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Spadaro: The Eagles' plan comes to life as free agency is underway!

Howie Roseman
Howie Roseman

He had just finished his media obligations at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis – the general media press conference, a couple of television hits, a radio spot – and then Eagles Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman paused and talked about the team's plan of attack when free agency started two weeks from that moment.

"We're gonna be aggressive," Roseman said. "That's our thinking. We have some good players on the roster already that we're excited about and we want to add to that mix in every way we can.

"I'm looking forward to when it starts. I can't wait to get this thing going."

Well, Roseman got it going, that's for sure. The Eagles bolted out of the gates with the 2024 NFL League Year officially underway, announcing at 4 PM on Wednesday that they've agreed to terms with four unrestricted free agents, retaining and extending their kicking game operation, signing defensive end Brandon Graham for a 15th Eagles season, inking Pro Bowl left guard Landon Dickerson to a long-term contract extension, and saying goodbye in a heartfelt way to all-timers Jason Kelce and Fletcher Cox.

And this is only the beginning.

"We have a plan," Roseman said then.

No doubt they did, and they've executed it in stunning fashion, adding star running back Saquon Barkley and versatile interior lineman Matt Hennessy to the offense, and bringing end/linebacker Bryce Huff and linebacker Zack Baun to the defense.

The team also took care of all three members of its outstanding kicking game – placekicker Jake Elliott to a long-term contract through 2028, punter Braden Mann for two seasons, and long snapper Rick Lovato for the 2024 campaign.

Decisive. Detailed.

The Eagles put together a blueprint for what they wanted to do in the early stages of this offseason and they've been on point. There are, no doubt, twists and turns ahead as the weeks and months pass – and there is a long, long way to go building the roster to match Roseman's vision – but the team is off to a great, great start.

Roseman's ability to gauge the market and to have multiple plans in place, combined with the understanding from the coaching staff of what the schemes demand from the players, has long been part of the secret sauce around here. The Eagles addressed positions to upgrade and they brought in players who possess the skill set required to excel.

Barkley, for example, is a consummate player at the running back position. He's long been the No. 1 player to account for when the Eagles lined up against the Giants both for his explosiveness as a running back and his danger as a receiver in the passing game. He is a three-down back, one of the best in the entire NFL, and he joins Kenneth Gainwell in the running back room knowing the Eagles' offense already has top-level players throughout the skill positions and an offensive line that has some change – with a need to replace Kelce at center, possibly by sliding third-year man Cam Jurgens from right guard to that spot – and another starting job at right guard to fill if Jurgens makes the shift.

Hennessy played in 41 games with 22 starts in three seasons with Atlanta and is coming off a knee injury that cost him the entire 2023 campaign. He adds depth and versatility to Jeff Stoutland's room.

Huff was a top target for the Eagles and they landed him after his incredible rise from undrafted player out of the University of Memphis to a jolting, physical presence off the edge. Huff is a rugged 255 pounds, long and powerful, and he led the New York Jets in 2023 with 10 quarterback sacks and 67 quarterback pressures in 334 pass rushes (according to Pro Football Focus) playing 42 percent of the Jets' defensive snaps. His sack rate of 3.2 percent ranked sixth in the NFL. It's going to be fascinating to see how Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio employs Huff, who can win in a standup spot on the edge and also with his hand down.

Baun played four seasons in New Orleans and excelled on special teams and in the limited role he had in the defense. He broke out in '23, with 27 tackles (4 for loss), 2 quarterback sacks (both of them late in the season), 4 QB hits, 2 pass breakups, and 1 interception in 301 defensive snaps.

The Eagles announced on Thursday that they brought back defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson on a three-year contract and also added veteran wide receiver DeVante Parker on a one-year deal. Gardner-Johnson spent the 2022 season with the Eagles and added playmaking sizzle to the back end of the defense with a league-best six interceptions before he signed with Detroit for the 2023 campaign. Parker enters his 10th NFL season by bringing an element of size and strength to the wide receiver corps to complement the dynamic duo of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. Last season, Parker caught 33 passes for the Patriots and the previous season averaged a career-best 11.7 yards per target. He authored a 1,200-yard, nine-touchdown campaign in the 2019 season.

There is more to come, of course. Roseman and his team are still at it, digging through the available players on the market, talking to teams around the league, projecting who might come free at certain points in this offseason, and, in the bigger context, preparing for the 2024 NFL Draft.

We have only started the roster-building process, for sure.

But the Eagles are off and moving in the right direction and making this football team a whole lot better in the process.

Get your first look at the 2024 Eagles additions. While they may be sporting different colors now, these players will be wearing Eagles jerseys in 2024!

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