At the NFL's Annual Meeting in Orlando, where the emphasis is on discussing the state of the league as it stands now and challenges for the future, general manager Howie Roseman met with some reporters for a well-rounded conversation about the Eagles and the steps they've taken since the 2013 season ended with the loss to New Orleans in the playoffs.
Safe to say, the Eagles are a work in progress. Roseman said the emphasis is on building the right way, filling in with some helpful pieces in free agency and then doing great work in the May NFL draft.
"It's our job to look at all phases of the game, special teams included, when we're building a team, and just try to figure out what makes sense from a financial perspective, from a resource perspective and then not force things just because of what the needs are," said Roseman. "Certainly, we don't look at our team and feel like we're perfect. We're continuing to try to get better and improve. But that's a process and it's going to take time for us to get all the right pieces in place.
"That doesn't mean we can't be competitive, but don't look at it as just 2014, though obviously there's a priority on this year, but also 2015 and 2016. That's our goal. Our goal is to have a team that's competitive over a certain period of time, because when we look back at the teams that are winning world championships, it's not just Super Bowl-or-bust years. It's teams that keep knocking on the door, getting an opportunity, get in the playoffs, get hot and that's kind of where we want to go as an organization."
The Eagles addressed the current roster prior to free agency, retaining wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper before they had a chance to reach free agency. Maclin, said Roseman, is working hard and is expected to be a large part of the offense in 2014. They also extended the contracts of offensive linemen Jason Peters and Jason Kelce, and released wide receiver Jason Avant.
When free agency started, the Eagles were in the action quickly, releasing safety Patrick Chung, coming to terms with punter Donnie Jones on a three-year contract after his outstanding 2013 season and signing unrestricted free agent safety Malcolm Jenkins from the Saints. Jenkins, whom Roseman called the "quarterback" of the secondary, fits into the defensive scheme because of his versatility and coverage abilities, and the Eagles think he will thrive in this system.
Safety, of course, has been a particular position of conversation for those who observe the Eagles. The Eagles want stability and solid play from both spots, and after seeing how Nate Allen improved in the defense in 2013, they signed him to a one-year deal last week and he's in the mix.
"We feel like we added pieces that are going to help us, both with those players we re-signed and with some additions," said Roseman. "This is something that evolves. We're still in March. We have a long way to go."
The Eagles have addressed every phase of their team – Nolan Carroll comes in to compete at cornerback, and the Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman additions and the Jones signing aid special teams, while Maclin, Cooper and Darren Sproles will be on hand to make the offense even more explosive and multiple than it was a season ago.
But the work is still to be done. Roseman is juggling all phases right now – free agency continues and the draft is in May – and the Eagles have their sights set on 2014 and beyond.
It certainly helps that the personnel department has a clear understanding of what head coach Chip Kelly and his staff want in terms of players' skill sets and the schemes and how that marriage must mix. The Eagles have been aggressive in free agency, they're keeping their eyes open for more opportunities to upgrade the roster and they have six picks for May's draft.
"Every day we're trying to make our team better," said Roseman. "That's what we want to do, and it's a process and it takes time. I know that we've been aggressive and we're going to continue to be aggressive."
These meetings are a chance to catch up in conversation with the rest of the league and to take a global approach to the view of the league. It's also about staying on top of the roster, which is always a fluid situation.
The truly critical part to long-term success happens in May when the draft arrives. All of this work is a lead to the most important weekend of the year for every NFL team.
"You have to have success there to have long-term success for your franchise," said Roseman.