Still Under Construction
Roseman: Playoffs Won't Blind Us
The Eagles’ decisive playoff loss to the Bucs in Tampa last Sunday served as a cruel reminder of where they stand on the NFL spectrum.
On the heels of a 31-15 loss, a game in which the Eagles were thoroughly outclassed from pillar to post, the talent discrepancy between the two teams was glaringly evident.
But if the Eagles expect to begin an arduous path towards becoming a viable playoff contender and eventually viewed as among the league’s elite, the franchise needs to break with precedent and allocate necessary resources to fortify its perpetual positional shortcomings.
“For us, what we are doing right now is we are evaluating our team and continuing to figure out ways to build,” said Howie Roseman, Eagles executive vice president of football operations, in Tuesday’s end-of-season press conference. “We are not happy about the fact that our season ended in the playoffs. We want to build a team that has home playoff games, gets to play in front of our fan base and really build a team that gets a bye.”
The Eagles, who currently hold the No. 15, 16, and 19 picks in the first round of the NFL Draft, are suddenly in prime position to restock a cupboard largely barren of blue-chip talent.
Defensive ends Derek Barnett and Ryan Kerrigan are slated to hit the open market. Those expected departures, coupled with the franchise’s long-standing commitment to infusing the trenches with young talent, could lead one to safely assume that the position will be addressed with one of those picks.
Sure, the team’s oft-maligned linebacking corps – this year headed by undrafted free agents T.J. Edwards and Alex Singleton – held up adequately despite obvious limitations. But the position group remained arguably among the least talented in football.
Singleton, by the way, is poised to become a restricted free agent in March.
Safeties Anthony Harris and Rodney McLeod, 30 and 31 years old, respectively, are set to be unrestricted free agents. They represent an aging secondary devoid of future building blocks.
Rather than apply another Band-aid to a traditionally leaky secondary, perhaps this time the Eagles break tradition and invest prime draft capital in a rangy, ball-hawking playmaker to build around.
For perspective, it’s been 40 years since the Eagles selected a first-round linebacker. And not once in franchise history has it drafted a safety selected in the first round.
“I think we have a philosophy on how to build this team, a philosophy that we think has been successful,” Roseman continued. “Obviously, you’d like more championships every time you’re out there, but we’re going to stay committed to the way we think of building the team.
“In terms of having the three first-round picks, I think that it’s important we bring in good players that fit the system that our coaches run and that also fit the fabric of this team. We don’t go into a draft saying we are not going to do something. For us, it’s all about the skill set of that particular player and the football character of that player.”
As the game evolves, the philosophy behind identifying personnel must adapt accordingly.
Steady, one-dimensional players typically entrenched into prominent roles are frequently passed over for more dynamic, multi-faceted prospects.
But the Eagles’ roster woes aren’t just limited to the defense.
It’s been regurgitated for years, but the botched selections of wide receivers J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Jalen Reagor in consecutive years initiated a ripple effect on the franchise’s core of offensive playmakers.
In an effort to overcorrect their previous oversights, the Eagles made it a priority to secure former Alabama wideout DeVonta Smith last spring, taking him 10th overall.
Smith has the tools to become a long-term No. 1 wide receiver, but the team once again needs to invest in the position to find a viable long-term complement, whether via draft or free agency.
While the remaining playoff teams have successfully shown the blueprint in player development and positional value, Roseman will once again get an early start in heading the annual offseason roster reconfiguration – on the heels of a surprising nine-win season, but also a season helped by an extremely weak second-half schedule.
“We knew this season there were going to be some highs and some lows,” Roseman said. “I think we felt that during training camp that we were kind of trying to figure out our identity, our personnel. Coach [Nick Sirianni] did an amazing job with that.
“At the same time, like I said, we have to continue to build. We know that we have to get to a certain level to be a team that has a [playoff] bye, that has home playoff games and eventually competes to win a world championship.
“We are certainly not satisfied with where we are. We know there is a lot of work to do.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.