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What Happens If Eagles Sit Out NFL Free Agency?

From The Eagles.


This feature is a weekly piece on titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.

It’s almost impossible to consider given the swirl of rumors and the history of Howie Roseman, one of the NFL’s most ardent deal maker, but maybe the reality of the financial picture should give us all pause to think about this possibility: What if the Eagles are idle bystanders for much of the NFL’s free-agency period, set to begin on Thursday at 4 p.m.?

How would that sit with you? What would that mean for the team?

We’re in the final hours waiting for free agency to begin and, admittedly, the minute-by-minute “reports” are riveting. The Eagles have been linked with virtually every wide receiver about to hit the market and some who aren’t even set to become free agents. We all see the needs this football team has, which begin but do not end with positions like wide receiver and cornerback and running back and defensive end and …

We know Roseman’s history of making deals happen. We know that the Eagles are building around a talented young quarterback in Carson Wentz. We know the Eagles want to do things “the right way,” Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson have said in the offseason.

Is the “right way” making a splash in free agency? History says there are absolutely no guarantees when it comes to adding veterans from other teams. It’s worked in the past for the Eagles, and it’s blown up in their faces. Same with the rest of the NFL.

And as tantalizing as it is to want every really good player who is on the market looking for a huge payday, it’s also going to be very difficult for the Eagles to overcome some clear obstacles:

  1. The Eagles are going to have trouble competing with the rest of the league in the salary-cap game. The exact number changes all the time, but the Eagles have among the fewest dollars to spend under the cap in the entire league. And that’s not going to change, no matter how many contracts you want the Eagles to clear off the books. They can go from $8 million to $12 million to $18 million to a couple of dollars more, but that’s hardly going to dramatically adjust the reality: The Eagles don’t have as much flexibility as they’ve had in the past under the salary cap.
  2. Why don’t they have that flexibility? A lot has to do with the decisions last spring to extend some key players like defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, tight end Zach Ertz, safety Malcolm Jenkins and running back Darren Sproles, as well as the decision to retain defensive end Vinny Curry. All five players are very important pieces for 2017.
  3. Too many of these prospective free agents have some tags that must be negotiated, be it age (over 30 is not the ticket), injury past (can running back Jamaal Charles get “it” back?) or a short dossier of success (Terrell Pryor, are you listening?)
  4. Maybe most important, the Eagles want to be disciplined. They ultimately want to build this roster for a sustained run of success, following the blueprint of the Andy Reid era – with a few extra wins, of course.

I’m right there with you, reading the Tweets, chuckling at the conjecture, tuning in to talk radio. It’s Fun Season in the NFL, and just how much of this stuff actually happens is very questionable. I don’t profess to know what the Eagles are going to do. It’s the same with me every year: I go into the 4 p.m. opening whistle with a clear mind and modest expectations. A couple of years ago when the Eagles traded Nick Foles and draft picks for Sam Bradford, I was floored. Shocked. Called into an office before the announcement came to discuss the story and the thinking behind the trade, I was stunned.

This year, I’m not expecting any such move. My thinking is that there are too many realities for the Eagles here, and that they’re not going to be major players in free agency. If that’s the case, I’m fine with that. The Eagles need to nail it in the draft as they continue to add to their young core.

So, to answer the questions in Paragraph 2, if the Eagles are mostly on the side in free agency, I’m fine with that. A player here, and a player there, yeah, that could happen. Major signings? It sounds improbable to me. What would it mean for the team? It means that the draft looms large for a franchise that has to keep building its young core in every phase of the game.


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