Don't expect Eagles to sign 'hottest item off the shelf'

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Don't expect Eagles to sign 'hottest item off the shelf'

On the heels of the Eagles’ five-point home wild-card loss to the Packers in 2010, the team’s brain trust decided that the best way to quickly bridge the gap from playoff team to Super Bowl team was to quickly fill holes through free agency.

You remember the thinking.

If the Eagles could go 10-6 and reach the playoffs, then by adding Pro Bowl-caliber players like Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, Steve Smith, Jason Babin, Ronnie Brown, Vince Young and Evan Mathis, they would logically go 12-4 or 13-3 and reach the Super Bowl.

They just needed those studs to take that next step.

We won’t use the phrase Dream Team in this story (oops), but the expensive free agency haul was such a disaster that it essentially ended Andy Reid’s tenure as head coach.

Only Mathis, a first-team All-Pro this year, remains from that group. Asomugha, Smith and Young aren’t even in the league anymore.

Lesson learned.

The Eagles are now in the exact same position as they were three years ago -- coming off a 10-6 season and a home wild-card loss that came down to the final play.

This time there will be no free agency haul. This time, the Eagles know better.

“We have to learn from that moment,” general manager Howie Roseman said. “I would say we’re going to continue to try to build this team the right way, and there are no quick fixes in the National Football League.

“It’s such a team sport that one player’s not going to make the difference and we have to build it so hopefully we’re competing for a long time.”

As the Eagles enter the offseason, this is crucial.

The last two drafts have been extremely productive, landing the Eagles three offensive starters (Nick Foles, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz) and three starters and a de facto starter on defense (Bennie Logan, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin).

Going hand-in-hand with Roseman’s belief in drafting the best available player instead of drafting for need is a free agency philosophy of adding a handful of mid-priced players instead of breaking the bank for potential stars who, if they don’t pan out, can wind up being very damaging both from a salary cap and team chemistry standpoint.

“I think you’ll see a markedly different approach from last time, both in free agency and the draft -- because I feel like we did that in the draft as well,” Roseman said. “But no matter where we are right now or what we finish with, we’ve got to keep the process right and build onto a young team and hopefully have a good core group of players that we can build on and with and do things the right way.”

It’s not like the Eagles weren’t active in free agency last spring. They were.

They did add a bunch of mid-level guys -- Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Patrick Chung, Donnie Jones, Connor Barwin, Isaac Sopoaga, Kenny Phillips and James Casey.

But unlike the 2011 Dream Team guys, none of them were particularly high-priced and most of them acquitted themselves very well.

Even though Phillips wasn’t healthy, Chung struggled all year, Sopoaga turned out to be expendable and Casey was underutilized, none of the moves was a financial disaster, and the way Williams, Fletcher, Barwin and Jones played made free agency a net success.

“It’s interesting, because when you look at it, if you can sign a bunch of guys that maybe aren’t the high-priced guys, you have a chance to kind of have a batting average, as opposed to if you sign one or two big-priced guys and one or two don’t work out, it kind of puts you in a bind,” Roseman said.

“So if you sign a bunch of good players, solid players, and you sign a bunch of them, you want them all to work out, but you don’t necessarily count on them and it doesn’t really hurt your team going forward if one or two don’t work out.

“That group as a whole, I think they contributed a lot to our football team. We certainly weren’t perfect on our free agent signings, but I thought it matched what was out there in free agency last year, and I thought served us well.”

The Eagles right now have $119,927,839 tied up in 2014 salary cap obligations and $107,078,390 tied up for 2015. The projected unadjusted 2014 salary cap is $126.3 million, a small increase over the $123 million from this year.

Those figures don’t include carryover adjustments, which are still being determined but will definitely help the Eagles.

Roseman said the Eagles will continue to explore free agency -- which opens this year on March 8 -- but will show restraint and avoid getting into bidding wars for the sort of overpriced veteran players that wound up damaging the franchise so badly two years ago.

“I don’t think we should sign anyone just for the sake of signing guys,” Roseman said. “We’ve got to sign guys that are upgrades for our football team and fit what we’re looking for from a position standpoint and a character standpoint.

“The money runs out quick as you look at the natural evolution of contracts as they raise and the cap continues to be flat. You kind of look at the [salary cap] number and you get a little bit excited about it and then you start plugging in some numbers and when you do, they go down pretty quickly.

"If we’re doing things the right way and trying to build a team that we can sustain ... we’re not rushing out and buying the new hottest item off the shelf.”

Jeff Lurie: Condition of Roseman's promotion was to solidify personnel department

Jeff Lurie: Condition of Roseman's promotion was to solidify personnel department

PHOENIX -- Joe Douglas is a big, imposing man. 

As he's walked around lavish greenery at the Biltmore Hotel in Arizona at the annual league meetings this week, he's towered over most of the other NFL executives, including his boss, Howie Roseman.

Douglas is large in physical stature. His role within the Eagles organization seems to match.

"The hiring of Joe Douglas, I thought, was the pivotal moment of the last year," Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said on Tuesday night, speaking for the first time in over a year. 

Douglas was hired in May to head up the Eagles' personnel department, the result of a months-long search administered by Lurie, Roseman and senior advisor Tom Donahoe. 

Last year, when Lurie gave Roseman the power as the overseer of the entire football operations department, the new job came with one condition: He had to put together a top personnel department. 

That started with hiring Douglas. 

"One of the main things Howie and I discussed when he was going to be in the football operations role was he had to have a top-notch player personnel department," Lurie said. "Or we were going to find somebody that could find a great player personnel department. That was his responsibility."

To fulfill that request, Roseman went out and brought Douglas, who cut his teeth for years under greatly respected general manager Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore. Douglas brought with him Andy Weidl, who is now his second in command. 

While Lurie said he gets plenty of congratulations from general managers around the league about drafting Carson Wentz, he said he gets more about luring Douglas to Philly. And this offseason, the Eagles have seemingly made a concerted effort to put Douglas in the limelight. He sat on the stage dwarfing Roseman at a press conference earlier in March and has been plenty visible this week in Phoenix. 

Speaking for the first time since the Eagles were able to move up and draft Wentz at No. 2 last season, Lurie was effusive in his praise of Roseman. He marveled that Roseman was not only able to move up to draft Wentz, but also that he put together a contract for Sam Bradford that allowed him to be traded and then pulled off a move to get a first-round pick for him. 

But that part of the job has never been a knock on Roseman. 

For years, Roseman has shown himself to be an aggressive general manager and incredibly adept in all salary cap matters. But the big question about Roseman has been about his talent evaluation. Together, with Douglas, the two could potentially combine to be a complete general manager, capable of every aspect of the job. And not just capable, but at the top of the class. 

That’s the plan anyway. 

"The draft is going to be really built by Joe and the final decision will be made by Howie," he said. "But these guys are unbelievably collaborative. I haven’t seen anything like this. We have such trust in Joe that basically when that board's there, unless there's something extraordinary happens, it's going to be set by Joe and then we'll just make the final decision in case of anything. But that’s a great system, I think, and Doug will be very involved. The coaches will be very involved as usual, but there's obvious clarity on the decision-making."

This offseason, the Eagles have been publicly honest about the state of the franchise and Lurie didn't deviate from that on Tuesday night. While Lurie is now 65 and has seen his team in the Super Bowl just once, he understands the need to be patient. 

The Eagles hope they found their franchise quarterback last season. Now it's all about drafting the talent to put around him to make the team successful. That's why the condition that Roseman beef up the personnel department upon his promotion was such an important part of his new job. 

"You have to draft well, you have to have multiple drafts in a row, hopefully, where you surround that quarterback on all sides of the ball and that's the formula. It's not that complicated. It's hard to accomplish, but it's not that complicated," Lurie said. 

"As an owner, I have to be really patient and at the same time, very competitive. We'll make moves that will make us better this year, however, we won't make a move where it's going to cost us flexibility or ability to use resources in future years. Because we're in the mode where we're not one player away. We have lots of holes."

It's up to Douglas and Roseman to fill them.

Owners meetings: Jeff Lurie wants to bring back Kelly green jerseys

Owners meetings: Jeff Lurie wants to bring back Kelly green jerseys

PHOENIX -- Jeff Lurie wants to bring back Kelly green. 

The Eagles owner confirmed on Tuesday evening in Arizona at the annual league meetings that a proposal the Eagles initially submitted last week to allow teams to wear alternate helmets was all about bringing back the fan-favorite jerseys. 

For years, fan feedback to reporters about bringing Kelly green jerseys back has been overwhelming.

"It's overwhelming for me too. I would love to see it," Lurie said. "I love the midnight green, I think it's great. But I also want the Kelly green. I'd love for us to have both and some games have one and some games have the other. I think that would be more fun."

The reason the Eagles aren't yet using their Kelly green jerseys is language in the NFL's on-field policy that prohibits teams from wearing alternate helmets. For now, teams are only permitted to wear their primary helmets. And a midnight green helmet atop a Kelly green jersey would be an obvious clash. 

The resolution the Eagles proposed, but then withdrew before the competition committee met, would strike that language from the rule and  allow teams to wear alternate helmets "in a color to match their third uniform."  

Lurie said before the owners' meetings, the Eagles met with the competition committee, which told them the rule wouldn't pass. That's when they decided to withdraw the proposal this year. 

But Lurie isn't giving up. 

"They are aware that many teams would like to see this," he said. "My hope is that we'll be able to get it done hopefully by next March."

When asked why the league doesn't currently allow alternate helmets to be worn, Lurie declined to get into the specifics, saying it's a "complicated scenario." But he also seemed optimistic that eventually, the Eagles will be back in Kelly green. While Lurie preached patience in football matters, he admitted he's a little more impatient on this topic. 

Lurie's plan is to at first try the Kelly green jerseys as an alternate for two or three games, but didn't rule out the possibility of making a full-time switch back to the fan-favorite color. 

The last time the Eagles wore Kelly green was in 2010, when they faced the Packers in the 50th anniversary of the 1960 NFL championship. 

There would be a way to get around the current rules to wear Kelly green, but Lurie is set on doing it the right way. 

"Decals are an option," Lurie said, shaking his head, "but I want a Kelly green helmet. It looks better."