PHILADELPHIA — Eagles general manager Howie Roseman acknowledged at last week’s end-of-season news conference that one of his weaknesses is getting attached to his players. Given that many of the current men on the roster helped to deliver the city its first Super Bowl championship, it stands to reason that his grip is all the tighter.
But Roseman knows he needs to stick to the game plan and usher in the next era of Eagles football for the health of the franchise, starting this offseason.
“Going forward,” Roseman said, “we need to infuse youth in this team.”
Team chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie noted at the annual league meetings in Arizona in March that 65% of the NFL is composed of first- to third-year players. At the time, only 42% of the Eagles’ active roster fit that criteria. They had the third-oldest roster in 2019, with eight of their projected starters 30-plus years of age. And while having a veteran-laden group can be a good thing — the past four Super Bowl rosters have been on the older side — there’s risk involved in the forms of increased injury and decreased team speed and energy, and Philadelphia got hit with all of those issues this season.
Roseman said they viewed the 2017 through 2019 squads essentially as one team. With the Eagles’ draft resources depleted by trades — most notably, the one with Cleveland in 2016 that landed them quarterback Carson Wentz — they stuck with most of their core guys and tried to supplement the roster by looking for value in the over-30 bin in NFL free agency.
The approach will shift now that Philadelphia’s draft capital has been rebuilt. The Eagles are projected to have 10 picks in April’s NFL draft, including the 21st overall pick, two third-round picks and three picks in Round 4. That haul will help Lurie reach his goal of getting his roster closer to the league average in terms of youth.
In order to make room for the next generation, the Eagles will have to part with members of the old guard. Here are some of the notable players scheduled to be free agents, along with their current age:
Offense: QB Josh McCown (40); T Jason Peters (37); WR Nelson Agholor (26); QB Nate Sudfeld (26); T Halapoulivaati Vaitai (26); RB Jordan Howard (25)
Defense: DE Vinny Curry (31); LB Nigel Bradham (30); CB Jalen Mills (26); S Rodney McLeod (29); CB Ronald Darby (25); DT Tim Jernigan (27); LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (25); DT Hassan Ridgeway (25)
Restricted: RB Corey Clement (25)
Veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins, 32, has already stated he won’t return on his current deal. Depending on how those contract talks shake out, the Eagles could have a new starting secondary. The wide receiver corps will likely have a fresh look as well, with Agholor exiting via free agency and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery’s future with the team in doubt.
However you slice it, major change is coming.
“It’s very difficult when you have guys who have given their heart and soul to this organization, to this team, who you’ve developed personal relationships, to say goodbye,” said Roseman. “At the same time, you also need veteran leadership on your football team and you need guys that have been through it. I think you saw that for us at the end of the year, there are guys that have been through the adversity and were able to overcome it and be able to take our young players and lead them and tell them kind of the expectations that they had.”
It falls on Roseman to find a way to get a younger roster while keeping the soul of the team intact. That’s the task of the offseason as the Eagles transition to a new phase.