Following the news of the Eagles signing veteran defensive end Chris Long, Philadelphia executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas briefly met with the press to discuss the team’s latest addition.
“I think we’re at the stage in free agency where we’re constantly looking for values,” said Roseman. “You talk about this guy and what he brings to the table, on and off the field … and I understand that when we met in January, we talked about “no bandaids,” but from our perspective, there are opportunities to get value in free agency certainly at this time of year.”
“And we’re looking at any ways to improve our football team. So we are trying to build this for the long [term], 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.”
One of the interesting notes about the Long signing is that part of the reason he opted not to return to the Patriots is because he seemingly wanted more playing time.
“This has zero to do with money, etc,” said Long in an Instagram post on March 1. “It's the right move in my heart because I want to get back to being the player I was before. I'm thankful for my role this year, but as a competitor, I'm itching to do what I do best.”
So what will Long’s role be with the Eagles?
“Our conversations with Chris have been about that we have young players at that position,” said Roseman. “He’s very excited to come aboard and help contribute. And no promises have been given. At the same time, we have high expectations. Certainly [Brandon Graham], Vinny [Curry] leading that group. Marcus [Smith] the second year in the system, Steven Means, Alex McCalister. So we’re always going to prioritize the lines. I think this is another step to showing that our actions are in conjunction with our words.”
Long played nearly two-thirds of New England’s defensive snaps in 2016, so it seems like he expects to have a significant role with the Eagles even if he’s not a starter. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz likes to heavily rotate his defensive ends so there should be ample playing time for Long. Even if Curry is starting place of Connor Barwin, the Eagles still use him lined up at defensive tackle as an interior rusher on obvious pass rushing downs. That opens up more time for a third defensive end to play behind the two starters.
So what does Long bring to the table at this stage in his career? Douglas offered a scouting report on the 32-year-old veteran.
“Chris was coming off of injury in ,” Douglas started. “He ended up playing 65% [of the Patriots’ snaps]. I know Les [Bowen] touched on him maybe being frustrated [about playing time] down the stretch, but he still played 65% coming off injury. I think what you’re getting with Chris is a great teammate, a great leader. A high motor player, a relentless player that still has explosive qualities. It’s his strength.”
Just because the Eagles signed Long doesn’t rule the possibility of Philadelphia selecting one as soon as the No. 14 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. In fact, the outlet that broke the Long signing (Crossing Broad) also said the Eagles are looking to draft at defensive end at No. 14.
“I wouldn’t say it gives us any more freedom, per se,” said Douglas of the Long signing. “But I think to touch on what Howie said, I mean, Chris adds another pass rusher. And we need as many pass rushers as we can, especially in this division. I still think we’re going to look best player available in the draft at the end of the day, though.
Here’s a full transcript of the Roseman/Douglas media session.
THE DEFENSE IN ST. LOUIS IS COMPARABLE TO THE EAGLES’ 4-3 SCHEME. DID THAT FACTOR IN?
DOUGLAS: I think that was a factor for Chris and I think he was excited about coming in here and getting into Schwartz’s scheme.
WAS LONG ON THE RADAR THE WHOLE TIME? OR DID THIS COME UP RECENTLY?
ROSEMAN: He’s someone we’ve always admired. His level of play and when you turned on the tape and watched him, he’s a pleasant surprise about the way he plays. It really fits what we’re trying to bring and build in Philly. And he was really excited to work with our young players as well and take on that leadership role. He has connections to the Philadelphia area. Obviously his dad [Howie Long] played at Villanova. His wife is from Philly. So he was really excited to come on board as well. When we looked at the opportunity to add that kind of person and player at this time of year, we just felt like it was an opportunity to take for our football team.
WHERE DO THE EAGLES STAND ON CAP SPACE?
ROSEMAN: It’s challenging right now, no question about it. Our conversations are ‘What is this guy going to add? Can we rationalize the situation we’re in?’ And we just felt Connor [Barwin]’s a big loss to our football team. And Connor going to the Rams and obviously we’re happy for him and the opportunity he gets, the financial package that he got there. But when we were able to get a guy who brings a lot of the same qualities on and off the field, and 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 that are [already] on our team.
DO THE EAGLES PLAN ON LOOKING FOR SHORT-TERM HELP AT OTHER POSITIONS OF NEED?
ROSEMAN: We’re value-shopping for sure. Everyday Joe and his staff are going over the [free agent] list, re-watching guys, seeing if there’s opportunities to improve our football team. If there are, and we can go into the [2017 NFL Draft] without even having more pressure on that, we’re going to look to do that. Now, do I think we’re going to go out and sign three or four more players in free agency? I don’t. But there a couple guys here we’re looking at at this stage that we’re surprised are still available. We understand where we are financially and that we have to make sure that the opportunity we take on these guys matches where we are from a cap perspective. But we’ve got to look at any ways to improve our football team as we go into the draft and add competition so that we’re having a position of strength when we get to August. Let it all shake out and when we get to August make those decisions.
IS THE TIMELINE ACCELERATED ON THE EAGLES’ ABILITY TO COMPETE AFTER THE ALSHON JEFFERY SIGNING AND OTHER OFFSEASON MOVES?
ROSEMAN: No, we’re always trying to put together the best team. But I think from our perspective, there is a value of having guys in the building on one-year deals as opposed to looking at the free agent list and saying ‘hey, this guy might be available for free agency.’ We think we’ve got a great place to sell a great vision to what it’s going to look like going forward. And when you look at it, there are guys signing contracts in January and February and are taken off the market before you ever have the opportunity to get them. You’re also competing against 31 other teams as opposed to when you have a guy and you learn about what they are day to day, on and off the field, have an opportunity to sign them. So for us, getting young players, and I think this is obviously separate than the Chris question, but getting young players like Alshon and Chance [Warmack], and having them on one-year deals, as much as you prefer a longer deal, having them in the building and getting to know them as well as possible before you make the investment, we think there’s incredible value in that.
UPDATE ON ALEX MCCALISTER
DOUGLAS: I think Alex had a strong season. Everyone’s excited about him getting back and showing what he can do. A lot of natural pass rushing ability with Alex coming out of Florida. And I think our sports science staff, our training staff, our strength and condition staff, they’ve done a great job with Alex this beginning of the second offseason. Can’t wait to get him back to OTAs and see how he’s doing.
HAS THE MARKET GONE AS EXPECTED IN A GENERAL PERSPECTIVE?
ROSEMAN: No, I think it never goes how you expect it. You’ve got to be able to jump at opportunities that become available to you. We’ve got to be flexible. When we talked about this, and Chris’s desire to be part of what we’re doing and his fit in the system, we just felt like it could really help those guys. Talking to Vinny, BG during the season, just an impact that a guy like Connor has on those guys, it’s not measured just in the production that player brings to the table but certainly when we watched Chris we felt like he played really well last year. You even watch him in the Super Bowl and his ability to generate pressure.