The retooling of the Eagles' roster has commenced, and the organization's offseason approach is off to a fine start.
Though it is far from a finished product, the front office managed to address the wide receiver position -- signing Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith -- at least for the short-term, and added depth to the offensive line by re-signing Stefen Wisniewski and adding former first-round pick Chance Warmack.
At the moment, it appears the Eagles will retain Jason Kelce, though a trade is always a possibility, and Jason Peters will be back. Howie Roseman has done a great job rebuilding an offensive line that was in shambles after the brief Chip Kelly personnel decision-making stint in 2015.
Instead of continuing to pay an overpriced backup quarterback in Chase Daniel, the Eagles made it work by releasing him, and at the same time, reworking the offset language in the contract. The move only saved $1 million in cap space and it is $6 million in dead cap space, but the offset language, assuming he lands on another team, will lessen the blow of releasing him, instead of a trade. Roseman admitted a mistake in signing Daniel to a robust backup quarterback contract last March by releasing him a year later.
Nick Foles is back in Philadelphia. He spent his first three seasons with the Eagles after being drafted in 2012. He was traded to the then-St.Louis Rams, was released a season later, then reunited with Andy Reid in Kansas City and now here we are in March of 2017, back in midnight green. Foles signed a two-year contract worth up to $11 million with $7 million guaranteed to be Wentz's backup.
Though the backup quarterback shakeup saved the organization only a minimal amount of cap space, at the very least they upgraded the quarterback depth chart. Foles' NFL career has been an odd ride, but he has had success in this league, and appeared to regain confidence in Kansas City last season when he made his lone start, resulting in a win. The Chiefs' system, as we know, is very similar to the one Doug Pederson installed last season in Philadelphia. It made a lot of sense for a reunion to take place.
Adding Jeffery ended up making the most sense for the team right now. Jeffery has immense upside, and is the runaway best receiver on the roster. Though that potential didn't always flash in Chicago, he remains a top flight receiver, top-10 position potential when healthy. His two best seasons in his career were when Al Groh was the receiver coach, and Groh is now the position coach in Philadelphia. It appears the team is sold he can get the talented receiver back to that level.
Jeffery is banking on himself to put up numbers similar to 2013 and 2014, then 2015 and 2016. If he performs like a Pro Bowl receiver, he will cash in on a long-term contract next offseason at the age of 28. The question is will he only be a one-year rental for the Eagles? It is hard to believe that will be the case, and Howie Roseman/Joe Douglas will do their best to lock him up well before free agency hits. Only paying him a guaranteed $9.5 million is tremendous value, and though there is some risk involved with the one-year trial, there is more to gain than lose.
Smith gives the Eagles are speedy receiver that they have lacked since the departure of DeSean Jackson in the spring of 2014. Smith had two down seasons in San Francisco, but at age 28, he should have a lot more left in the tank. The 49ers have gone through poor quarterback play and multiple head coaching changes during Smith's tenure there. Expect to see a better version of him here in Philadelphia - hopefully a lot closer to his seasons in Baltimore. It is a modest gamble at best, as Philadelphia signed him to a three-year $15 million contract, but it is essentially a one-year $5 million guaranteed, plus two team option seasons.
The roster rebuild is far from finalized, however. With limited cap space -- approximately $6 million -- in the short-term, don't expect any significant free agency moves moving forward. Most of the front office's attention has likely shifted towards the NFL Draft in late April. Addressing defensive needs will likely be the plan of action, mixed in with perhaps one or two offensive players.
Currently, the Eagles have notable needs at corner, linebacker, defensive line and at running back. They don't have any shoe-in starters at cornerback right now, so drafting two or three defensive backs isn't out of the question. Plus, they have voids at defensive tackle -- with Bennie Logan signing with the Chiefs -- and defensive end with the departure of Connor Barwin.
The defense is in dire need of upgrading, plus the unit needs to get younger. That should be the focus of Roseman and Douglas heading into an important draft. Though the team will likely add another running back to the mix during the offseason, it is possible a Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles and another addition will be the three-player backfield rotation.
Options such as Latavius Murray, Jamaal Charles and LaGarette Blount aren't great fits, especially with the cap restraints right now. Also a reminder, the team has to account for the cap space it will consume on its draft picks, depending on the allotted cap space for the round selected.
The offseason is in full force, though free agency frenzy has subsided. Despite the conclusion of the peak volume of transactions, more moves around the league will be made in the weeks to come.
The Eagles' offseason plan has been set in motion. As the offensive side of the football has been upgraded on paper, the defense needs a major fix. By the end of April, we will see if the approach to this offseason was correct, faulty or to be determined. There shouldn't be any complaints so far.