The tone for the 2012 NFL Draft was set in February and March when the Eagles invested a majority of available resources in keeping their own players.
Defensive end Trent Cole, offensive tackle Todd Herremans, guard Evan Mathis and wide receiver DeSean Jackson all received long-term contracts from the team. Other key veterans such as defensive tackles Antonio Dixon and Derek Landri and offensive tackle King Dunlap received one-year deals.
The Eagles made two pivotal additions from other teams. They traded for linebacker DeMeco Ryans and signed offensive tackle Demetress Bell. Of course, Bell was signed after Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles.
Head coach Andy Reid said on Saturday night after the conclusion of the draft that these moves allowed the Eagles to not have to force any picks this year. The Eagles moved up for a defensive tackle in Fletcher Cox despite the presence of starters Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson. Late in the second round, the Eagles selected defensive end Vinny Curry even though there are two Pro Bowl players on the roster in Cole and Jason Babin.
"I think the foundation that was set going into the draft allowed you to do that," Reid said. "So I go back and tell you that I thought he did a heck of a job of re-signing our own players which then allowed you to go into this draft and say, listen, 'We don't have to force a thing. Let's just sit there and if somebody falls we have enough ammo to go get you, but yet we don't have to force one thing in here.'"
General manager Howie Roseman stressed before the draft that the Eagles would take the best player available on the board. That allowed the Eagles to look at running back Bryce Brown in the seventh round. A highly sought-after college recruit, Brown played his freshman year at Tennessee before leaving for Kansas State and eventually leaving that team. With a good squad in place, the Eagles felt it was good value and a low-risk, high-reward pick.
Reid praised Roseman for being able to replace the Eagles' fourth-round pick that was lost in the move up for Cox. Roseman was able to take the Eagles' second second-round pick and flip it to move back eight spots and add a fourth-round pick. The Eagles got Curry, whom the team had a late first/early second-round grade on, and get a dynamic slot corner/return specialist in Georgia's Brandon Boykin with that fourth round pick.
"He orchestrated this draft and I thought he did a heck of a job with that," Reid said of Roseman. "He really had a nice control of the room and a good feel for what was happening in the league. Time will tell here on the players. From my standpoint I think we brought in, not only quality guys, but also good football players. I look forward to seeing them put the wings on."
After three drafts, Reid said that he would put Roseman "up against anybody" as a draft evaluator.
"I think he's tremendous. We're very fortunate to have him here," Reid said.
The Eagles are at a critical point in their franchise. Coming off an 8-8 season that resulted in the first non-playoff campaign since 2007, Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie demands improvement in 2012. That, of course, could lead Reid to want to draft for this year and not worry about the future. However, he said that he respects the organization not to do that.
"That's a selfish way to go about it. That's not how I operate," Reid said. "I want to win more than anybody obviously. That's my job and I enjoy competition, but at the same time, I'm going to do what's always best for the Eagles. That's what I'm going to do. Not what's best for Andy. That's not the right way to go about things. That would be a very selfish move on my part."
Now, Reid begins the process of getting this collection of talent to jell together. The offseason program is underway. Reid said that beginning Monday the coaches can observe on-field workouts. The first mini-camp, one for rookies, doesn't begin until May 12. As excited as he is to see this talent on the field, Reid is a "realist" and knows that it will take time to develop just like any other season.
"I look forward to bringing this crew in, but again, we're going to have to come together as a football team," Reid said. "I think we have a good nucleus. Sundays are what counts and you have to make sure that you build a good, solid foundation and work yourself now."
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