Everything starts with a blueprint, and from there other components come into play as an offseason plan unfolds – patience, creativity, aggressiveness, flexibility. We still have a long way to go here as the Eagles add to their 2022 roster, but so much of the work has been done to date, and it certainly has been impressive.
How have the Eagles accomplished all of this – signing linebackers Haason Reddick and Kyzir White, wide receiver Zach Pascal, and cornerback James Bradberry in free agency, trading for wide receiver A.J. Brown on Night 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft, and adding defensive tackle Jordan Davis, center Cam Jurgens, linebacker Nakobe Dean, linebacker Kyron Johnson, and tight end Grant Calcaterra during a productive draft weekend – in such a concise and disciplined manner?
Everything started with General Manager Howie Roseman terming the approach as "building" the Eagles' roster. He said it over and over and over again: "Building."
"We want to do things the right way and build something we can sustain," Roseman said.
We take a look at the offseason and how it has unfolded to this point ...
The Start: NFL Free Agency 2022 Begins
Reddick was the prime target and the Eagles got him as the South Jersey native returned home with a three-year contract and the Eagles added a pass-rushing force. It was a targeted area of need and the Eagles landed one of the best in the business in Reddick.
"It was really important for us to get Haason because it's something that we knew we had to improve on," Roseman said. "As we talk about team building, we always talk about that we want to have guys who can pressure the quarterback and get after the quarterback. We want to be really strong on the D-line and the O-line and we feel like it gives you a head start to your team. It's not the only thing, but it's a huge part of it."
The Eagles certainly weren't flush with cash in free agency, so they were extremely judicious in their actions. In that early free-agency period, the team added two players to one-year contracts – Pascal and White – and concentrated the rest of their efforts on retaining roster stability. Players like safety Anthony Harris, defensive end Derek Barnett, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, running back Boston Scott, and wide receiver Greg Ward signed new contracts to stay Eagles, and the team worked out a contract for center Jason Kelce to ensure his return for 2022.
Only a few weeks into the process, Roseman addressed the state of the roster, repeating something he said before and would say again: It's early. Roster building is a year-long and very fluid operation.
"We're building," he said. "That's how I would describe where we are right now. We're continuing to build."
The Next Step: Pre-Draft Days and a Weekend to Remember
Roseman swung the pre-draft trade with the Saints, essentially sending to New Orleans one of the team's three first-round picks this year in exchange for a third-round pick in 2022, a first-round pick in 2023, and a second-round selection in 2024. With that, the vision for the 2022 draft was set, and just days before it began Roseman and Head Coach Nick Sirianni met the media and Roseman outlined the plan, vague as it may have been for public consumption.
"We'll go into the draft, and we'll follow the board," Roseman said. "We have had a lot of discussions – a lot of good discussions – about the players in this draft, and we just have to make sure we take the best players and not look at the draft as just a short-term fix."
On the first night of the draft, the Eagles exercised creativity, aggressiveness, and flexibility to land Davis with the 13th overall pick, moving up two spots by dealing some later-in-the-weekend draft picks, and then only a few minutes later announcing the blockbuster trade for Brown, a Pro Bowl receiver who cost the Eagles a first-round pick and the third-rounder acquired in that trade with New Orleans.
On Night 2, they did what Roseman said they would do as they "followed the board" and drafted Jurgens in the second round and Dean. They added the final two picks, Johnson and Calcaterra on Day 3, and then turned their attention to the post-draft period.
"I think there's no doubt that we got special people," Roseman said when it was all over. "And I think that when we look at A.J. Brown, he's proven to be a special player in the National Football League. I think these guys have the ability to be special players, but we know that this is a prove-it league and they need to come in and work hard and transition from college football to the NFL to show that they are as special in the NFL as they were in college football."
He also said this: "We know we have more work to do. We know that no roster in the NFL is complete. We're going to keep at it, scrounging and clawing and searching for players who can help us."
And Now, the Post-Draft Additions Begin
Long before the New York Giants released cornerback James Bradberry, the Eagles were aware that he was a player who could hit the market. The Eagles, and all teams, have departments within the personnel staff that prepare such studies on every NFL team, and the pro personnel side of things understood very clearly that Bradberry could be a candidate to be released.
So by the time Bradberry actually hit the streets, the Eagles had an in-depth understanding of how he might fit into the scheme, his personality, and what he could bring to this football team. From that point, it was a matter of patience. The longer Bradberry was available, the more possible it would be to get a deal done. According to reports, Bradberry attracted serious attention from as many as 10 teams, and in the end he selected the Eagles, with whom he signed a one-year contract on Thursday at the NovaCare Complex.
Bradberry is another positive addition who makes sense in every way. He has a Pro Bowl pedigree and is in line to start opposite Big Play Slay on the outside at cornerback, with Avonte Maddox in the nickel position. That's a strong trio, with a large handful of promising young cornerbacks competing for roster spots behind those three starters.
Philadelphia's offseason program runs through June 10 at the NovaCare Complex. After that, it's a long break before Training Camp begins in the final days of July. All the while, Roseman is going to keep scouring the rosters of other teams and players still unsigned and every avenue he can search to add to the mix here. The roster is not yet complete, so we know things are going to change.
But to this point, the offseason has been fruitful because the Eagles made a plan and understood that they wouldn't accomplish everything in the order they planned. They stayed flexible, they used patience, and they were creative and aggressive to reach this point. How can you not be encouraged by what they've done, also understanding that there is more ground to cover before the regular season begins on September 11.
On Wednesday, the Eagles agreed to terms with veteran Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry. A former second-round pick of the Panthers, Bradberry spent the past two seasons with the Giants.