The flurry of signings the Eagles have had -- four players in all, with potentially more on the horizon -- is part of the team's plan to keep as much of its core together and build a deep, talented and sustainable roster. It's a team effort, says executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman, and there is a lot of work ahead.
"Hopefully that's what we're doing here. Build some continuity and do some things where we can keep people together for the long term. Invest in our own," Roseman said on Wednesday shortly after defensive end Vinny Curry talked about the five-year contract he signed, joining tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek and offensive tackle Lane Johnson as players who have inked contract extensions in the last couple of weeks. "That doesn't mean there won't be opportunities in free agency or in the trade market for us to go and make some moves. But the most important thing, when you look at the teams still playing, is invest in your own players and show them that if they do the right things on and off the field, that they have an opportunity to be here for the long term."
Roseman is a central figure in what the Eagles are doing now, as the team signs its players, talks to others about long-term contracts (more on that, specifically Fletcher Cox, in a bit) and prepares to acquire personnel in free agency and the draft. The Eagles have suspended their search for additions to the personnel department, something Roseman also touched on.
"We met a bunch of candidates, a bunch of really good candidates. The way that Jeffrey (Lurie, Chairman and CEO) said it at the press conference was that we wanted to do a comprehensive search," Roseman said. "At this time of the year, just by the nature of the time of year, teams aren't necessarily going to be aligned with that. We're looking at this as a long-term decision for us -- not just a five-month decision. The candidates we looked at were good, but we just want to make sure we're looking at all the good candidates that are available"
Roseman also addressed a question about how the personnel department is being run through free agency and the draft and whether the Eagles are undermanned in the department.
"We have a very large scouting staff in college and pro," he said. "Obviously, Tom (Donahoe, senior director of player personnel) has been running the personnel department. He's been diligent about it. I know there were some reports that he wasn't at the Senior Bowl, he wasn't at the East-West (Shrine Game). He was at both of those games. He obviously has tremendous experience. We have people who are very experienced.
"I think that's a different question than what we're looking for from a personnel executive and for the long term. But again, that's a long-term decision for us. We want to make sure we're hiring somebody who's going to be here for a long time."
The rest of the questions asked about the salary cap and the way the Eagles are spending money and any future plans they might have with Cox, the All-Pro defensive lineman who is going into the final year of his contract, and quarterback Sam Bradford, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 9.
- On Cox, Roseman said: "I go back to the statement that we made at the Senior Bowl, which is, we obviously want Fletcher Cox here. He's a tremendous player, tremendous person. At the same time, sometimes these don't happen as quickly as you'd like, so without getting into specifics, because we want to be respectful of him, obviously we want Fletcher Cox here. We want him here for an extremely long time. We'd love for him to not only start his career, but finish his career as an Eagle."
- On the spending and how it impacts the salary cap: "Yes, we have the flexibility to sign other players, but there a limitation to the totality of it but we do still have room, we still have flexibility."
- On Bradford and whether the Eagles have made a decision on wanting him to return: "All those decisions with free agents, we talk to their representatives. It's hard to do this through the media. Everything is positive with Sam."
- On other prospective free agents, including defensive backs Walter Thurmond and Nolan Carroll: "We try to be in contact with all of our players. It's a hard time of year because, obviously, with free agency being so close. Understandably, there are some players (who are thinking), 'Let me see what's out there.'"
The Eagles are working under a model that projects the cap not only for 2016, but for 2017 and 2018 and maybe a year or two beyond that. They aren't going to sign everyone they want, and they may have to shed some salaries to achieve the necessary breathing room when free agency begins. But in no way is Roseman and his department -- and it is more than just Roseman making these deals work -- handcuffing the flexibility of the team. Free agency is going to be high demand and potentially fewer players available than you think. The question of Bradford and the quarterback position looms, with no answer imminent. The Eagles want Fletcher Cox to stay and he wants to be an Eagle, and that's a pretty good place to be right now.
Otherwise, Wednesday was a day to celebrate Curry's new deal, hoping that he will blossom in the four-man front. He's a natural fit who was jammed into a scheme the last three seasons that didn't play to his strengths. Curry wants to get off the ball and get up the field and that's what he's going to do.
It's like the way this offseason has gone in the last month: Good progress in the right direction. The Eagles hired Doug Pederson as the head coach and surrounded him with a lot of experienced coaches. The signings of some key players have created some outstanding momentum and good will.
There is a bunch more ahead, what with the personnel-acquisition part of things still to come and some negotiations to wrap up, but the Eagles feel they are in a good place untangling from the end of the ugly 2015 season.