What we all don't take into account as the time ticks down and we are breathless and on the edge of our seats as NFL teams reduce their rosters to 53 players by 4 PM on Tuesday is that ... well ... it's ... not ... over.
Not by a long shot.
The first iteration of the Eagles’ 53-man roster is here, and with it there are some questions, of course. Seven cornerbacks? Four tight ends? Seven defensive tackles, and six edge rushers? Four wide receivers? No punter?
But the Eagles have been through this so many times before and anyone who has paid attention understands that Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman is thinking one, two, and three steps ahead and he knows that it's not really a 53-man roster the Eagles are working with. Having the ability to add as many as 16 players to the practice squad is one very real element to consider and there is also a waiver wire to pick apart and there are always conversations to be had with other teams and potential moves to be made.
"A lot of these guys that we cut today, we're interested in bringing back," Roseman said. "We have a practice squad and we've talked about the roster being 69 guys as opposed to 53 and we have some flexibility in those spots."
The point is, things are very fluid here. What stands out initially is that the Eagles think highly of a group of young cornerbacks – Josh Jobe, Kelee Ringo, Mario Goodrich, and Eli Ricks – who showed enough to earn roster spots, and the general rule in the game of football is that if you see something in a cornerback, you do everything you can to keep him. That's why there are seven on the roster – cornerback is a tremendously important position and the Eagles have done a very strong job of identifying some in the past two draft weekends – Ringo was a fourth-round pick and the other three were signed after the draft – that they've been able to develop.
The team made a trade on Tuesday to add a fourth tight end, Albert Okwuegbunam, who had 7 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown in the Broncos' preseason finale, who is a physical specimen at 6-5, 258 pounds with a 4.49-40-yard dash registered at the NFL Scouting Combine. He's one of four tight ends on the roster, he's a raw talent, and he's a player you take a chance on at the minimal cost of flipping late-round draft picks with Denver in 2025.
"The first thing you talk about with Albert, you talk about the physical ability," Roseman said. "He's 6-5, 260 pounds, he runs a 4.4, he's got a huge wingspan, he's got really good lower-body flexibility for a big guy. We had a chance to watch him together (Roseman and Head Coach Nick Sirianni) and obviously coach has had tremendous success at that position."
The Eagles also added cornerback Isaiah Rodgers, a cornerback/kick returner formerly with Indianapolis who has been suspended by the NFL for the 2023 season for violating the league's gambling policy. Maybe it pays off for the Eagles – another young cornerback who Roseman said "is a talented guy. Obviously, he made a mistake and he's apologized for that mistake. We believe in second chances and now it's on him."
The Eagles have four running backs – Kenneth Gainwell, Rashaad Penny, D'Andre Swift, and Boston Scott – and all will contribute. There are seven defensive tackles and six edge rushers. Jeff Stoutland has nine offensive linemen – including backups Jack Driscoll, Sua Opeta, Fred Johnson, and rookie Tyler Steen. Philadelphia goes with four wide receivers – A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, and Olamide Zaccheaus – and you know there is some additions that can be made should the Eagles want to do that during the course of the season, as the team did last year.
The point here is that the Eagles kept the best 53 players and if some positions looks a little wonky at the moment, it will all make sense when the practice squad is formed over the course of the next 24 to 48 hours.
There isn't a game until September 10, people. There is time to sort through all of this.
Check out who will be repping the green and white on the 53-man roster this season. (Photos are ordered by position and in numerical order)
"As we look at the roster, we're looking at it through the lens of having 69 guys and knowing that there is some fluid processes on some players and some things," Roseman said. "We'll do whatever we can to put the best possible guys on the field for New England and for the rest of the season."
That really is the story here. Fifty-three players become up to 69 players with the practice squad added in and then it's 48 players on gameday/night. The roster is evaluated every day for every week. It is such a competitive situation and every one of those 69 roster spots is valued and challenged.
This first step, then, is complete. The Eagles have turned this roster around in only a few years with smart personnel decisions, outstanding drafts, and success in the post-draft period. Then there is the development aspect and a coaching staff that deserves some kudos here.
A clarifying moment came during Tuesday's press conference with Roseman and Sirianni when the head coach was asked who the punt returner will be. Who are the candidates, even?
"We don't have to make any of those decisions right yet," Sirianni said. "We still have time and we still have, like Howie said, a lot of guys to choose from, guys who have been working all offseason and Training Camp catching punts so we feel good about our options there."
Boom. There it is. The Eagles feel good about their options throughout this roster and what is to come. The purpose of the summer was to find the best 53 players from a group of 90 (and then some) and they've done that. The next phase is just as important – continuing to challenge the roster, establish a strong practice squad, and then turn all attention to New England and Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season.