If there was anything to be learned from the Super Bowl winning Seattle Seahawks this year, it wasn't the old cliche of "defense wins championships." That's not to say Seattle's defense didn't have a big part in why they won the big game. But more importantly, Seattle has been able to be so successful thanks to their strong front office and management. This is what I wrote the day after Super Bowl XLVIII:
Championships are won on the macroscopic level. The Eagles aren't just a safety (see: Jairus Byrd, TJ Ward, etc.) or a pass rusher away from winning a championship. Adding those pieces will certainly help, yes, but it's bigger than that. The key to success is about consistently making strong personnel moves: hitting big on draft picks, signing undervalued players in free agency without shelling out ridiculous contracts, finding a diamond in the rough here and there, etc.
Look no further than the Eagles rebound in 2013 as evidence of this theory. The Eagles front office, led by Eagles GM Howie Roseman, did their part in the offseason to turn around a team that had been hampered by underwhelming draft classes and free agent busts. The Eagles' organization hired a progressive-minded coach in Chip Kelly, signed a number of solid free agents without breaking the bank, and added a number of young and talented prospects through the draft for the second straight year. On the whole, it was quite a successful offseason.
Thankfully for Eagles fans, this offseason could be headed in the same positive direction. Howie Roseman kicked things off this past week with a flurry of in-house moves. The Eagles re-signed pending free agent receivers Riley Cooper (5 years, $22.5M) and Jeremy Maclin (1 year, $6M). They also extended the contracts of Jason Peters (5 years, $51.3M) and Jason Kelce (7 years, $37.5), both of whom were scheduled to be free agents after the 2014 season.
With these moves, the Eagles both filled a major roster hole at receiver and ensured the continuity of a good offensive line for the next few seasons. But beyond the literal impact of these signings, the Eagles benefit from these moves in other ways. What I mean by this is that the Eagles have set a new standard by taking care of their own players. This Eagles organization no longer features the Joe Banner style of pinching pennies and cutting ties with older players for the fear of their decline. Instead, it rewards the home-grown players who work hard and go about their contract negotiations the right way. It's these moves that shine a good reflection on the organization as a whole. Players will want to give their all for an organization that rewards them for their efforts.
Another benefit of these in-house moves is that it keeps the core of this team together. A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of continuity heading into this offseason. The players here already understand what Chip Kelly expects of them in terms of practice habits and preparation. Compare this to 2011, when the Eagles went on a big summer spending spree that brought in a bunch of new faces. While it was exciting to bring in new talent at the time, in hindsight it was a move that alienated some players already on the team. Think about how the players who were already around felt as a large group of outsiders were being paid big money. There was seemingly no strong sense of chemistry in that group, and the infamously named free agent class was a major flop.
This isn't to say the Eagles shouldn't spend in free agency. It just means they should be cautious about how they do it. Free agency is a great tool to fill immediate roster holes and enter the NFL Draft with a mindset of not having to draft selectively for those needs. That's exactly how the Eagles attacked the 2013 offseason.
It will be interesting to see if the Eagles take a similarly moderate approach this year. The Eagles will have a lot of cap space to spend, but it remains to be seen how much they are willing to spend. Perhaps they will make a big splash or two, paired with some solid mid-level signings. For now, it's an encouraging sign to see the majority of the Eagles' in-house priorities already settled. Roseman did a great job of identifying what needed to be done and taking care of it before free agency even started. Now the team can fully ocus on their free agency plans.
It's been a strong start to the offseason by Howie Roseman. Let's see if he can keep it going.