We're in a slowwwwwww news cycle. As in, we're all waiting to officially find out about potential changes to the coaching staff, roster decisions, free-agent plans, and then the NFL Draft. All of that will come in time. At the moment, the NovaCare Complex is quiet and that leads me to some Random Thoughts looking ahead to 2019 …
- Just to update you on what's happening at the NovaCare Complex at this very moment … not much at all. A few players are here rehabbing injuries. The coaching staff and personnel department are quiet. The draft preparation and free-agency plans ramp up next week. It's the offseason. It's slow. It's 180 degrees different than it was a year ago. When you hear the expression, "What a difference a year makes," think about now. Just a reminder that free agency begins on March 13 and the NFL Draft kicks off on April 25. The Eagles have a lot of work to do before free agency begins to get under what is expected to be a salary cap limit of $187 million to $191 million for 2019. Teams must be under the exact number, which will be determined in the weeks to come, prior to 4 p.m. on March 13.
- Report: The Baltimore Ravens are trading quarterback Joe Flacco to Denver for what is expected to be a mid-round draft pick in 2019. Nothing is official until the start of the 2019 business year, at 4 p.m. on March 13. If this happens, it changes the dynamic just a bit across the NFL landscape, and it impacts the Eagles should they decide to move Nick Foles. Denver signed Case Keenum to a large contract in free agency last offseason and, if the report is true, is planning to move on from Keenum after just one season. So, Keenum would theoretically become available to join a team, likely as a backup. The mid-round draft pick would also set a bit of a standard for teams acquiring veteran starting quarterbacks in trades this offseason. While there have been reports that the Eagles are planning to use the franchise tag on Foles and then look to trade him after March 13 at 4 p.m., absolutely nothing is official. And we've seen how these reports change over the course of time. But it's interesting and kind of kick-starts the quarterback market, in which many pieces are in play.
- The Eagles have to make sure they are set at quarterback beyond Carson Wentz as the starter for 2019 and into the future, of course. They need to determine how to proceed with Foles, and they also have to apply a tender offer for Nate Sudfeld, a restricted free agent in March. The Eagles want to make sure they keep Sudfeld here and don't allow another team to grab him in free agency, so the value of the tender offer is critical. Beyond that, is it time again for the Eagles to consider adding a developmental quarterback in free agency or the draft?
- Emmitt Thomas announced his retirement from the NFL after five decades as a player and a coach. He was a Hall of Fame defensive back and a terrific assistant coach, including four seasons with the Eagles as defensive coordinator from 1995-98 under head coach Ray Rhodes. What the Eagles were able to build with those defenses formed the core of the great Andy Reid/Jim Johnson defenses moving forward, and the players who were here with Thomas credit him mightily for success they've had in their careers. When Brian Dawkins was in Canton, Ohio over the summer for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he recalled how Thomas helped Dawkins overcome depression, to call for help, and to stand up and face the challenge. Thomas cared about his players as men on and off the field. "A great man, a great man," Dawkins said the day before he was enshrined in Canton. "He knew how to be kind when he needed to be kind and he knew how to light you up when he needed to do that, but at the end of the day, Emmitt made a huge impact in my life. As a football coach, he was complete. He helped make me who I became on the football field. Emmitt kept us together through some tough times. We played hard, we were disciplined, and we were tough guys who played for each other. That's what Emmitt was all about."
- John Ourand from the Sports Business Journal said on the SI.com Media Podcast that the Eagles are "pretty likely" to play at Minnesota on Thanksgiving night this season. We'll see about that. Remember last year the rumors that the Vikings would be the team to open the NFL season at Lincoln Financial Field, and not until the actual NFL schedule come out that we learned differently. Playing on Thanksgiving on the road is a tough assignment, as history has shown, but the benefit is a mini-bye weekend after the game and a good rest late in the regular season. "I've always actually enjoyed playing on Thursday nights," center Jason Kelce said during the 2018 season. "It's tough on the front end, but the long weekend is a big help. You kind of have to just get through that Thursday game and then you get a little bit refreshed with a weekend off. I actually don't mind Thursday games at all from time to time. You have to mentally gear yourself up and take care of your body, because that's a quick turnaround. But if you do it right, it balances out in the end."
- In this week's Eagles Live Podcast, former defensive end Hugh Douglas is the featured guest and the many things we talked about was the 2005 altercation Douglas had with former Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens. Douglas at that time was retired and served as a team ambassador, and Owens heard through the grapevine that Douglas, while on his SportsRadio WIP broadcast, had been critical of Owens. The two reportedly came to blows. But Douglas says, among many, many other things, that a punch never landed in the skirmish. "Punches thrown, yes," Douglas said, laughing. "Nothing landed, though." It's a great interview with Douglas, as is the one the week before with former Eagles linebacker and Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Famer Seth Joyner.
- Finally, this reminder, as we look ahead with great anticipation toward 2019: No team has repeated as NFC East champion since the Eagles of 2001-04. You know this already. The Dallas Cowboys came out on top in 2018 and the division should improve next season (although Washington's hole at quarterback is significant) so the truth is, nobody really knows what to expect. The NFC East is the NFL's Wild, Wild West. It's a crapshoot from one season to the next.