Howie Roseman told the truth. He cautioned about expecting the Eagles to splurge on Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward. He insisted free agency would be a patch-filling tool, not a foundation-building mechanism. He spoke on the virtues of rewarding those from within the NovaCare as opposed to outside.
His moves so far reflected those tenets.
Roseman, the Eagles’ general manager, continued the refurbishing of the 2014 Eagles on Tuesday by landing the proven safety they desperately needed in Malcolm Jenkins and re-signing punter Donnie Jones. On Wednesday morning, he added safety/special teams maven Chris Maragos.
Jenkins fills an immediate void and will start right away. Jones was a key component of last year’s worst-to-first team under coach Chip Kelly. Maragos can replace Colt Anderson and has upside the team likes.
None of the additions were considered premier players at their position on the open market, and the Eagles didn’t have to stretch their wallet to haul them in. Jenkins signed a three-year deal worth $16.5 million, with $8.5 guaranteed. Jones is back on a three-year deal worth $5.5 million. Maragos’ three-year deal can max out at $5.3 million.
It used to be an annual occurrence on the first day of free agency, the Eagles' making a big announcement about a major free-agent haul, from Jevon Kearse to Asante Samuel to Nnamdi Asomugha. But for the past two seasons Roseman has let other teams win the first-day free agency championship.
The Bucs and Bears made big splashes within minutes of the 4 p.m. start of the league year and the Saints gave a stunning $54 million to Byrd, but the Eagles had already made their most significant transactions in the preceding 10 days, when they extended the contracts of center Jason Kelce and left tackle Jason Peters and re-signing potential free agents Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and Cedric Thornton.
By not blowing a cash cow on Day 1, as Roseman hinted that he wouldn’t do, the Eagles have enough funds to continue upgrading as free agency goes on, when the market settles and bloated price tags lose some weight.
And that’s good, because Roseman still has some work that remains.
Upgrades to the pass rush and kicking game can also come at the right price, much like Connor Barwin joined last offseason after the first-day signing flurry had subsided. If they’re seeking a mid-level receiver to replace Jason Avant, the Birds will have plenty to choose from.
And, of course, there’s Darrelle Revis, the All-Pro cornerback whom the Eagles were connected to in an ESPN report Tuesday morning. Revis is expected to be released Wednesday if the Bucs can’t trade him.
It just doesn’t seem like the Eagles are done.
There wasn’t much buzz Tuesday around Mike Neal, the versatile outside linebacker from Green Bay whom the Birds could use, or around Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka, another potential upgrade over what the Eagles currently have.
Whatever sculpting remains for Roseman in the coming days, he has the cap flexibility to chisel away judiciously after passing on the market’s top commodities and going the economical route that he believes is the best formula for building an annual contender.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Jenkins isn’t a franchise-changing safety and doesn’t come off an overly thrilling 2013, but he’s an upgrade for an Eagles defense that sorely lacked durable, consistent safety play last year.
Jenkins can slide right into the starting spot next to second-year pro Earl Wolff, and his contract is structured in a way that won’t preclude Roseman from drafting another safety early if he’s the best player available when they pick.
It would have been hard for Roseman to make more enhancements for this year and have an eye on extensions for Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks next offseason if he had succumbed to the temptations of Byrd, who claimed $54 million from the Saints, with a staggering $28 million guaranteed.
Maybe Jenkins didn’t produce that statistics that warranted his 14th overall selection in 2009, but the market this year went batty compared to last year’s modest free-agent opener, so Jenkins probably would have commanded way more coin if he had anywhere near the 22 interceptions Byrd has since 2009.
Donte Whitner, another former Ohio State safety, went home to Cleveland for $7 million per year. Perhaps the Browns misread his birth date and thought he was 18, not 28. Denver gave Ward just under $6 million per year and one-year Panthers wonder Mike Mitchell secured a five-year $25 million contract from the Steelers.
The thriftier spending on Jenkins falls in line with Roseman’s belief that winning free agency doesn’t equate to winning Super Bowls.
Time will tell if he’s right.