Jason Kelce could have signed his extension last week for three or four years, maybe tested the free-agent waters again down the road, maybe decide in a few years if Philadelphia still remained the best fit for him.
Instead, he signed for six more years after 2014.
The message he delivered after signing? This is a place worth staying around.
“I think the biggest thing that we’ve seen over the last two days, a lot of guys re-signing, I think it really shows how genuinely enthused -- and I think I speak for the whole team when saying this -- that everybody is happy with where this team is going, where this organization is going,” Kelce said. “I think there’s been a revitalization of the whole culture, and it's really exciting to be a part of it.”
Perhaps it seems like this remodeling of the franchise culture started this past week with the Eagles' re-signing four key starters from last year’s NFC East championship team and one in-house free agent (Jeremy Maclin) who spent all of 2013 on injured reserve.
But the house cleaning started long before. Back to the 2012 offseason, when general manager Howie Roseman, given more authority of football operations over outgoing president Joe Banner, ripped up contracts for Todd Herremans and Trent Cole and rewarded both veterans with new deals that better reflected their market value.
At the time, the move was seen as stunning and un-Eagles-like. The organization had developed a reputation, for better or worse, for turning their noses at players who approached 30 and replacing them (or at least attempting to), often with expensive outsiders.
After the extensions for Cole and Herremans, Rosemen presided over one of the most fruitful drafts in recent history, a haul that netted Nick Foles, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Brandon Boykin and Vinny Curry in their first five selections.
All five were major pieces of the last year’s team that jumped from 4-12 in Andy Reid’s final year to 10-6 in Chip Kelly’s first season.
Since that 2012 offseason, the Eagles have become a franchise that believes in building through the draft and filling small voids in free agency -- a far cry from the organization that blew millions on high-priced free agents like Nnamdi Asomugha and Jason Babin and then reached to fill holes by drafting Danny Watkins and Jaiquawn Jarrett.
“A lot has changed here since the 2011 season,” Roseman said last week after re-signing Kelce and receivers Riley Cooper and Maclin. “I don’t think that’s a secret. We’ve changed a lot of things here. We’ve changed our philosophy, starting with that offseason. We’ve got lot of work to do. But I’m proud of the process we’ve had the last couple years.
“We certainly haven’t arrived and I’m not patting anyone on the back because we talk about it, when you pat yourself on the back you’ll get your ass kicked, but I think we have a good process. We have a plan and it’s not just for next season, it’s not just for 2015, it’s to try to set ourselves up to contend for a while.”
Roseman handed out nearly $130 million in theoretical money last week on his team’s nucleus, giving long-term deals to Jason Peters, Cooper and Kelce and a one-year contract to Maclin.
The message behind the signing is the Eagles are taking care of their own, and Roseman has already said the team is unlikely to reel in one of the big free-agent fishes whose salary and bonus would be so disproportionate to anyone already on the team.
"I think it's kind of cool when you're drafted somewhere and hopefully I'm fortunate enough to finish my career in the same place,” Cooper said. “I think that's kind of cool. Not a lot of people can do it. Hopefully I'm fortunate enough to do it, and I wouldn't want to do it in any other city but here.”
Think about the impact these moves have on Foles, Boykin, Cox and Kendricks, each of whom will be eligible for extensions next season. If those guys want to get paid like Kelce and Cooper did, they’ll need to perform this season to earn that money.
If they perform at their peaks, the Eagles should be a contending team again in 2014.
That’s the process Roseman envisioned two years ago when he set out to change the franchise direction and reputation.
“I think they see that if you go out there work hard, do things right on and off the field, this organization will reward you,” Kelce said, “and I think that that’s huge. Whenever you see an organization that pays back players that do things right way, as a young guy it fuels the fire even more.”