Last year’s off-season for the Eagles was all sizzle. Asomugha, Jenkins, Babin, Brown, Rodgers-Cromartie, and of course, Vince Young, the man who applied the unfortunate “dream team” label in his first press conference. Five months later sporting a .500 record, it was clear that the off-season approach wasn’t successful.
This off-season is much more in line with the Eagles historic organizational philosophy of building from within. I’m really excited by the moves to date, most of which haven’t garnered much attention from the media. I think the Eagles have made 5 outstanding moves so far:
1. Long term deal for DeSean Jackson – I was somewhat surprised when I initially heard he was signed to a longer-term agreement. I thought the Eagles would have him play out the 2012 season under the one year deal he signed after receiving the franchise tag. However, looking at the longer term deals other WRs received this off-season, Jackson came at a bargain in market value terms. If he can get his head out of his backside, play fearlessly and be a good teammate (those are BIG ifs), this will turn out to be a great signing. If he doesn’t, the Eagles are out a couple million dollars and can kick him to the curb after one year.
2. Extending Todd Herremans – Outside of Philly and die-hard NFL fans, people wouldn’t recognize his name. His signing of a long-term deal is great news for the Eagles. He’s versatile and can play 3 or 4 positions on the OL. As the elder statesman on a young OL, he brings a mean edge and a great team first attitude.
3. Extending Trent Cole – Another great current player signed to a longer-term contract. I think he’s the best all around defensive lineman in the NFL. He doesn’t put up eye popping stats because he plays such a balanced game. The guys that get all the attention are those racking up sack numbers (usually at the expense of defending the run). Cole consistently gets 10+ sacks a year, stuffs the run, and takes up two blocks from the opposition’s OL. He’s the MVP of the defence and now he’ll be around through 2017.
4. Re-signing free agent Evan Mathis – If there is an underrated player in the NFL, Mathis is it. Interior offensive linemen only get noticed when they screw up, and he went an entire season without getting noticed in 2011. When you look at the play by play ratings of NFL lineman, he was the top rated OL in run blocking and second in the league in pass blocking in 2011. This was the guy I was most worried the Eagles would lose to free agency. When he visited Baltimore, I was already seeing a huge void on the left side of the OL heading into training camp. When he announced he was returning to Philly, I was elated.
5. Trade for DeMeco Ryans – Ryans gives the Eagles a legitimate middle linebacker for the first time in years. He didn’t fit the Texans system, but I see him slotting in perfectly for the Eagles. He comes with a steep salary, but the Eagles needed to make this bet. Not only does he fill a hole, but it allows the other linebackers to settle into the outside LB positions which are more suited to their abilities.
The focus of the team will now turn to what to do with Samuel (trade, release or keep him and his large salary cap hit) followed by who to select with a high first round draft pick where they’ll be in position to grab another impact player for the upcoming season.