PHOENIX – Free agency continues for the Eagles, and it does so with an eye on value and competition and giving veteran players whose markets did not go as anticipated a chance to come to Philadelphia and push for playing time. Enter defensive end Chris Long and cornerback Patrick Robinson, both of whom agreed to terms on Tuesday.
"I think we're at the stage in free agency where we're constantly looking for value," Howie Roseman said from the NFL Annual Meeting. "I understand that when we met in March (at the onset of free agency) we talked about no Band-Aids, but from our perspective there are opportunities to get value in free agency certainly at this time of the year and we're looking at any way to improve our football team. We are trying to build this for the long haul, but at the same time when we see opportunities to improve our football team and the competition level and the depth on our team we're going to take those opportunities."
Long, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft, played eight seasons with the Rams and then played in New England in 2016, taking part in the majority of the defensive snaps and recording four sacks. If he can help the Eagles get the quarterback, he's going to make an impact.
"Chris adds another pass rusher. We need as many pass rushers as we can (have), especially in this division," vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas said. "Chris was coming off an (ankle) injury in 2015 and he ended up playing 65 percent of the snaps (in New England). I think what you're getting with Chris is a great teammate, a great leader, a high-motor player, a relentless player who still has explosive qualities and strength."
The Eagles released Connor Barwin from the roster, and they have Brandon Graham at one defensive end position, and they've got Vinny Curry, Long, Marcus Smith, Steven Means and Alex McCalister vying for reps and, in the big picture, spots on the roster. Adding Long does not mean the Eagles think they are set at defensive end. If they have a chance to upgrade in the draft, they're going to do it. At least three ends are projected to be among the top 15 to 20 picks in the first round of the NFL Draft.
"We're going with the best player available," Douglas said. "That's our thinking."
Bringing on board two more veterans to low-risk deals is smart business by Roseman and the Eagles. It's about "value" in free agency, and the Eagles, in the unusual position of being tight against the league's salary cap, have maneuvered enough to sign wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, along with offensive guard Chance Warmack, and quarterback Nick Foles.
And now Long and Robinson, the 32nd pick in the 2010 draft by New Orleans who has just not found his footing in the NFL.
"It's challenging right now, there's no question about it," Roseman said. "Our conversations are, 'What is this guy going to add? Can we rationalize the situation we're in?' Connor is a big loss to our football team and him going to the Rams, we're happy for him and the opportunity he gets … but when we're able to get a guy who brings a lot of the same qualities on and off the field, things that we value, we thought that it made us better. Not only now, but the legacy he could have going forward to the players on the team."
Roseman calls it "value shopping," something the Eagles will continue to do between now and the draft. Roseman said there are a "couple of guys" the Eagles are still looking at, but that the idea of bringing in three or four more players is not likely.
Clearly, there are still needs on this roster. The Eagles addressed the defense in earnest for the first time this offseason on Tuesday, but they're not finished. Getting some help from Long and Robinson would represent solid scouting and sound decision-making this late in free agency.
The draft is where it's all going to happen for the Eagles as they look for players who are going to contribute for the next many seasons. Long and Robinson represent veteran presence at positions of need – defensive end and cornerback. Neither is guaranteed to make the roster, really. The idea is to heat up the competition in the summer.
"When we watched Chris we felt like he played really well last year and when we watched him in the Super Bowl with his ability to generate pressure," Roseman said.
Two pieces in, with no risk. The Eagles are hunting for good players at fair market prices, hopeful to set up a fierce Training Camp battle for roster positions and starting jobs.
Follow along during 2017 Free Agency to keep tabs on all of the Eagles' acquisitions.