The first week of free agency brought in nine new players for the Eagles. Eight of them were signed and one - wide receiver Arrelious Benn - was acquired in a trade. The Eagles provided help for new head coach Chip Kelly on offense, defense and special teams through the acquisitions. But the new players also bring flexibility for the Eagles as they will not have to reach for a player in April's NFL Draft.
"It gives you a little bit of, I guess the best way to say, comfort knowing that you don't have to reach for something at No. 4 just because you don't have somebody at that position," Kelly said Wednesday at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix.
The Eagles own the No. 4 overall pick and want to be able to add the best player available. A position Kelly noted where free agency helped was at cornerback as the Eagles had to replace both starters from last season. The Eagles released Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie signed a one-year deal with Denver. Bradley Fletcher agreed to terms on the first day of free agency and Cary Williams was signed by the Eagles just days later. Combined, the two have started 59 career regular season games and Williams was the starter for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens last season.
Kelly said that he's "really happy" with the building process to date as he felt the team was able to address some immediate needs. However, Kelly doesn't quite know how the puzzle is going to come together until he can begin working with the players on April 1, which is the start of the offseason conditioning program. As a new head coach, the Eagles will get an extra week of minicamps. They will take place in the third week of April, just before the NFL Draft.
Kelly also praised the work of general manager Howie Roseman and his staff for "a real collaborative effort between the coaching staff and the personnel department." While the process of building a team wasn't different than recruiting at Oregon, Kelly said, the personnel staff did a lot of the "groundwork" making it easier on the coaches.
"It's been taken care of for you, but it's still the same process in terms of evaluating players," Kelly said.
While Kelly has to wait to see his new players in action, there were some common themes among the players acquired in the past week. They are all tough, physical players who can play multiple roles. They are all also blue-collar players with a good dose of upside who mostly came from winning programs. Chemistry is something that was lacking in Philadelphia last season and Kelly wants to change that as he installs his program.
"We were very, very, very thorough. I think we were kind of known that we didn't jump into the recruiting battles immediately just because we didn't have enough information," Kelly said of his time at Oregon. "Just because a kid can run a good 40 or lift a lot of weight, it doesn't mean that he's a good football player. There are so many different things that are involved in that. What's their approach to the game? How much do they love playing football? How hard are they willing to work?"
And with some of the team's immediate holes plugged, Kelly and the Eagles can focus on getting dynamic playmakers in the NFL Draft who will help further the program along instead of reaching now to fill spots only to pay the price down the road.
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