After a classic Super Bowl concluded the NFL season on Sunday, the offseason officially begins for all 32 teams. For the Eagles, the season ended more than a month ago with more questions than answers about the direction of the team.
The front office has likely spent weeks devising an offseason plan, with the goal of improving the roster from top to bottom.
There are only a handful of players that truly make up the core of the organization. It starts with Carson Wentz, and then you can make a case for players such as Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox, Jordan Hicks, and Malcolm Jenkins, but it might be a stretch to mention players such as Brandon Graham, Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews.
The list is short and the problem with the team starts there.
The weaknesses of the team are more than at receiver and in the secondary, particularly at cornerback. The offense lacks playmakers in the backfield and at receiver, the offensive line has an aging left tackle whose best days are behind him in Jason Peters, a center in Jason Kelce that has declined in recent seasons and a tight end in Ertz who has flashed great receiving skills, but is maddeningly inconsistent.
On defense, the line play greatly disappointed in 2016. Graham had a breakout season at defensive end, but Connor Barwin struggled to make the transition from an above average 3-4 pass rusher to a 4-3 defensive end with his hand in the ground. Vinny Curry has proven to be more of a pass rush specialist and a liability as a three-down lineman.
The corners are all replaceable, though Jalen Mills deserves another shot to start in 2017. Mychal Kendricks appears to be the odd man out at linebacker with Hicks and Nigel Bradham playing well, and Rodney McLeod appeared to not bring full effort in several games down the stretch of the season.
After back-to-back 7-9 seasons, it proves that the Eagles' roster is average at best. You can also make the case that it is below par given the 14-18 run during the last two seasons. Either way, despite a franchise quarterback on the roster, there remains too many holes for this team to be considered close to competing for a Super Bowl.
Despite blowing a 25-point lead in the biggest stage on Sunday, the Falcons remain far ahead of the Eagles in the NFC, taking little stock of the loss to Philadelphia in the regular season.
If the Eagles are going to be legitimate players in free agency, relieving cap space is a must. The braintrust has likely decided who they will ask to either take a pay cut, restructure the contract to make it more cap friendly or flat out release. The most likely candidates to be cut are Kelce, Ryan Mathews, Barwin and Leodis McKelvin, plus it is possible Peters, Allen Barbre and Kendricks could be let go.
Barwin, McKelvin, Peters, Mathews and Barbre would create significant cap space, while Kelce and Kendricks have some dead money attached to it.
If even just some of these names are released, the Eagles can save approximately $20 million in cap space. If the front office decides to go after a wide receiver such as Kenny Stills in free agency, the additional cap space is a necessity. It may allow them to make a bolder move and spend more money on Alshon Jeffery.
Past mistakes need to be learned from, however. Free agency should be used as adding a piece here and there, but committing significant amount of dollars to players is a risky proposition. It worked in the case of Jenkins, Barwin for a few seasons, plus Bradham and McLeod were fine investments. But the Byron Maxwell and Nnamdi Asomugha cases are prime examples of free agency failure.
The Eagles need to build the team through the draft. Last year's draft was a start when Howie Roseman selected Wentz, Isaac Seumalo, Wendell Smallwood, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Mills, but with more picks at the disposal in 2017, it must equate to more young talent added to the roster.
The defense needs to get a little younger, while the offense will have to grow with an ascending quarterback. Adding young prospects to the defense will be key, while the offense needs playmakers as mentioned several times before.
It is a long offseason ahead. There will be no more football games played until the preseason in August. When the Eagles get back on the field for OTAs in the spring and then training camp in the summer, it is important that the roster begins to trend upward. In a tougher division, it won't be an easy task.
Roseman's most important offseason as Vice President of Football Operations is officially underway. The floor is his and any praise or scrutiny will be heading his way until the team hits the practice field in a few months.