Through two days of the NFL Draft, it's easy to paint a picture of Chip Kelly's first NFL offseason. The team addressed pressing needs in free agency, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. Then, come draft time, the focus was on bringing in the pieces for Kelly's long-term vision of the offense. Next, with Lane Johnson and Zach Ertz in tow, the team was free to address youth on the defensive side of the ball in the third round, when they selected LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan.
But to ascribe that specific game plan to the Eagles is unfair if you listen to the team's decision makers. Rather, Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman say the team has looked for value at every turn of the offseason and the chips have just fallen in these particular ways.
"I think that's kind of a silly approach to it that way," said Kelly, when asked if the team planned to address defense in free agency and offense in the draft. "It's just (asking) what's the best way for you to make your team better and when we looked at free agency, there were some guys that we really kind of coveted and they happened to be defensive players. But we didn't say, 'Okay, because we've addressed some of this here, let's go the other way.' It's really, 'Let's look at what we've got.' I think we have two outstanding tight ends on our team right now but we thought that Zach (Ertz) could add some depth to us so that's kind of a prime example of us taking who we really believe is the best player out there."
Roseman has said in the past that the team moved its philosophy in the general direction of "best player available" entering last year's NFL Draft - a draft that netted a combined 47 starts in one season from Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Dennis Kelly and Bryce Brown. This offseason, and especially in the additions of Johnson, Ertz and Logan, the Eagles held firm in that belief, Roseman said.
"We were going to take the best player," Roseman said. "We were going to go off of our board. That's why we spend nine months doing this. We're going to make sure we hit on the guys in the order that they come off. Going into it, I couldn't tell you if we were going defense or offense, because I didn't know how they were going to come off. We're really pleased with where we are right now and again, we have a big day tomorrow."
Though defensive coordinator Billy Davis did receive the lion's share of the free agent signings this offseason, Kelly was asked, in jest, if by round three Davis had begun pushing for the team to draft a defensive player.
"I think everybody knows what we're trying to get accomplished here and that's to make our team better," Kelly said. "I also know that defense wins championships. When we were fortunate enough to win championships at Oregon, our offense got a lot of credit, but I think our defense (was important). You look at guys getting drafted right now: (Oregon linebacker) Kiko Alonso got drafted, (Oregon linebacker) Dion Jordan got picked. Maybe we got a little bit more credit than we should have from an offensive standpoint, but we were pretty good on defense there and I know defense wins championships ... So, just the way it fell is the way it fell and you can't predict how it's going to go. But we feel like, as we keep going through this thing, what's best is we look at it and (whoever) is the highest ranked player is who we're going to take."
That the board has fallen as it has over the first two days has also allowed for the unthinkable - the notoriously trigger-happy Roseman, who has made the most draft-day trades in the league since taking over as general manager, has stayed put for three consecutive rounds.
"I think Coach (Kelly) is holding me back here a little bit," Roseman joked. "For our position, we look at our board and we just see extreme value. When we're on the clock, we see guys that we didn't anticipate being there. We want to get good players and we want to stick to the board and it's just how it's worked out here in the first three picks."
Kelly and Roseman both were clearly excited about the three-player haul thus far. Two days through their first go-round as draft-room partners, everything has run smoothly.
"It's been awesome," said Roseman. "We're having a lot of fun up there and we're getting players that we really think are really good values and fit what we're looking to do. Hopefully we'll continue that tomorrow. Tomorrow is an important day for us, as well."
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