Fletcher Cox got his, the Eagles got theirs and the mega deal of the summer locks in a player who has a chance to be one of the great players in the history of the Eagles' franchise through the 2022 season. The Cox contract was a whopper and the latest in a series of stay-at-home moves made by the Eagles, a strategy that the franchise employed during its five-NFC-title-game run in the early 2000s.
The Cox contract is one that gained a lot of national attention and that has created a ripple effect throughout the NFL, but there is more at work here. The organizational insistence in this offseason, after so many seasons of tumult, is to restore sanity. To regulate stability. To follow a model from those deep-into-the-playoffs Eagles teams from 2000-08 and to do what the teams that have won in the NFL – New England and Pittsburgh and Green Bay and Seattle – have done since: Draft well, develop talent soundly and keep that core together as much as possible.
Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie signed off on the plan to invest in the current roster – an NFL-most $280 million-plus in guaranteed dollars since January, according to ESPN Stats & Info – and Howie Roseman and his staff went out and locked in the young core.
As a result, the Eagles have some anticipated stability. They've got three quarterbacks under contract through at least 2017 – Sam Bradford has a two-year deal, Chase Daniel is signed for three seasons and Carson Wentz is on his rookie contract. The offensive line is in terrific shape with every projected starter – Jason Peters (2018), Allen Barbre (2017), Jason Kelce (2020), Brandon Brooks (2020) and Lane Johnson (2021) – under contract long enough to build some real continuity here. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek were re-upped in the offseason and Trey Burton is in the third year of his rookie contract. Ronald Darby and Josh Huff are signed through 2017 and Nelson Agholor has his deal through 2017. Running back Ryan Mathews is signed through 2017. Wendell Smallwood is a rookie.
Those whose contracts expire after 2016: Running backs Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner and wide receivers Rueben Randle and Chris Givens.
On the defensive side of the ball, it is much the same. There are long-term contracts throughout the projected 11 starters. Defensive tackle Bennie Logan and cornerback Nolan Carroll are two whose contracts expire after 2016. The rest are signed, sealed and looking to jell.
"We're trying to build something that lasts and having continuity and having building blocks and adding to them," said Howie Roseman, who said that the word "restructuring" was an accurate way to describe the approach to a salary cap that, honestly, looked to be more than challenging at the start of the offseason.
"For us to become a really good team over a period of time, we needed this base of really good players. And when you have the guys in your building, when you are with them every day, when you see what they can do, there is less of a guessing game going forward than there are when you are taking guys from other organizations (in free agency)."
Roseman got to work just after Doug Pederson was hired as the head coach and the coaching staff was in place. Roseman signed Ertz and Celek on back-to-back days and then, wham, the Eagles had Johnson signed and bam, they inked Vinny Curry and then Malcolm Jenkins and then the Eagles got a deal done with Bradford and then Roseman traded away some onerous contracts belonging to cornerback Byron Maxwell and running back DeMarco Murray.
It has just kept rolling and rolling and, as the Eagles look at the roster now they see a young core that has some experience. They see a team that they are excited about both in the immediate present and the long-term future.
It's been a whirlwind offseason, one designed to curtail the merry-go-round of roster moves in the offseason and one that gets them ahead, even with the considerable expense, of a salary cap and a market that is going up, up, up.
The Eagles are hopeful of sustained, substantial success. They were going to sign all of these young players and decided to do it, with the blessing from Lurie, now rather than wait a year or two.
"We wanted to keep those guys together and build on top of it," Roseman said. "The other thing that adds into it is we don't have the same amount of (draft) picks that we've had, so the more places that we can fill going forward, the better off we'll be."
Roseman said the state of the team's salary cap will be "tight for the next couple of years," but it is certainly very manageable. The Eagles want to use free agency judiciously. They don't have a first-round pick in 2017, nor do they have a second-round pick in 2018 as part of the trade that allowed them to draft quarterback Carson Wentz. Roseman and his staff have studied this very closely. They've made projections.
This was the offseason to invest in the present and in the future, and they've done so.
"We're hoping that this investment that we made this year will allow us to not invest as much going forward, because we have these guys locked up. We do things like look at our depth chart in 2018, 2019 and I know sometimes that's hard, but for us to have a run of sustained success we have to have a lot of good players on our team in those years," Roseman said.
This is a familiar model, and it is one that requires discipline and strong drafting and excellent player development. It is not a quick-fix operation. It is not a "dream team" model. It is the one that allowed the Eagles to reach the NFC Championship Game five times and the Super Bowl once from 2001-08.
This time, the Eagles hope to take it a step beyond. Signing Cox, a premier player at a vital position, is a strong step in that direction and it is a move that provides some momentum heading into the break between now and Training Camp and a future that holds real promise – and stability – for the Eagles' organization.