On the surface, it's a simple question. But at the same time it's a very complex one.
Of course, talent is crucial but an NFL team has to factor in player salaries, roster limits and the fact that teams who don't win have better spots in the draft. There are many ways to craft a football roster and there isn't one formula for success. The Eagles have been very successful since Andy Reid took over in 1999 as the team's head coach. There have been nine playoff appearances, six division titles, five NFC title game appearances and a Super Bowl appearance in the Reid era.
What has been the Eagles' methodology to building the roster? JR Rickert, a veteran NFL agent, provided a unique perspective on the Eagles' roster philosophy and why it has been so successful. He provided four key reasons to the team's winning ways.
1. Age/Health - Since the team's last NFC title game appearance in 2008, the Eagles have undergone a radical roster makeover preparing the franchise for its next wave of success. Despite adding so many new and younger pieces, the Eagles have made the playoffs in each of the two past seasons and won the NFC East title last year. One study prior to the start of last season pegged the Eagles' as the fourth-youngest team (excluding specialists) in the league.
2. Productivity - This one speaks for itself. "If you are not producing, you don't remain on the roster," Rickert wrote.
3. Salary and compensation - While everyone can see who is producing and who isn't, the challenge for general manager Howie Roseman is to identify how players will fit in the Eagles' scheme, will they be highly productive, how to pay accordingly and when to shell out big-time contracts. Asante Samuel was paid a hefty salary to sign with the Eagles, but he has made the Pro Bowl in all three of his seasons and his production has not dropped off despite the price tag. Signed after the Eagles were last in turnovers forced in the 2007 season, it was an expenditure well worth the cost. The Eagles paid a king's ransom for Jason Peters to complete a trade with the Bills prior to the 2009 draft. Peters has solidified the left tackle position, which was in such good hands with Tra Thomas for many years, and has earned two Pro Bowl nods in two seasons with the Eagles.
4. Loyalty - "The Eagles actually do a great job of rewarding players who are loyal to the organization, but they strike a good balance of knowing when to say goodbye as well," Rickert wrote.
Reid has said that the toughest decisions he has made as a head coach has been deciding to part ways with longtime loyal veterans. But keeping such players around to reminisce about the good times will run a team the risk of being exposed when the players is no longer what he once was. By and large, the Eagles have taken very good care of loyal veterans, by signing them to multiple contracts, and young players who the team wants to be part of the foundation for the long haul. This goes back to No. 3 and the challenge of identifying which young players fit that mold. But the team has been very good at selecting them with players like defensive end Trent Cole, defensive tackle Mike Patterson and guard Todd Herremans.
It is always refreshing to get the take of someone who has dealt with the Eagles on contract matters, negotiated with other teams and then can put what the Eagles have done in perspective.