Though the sting of the end to the Eagles' 2013 season remains fresh, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has a job to do. With the offseason upon us, Roseman and the rest of the Eagles personnel department ramps up the preparation for the array of roster-shaping activities that take place over the coming months.
The pre-draft All-Star games for prospects begin next week with the East-West Shrine Game, followed by the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine. Over that time, the Eagles will also evaluate their own roster, decide on what to do with their internal free agents while also preparing for the opening of free agency in March. Then it's the NFL Draft, post-draft free agency, trade talks and everything else that comes with being a general manager. Truly, for Roseman, the job never stops.
"I think we have a good process right now and I think that we have good people, but we have to continue to make sure that we're doing the right things," Roseman said earlier this week. "Right now, we have a lot of work ahead of us to get ready for the draft and we have to make sure that we're getting the right people here."
A year ago, of course, Roseman, along with Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie and president Don Smolenski, was on the road trying to find the next head coach of the Eagles. In the 12 months since, the Eagles brought Chip Kelly aboard, reshaped the roster and a 4-12 team improved enough to win the NFC East at 10-6.
"It seems like a lifetime ago in some ways, but it's exciting to think about the potential that we have here with this coaching staff and with this football team," Roseman said. "But by the same token, we've got to get better. I think our personnel staff has done a tremendous job of staying focused on that through the season, with the ups and downs. One game won't change how we identify the draft prospects or the free agent prospects or how we evaluate our own team, and I think that's the way we have to stay. We have to stay determined and we have to stay in the mode of trying to find upgrades for our football team."
The roster of the 2014 Eagles will no doubt look different than the one that ended the 2013 season. With that in mind, the team has several decisions to make about players scheduled to hit free agency like Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and Nate Allen, among others.
"You certainly have to look at the price of everything," Roseman said. "This isn't a situation where you've got an open buffet and they say that you can have anything that you want. That would be a beautiful thing. We have to lay out prices for everything and kind of stick to our board with that and see where it goes. It's too early to see exactly what that means and what that translates into.
"I think in the next couple of weeks, certainly I'll get a chance to sit down in-depth with Chip. I talk to him throughout the year, but I kind of let them focus on coaching the players here and felt like we had enough time, no matter when the season ended, to kind of circle back and have those meetings. We'll do that here."
The key to sticking to the process, Roseman added, is remembering how quickly rosters in the NFL can turn over. What may look like a strength now could turn into a weakness down the road if the position is neglected.
"I think we have to be careful in saying what we don't need or what we may have on the roster, because you never know what you may need going forward," said Roseman. "The way we'll look at it, if there's a talented player at any position and we have him highly ranked in the draft and he's on the board when we pick, we're going to be interested in him. I think if you get into the mode of 'We have this so we don't need this,' you never know where the league is going to take you. Certainly our roster looks significantly different than it did two years ago. I think we need to be open-minded, but at the same time not force something just because it may be an important position but you don't want to go in saying 'Hey, we've got to take this position' and then you just waste a draft pick that could be valuable and get you a good player at a different position.
"I would say that we're going to continue to try to build this team the right way. There are no quick fixes in the National Football League. It's such a team sport that one player only is not going to make the difference. We have to build this so hopefully we are competing for a long time."
As for his thoughts on some of the young pieces the Eagles believe will help form the core of the team moving forward, and what exactly the Eagles' process is throughout the offseason, Roseman said the following …
On the success of the 2013 rookie class – "I thought they did a really good job. They played a lot of football for us and I think that you always look to that jump after the first year. We will look for improvement from all of those guys here and get in a full offseason, but they came in with the attitude that they wanted to play and contribute right away. When you talk about three of the first four guys and really Earl before he got hurt was playing a lot too, and even some of the undrafted guys, we'll continue to look for contributions from our young players and our rookies as we move forward."
On the success of last year's free agency haul – "It's interesting because when you look at it, if you can sign a bunch of guys that maybe aren't the high-price guys, you have a chance to kind of have a batting average, as opposed to if you sign one or too big-priced guys and one or two don't work out. It kind of puts you in a bind. If you sign a bunch of solid players, you want them all to work out, but you don't necessarily count on them and it doesn't really hurt your team going forward if one or two don't work out. That group as a whole, I think they contributed a lot to our football team. We certainly weren't perfect on our free agent signings, but I thought that it matched what was out there in free agency last year and I thought it served us well."
On this year's plan for free agency, considering the available cap space – "I don't think that we should sign anyone just for the sake of signing guys. We've got to sign guys that are upgrades for our football team and fit what we're looking for from a position standpoint and a character standpoint. The money runs out quick, when you look at the natural evolution of contracts as they raise and as the cap continues to be flat. You kind of look at the number and you get a little excited about it, and then you start plugging in some numbers when you do, and all of a sudden they go down pretty quickly. I think we've got to be careful that we're doing things the right way and trying to build a team that we can sustain, that we're not rushing out and buying the new hottest item off the shelf."
On the state of the defense after transitioning from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 in one offseason – "It continues to be a work in progress, and we knew that. We knew throughout the offseason that we didn't have all of the necessary pieces that we were looking for, but I think the players that were here bought into the scheme and adjusted to it. I think you'll see them continue to get better."
On the defense utilizing players who may not have been traditional fits for a 3-4 defense – "You've got to give great credit to our coaching staff, and I think we've talked about this in the offseason, normally when you change schemes and it's such a drastic scheme change, you have a bunch of players that maybe don't fit, and they did a good job of trying to accentuate the strengths of some of the players here that we had drafted. I think when you talk about both of those guys (Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry), you talk about guys who can get pressure on the quarterback. I think another year of transitioning into the scheme will help both of those guys, and at the end of the day they're both good players who have a unique skill set in an area that's hard to find."
On the confidence in the team's young, backup offensive linemen – "We got a chance every Sunday to see them work out before the game and to see them in practice. The big thing for offensive linemen is getting experience, so that will be one of the things you're excited to see next year in Training Camp and the preseason games is those young offensive linemen getting reps and getting an opportunity to play a little bit more because it's hard to evaluate them and see how much better they're getting. We have a heck of an offensive line coach (Jeff Stoutland) who works them out every week and I think you saw in one-on-one's during the season they were getting better."
On looking at every option to improve the safety position – "I think we do. We have to look at every option. Not only that position, but obviously in particular that position. It's amazing. Brian Dawkins was at the game and you see a guy like that and you really appreciated him when he was here but the longer he's away, you really get more and more appreciation for what a great, great player he was. A Hall of Fame caliber player at a position that's so hard to find. Man, we were spoiled for a long time."
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