and projections, and, yes, the NFL Draft. The Eagles will do it the right way and build through the draft, taking the small sliver of a silver lining from a very disappointing season and turning it into something that can vault them back into the playoff picture.