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.”

NFL Notes: J.J. Watt could miss rest of season with back injury

NFL Notes: J.J. Watt could miss rest of season with back injury

HOUSTON -- A person familiar with J.J. Watt's condition says he has re-injured his back and the Houston Texans expect him to be out until at least December, and possibly the entire season.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday night on condition of anonymity because the team hasn't confirmed the injury.

Watt missed training camp and Houston's four preseason games after surgery in July to repair a herniated disk in his back. He returned started each of the team's three regular-season games and got hurt again Thursday against the Patriots.

It's unclear if the injury will require surgery.

Watt, who has won Defensive Player of the Year for the past two seasons, didn't practice on Monday, but coach Bill O'Brien said then he was just getting a day off.

NFL.com first reported the news (see full story).
 
Panthers: Team signs S Griffin, DT Love
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Panthers have signed safety Michael Griffin and defensive tackle Kyle Love to one-year contracts.

To make room on the roster, the Panthers waived safety Marcus Ball and placed defensive end Ryan Delaire on injured reserve Tuesday with a knee injury.

A former first-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans, the 6-foot, 215-pound Griffin was named to the Pro Bowl in 2008 and 2010. He spent nine seasons with Tennessee before signing with Minnesota. However, he was waived by the Vikings on Sept. 7.

Griffin has played in 141 career regular season games with 133 starts, registering 607 tackles, seven sacks, 25 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.

Love played in 15 regular season games with two starts and registered 19 tackles, including three sacks last season for Carolina.

NFL: Three legislature seats filled for possible Vegas stadium vote
RENO, Nev. -- Three people whose votes could determine whether a nearly $2 billion stadium is built to lure the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas were appointed Tuesday to vacant seats in the Nevada Legislature.

The three northern Nevada residents, including a former Stanford football player, will join other state lawmakers for a special session the governor is expected to convene next month to consider raising hotel room taxes in the Las Vegas area to help finance a 65,000-seat, domed stadium that could be home to the NFL team.

The current informal proposal on the table would tax only hotel guests in Las Vegas and Clark County, with no direct impact on Washoe County, Reno or Sparks. But critics fear that in the event of revenue shortfalls, the burden could fall to all Clark County taxpayers or, potentially, taxpayers statewide

"I am a fan and support football as a sport," said ex-Stanford linebacker Dominic Brunetti, a Republican commercial real estate broker.

"And as a business, I respect the NFL," he said. "But only if it is fair to those communities and families it influences and impacts through oftentimes very, very complicated deal structures."

2017 NFL draft prospect watch: Offensive help for Eagles

2017 NFL draft prospect watch: Offensive help for Eagles

It almost seems futile to do a prospect watch piece after the Eagles moved to 3-0 by demolishing a Super Bowl contender.

I know you've all bought your tickets to Houston already, but even after the Eagles win the Super Bowl this year, they'll still need to draft a player or two come April.

Here's a look at six offensive prospects that could help the Eagles defend their title:

Dalvin Cook, Florida State, junior, RB, (5-11/213)
Cook finally had a breakout game this weekend with 267 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns in Florida State's 55-35 win over South Florida. Defenses have really been keying in on Cook with a redshirt freshman quarterback under center for the Seminoles. Besides LSU's Leonard Fournette, Cook may be the best running back prospect in the draft.

Jalen Hurd, Tennessee, junior, RB, (6-4/240)
Hurd had a solid weekend, running for 95 yards on 26 carries in Tennessee's first win over Florida in 12 years. Hurd is by far the tallest running back I've ever profiled. He's built like a wide receiver. Considering his size, he does a good job of not running high and he's quicker than his size would lead you to believe. He's able to turn the corner and he's tough to tackle low. He's a physical runner but it doesn't translate well into his pass protection.

Roderick Johnson, Florida State, junior, OT, (6-7/311)
Johnson was a disaster in the first half of Florida State's opener against Ole Miss, but he's recovered nicely. He's excellent in the run game, helping pave the way for Cook's huge game against USF. His struggles in pass protection are from technical issues. He needs to get his hands on opponents quicker. When he does that, he can swallow defensive lineman with his massive frame and long arms.

Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame, senior, OT, (6-7/310)
The Philly native and Penn Charter grad is one of the top three tackles in the draft. A former basketball player, McGlinchey — who people say is closer to 6-foot-9 — moves like a tight end. He dominated in Notre Dame's loss to Duke. Against Michigan State, he got fooled on a couple stunts, but looked strong overall. How cool of a story would it be for a Philly kid to get drafted by the Eagles in Philadelphia? That scenario is far from impossible. Fun fact: McGlinchey is the cousin of Atlanta Falcons quarterback and fellow Penn Charter grad Matt Ryan.

James Washington, Oklahoma State, junior, WR, (6-1/201)
Washington had six catches for 89 yards in a loss to Baylor, but he popped up on my radar after a nine-catch, 296-yard (no, that's not a typo) performance against Pitt a couple weeks back. The opposite of Hurd, Washington is a receiver built like a running back, generously listed at 6-foot-1. He's explosive and quick out of his breaks. He also does well on 50-50 balls, outmuscling smaller defensive backs. I'd like to see a little more consistency from him, though. His 40 time will be an interesting measuring stick when the combine comes around.

James Quick, Louisville, senior, WR, (6-1/180)
Against Marshall last weekend, Quick caught his second pass of over 70 yards this season and finished with four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. When your quarterback is the best and most exciting player in college football, it's easy to get overshadowed. But Quick has been the favorite target of Heisman hopeful Lamar Jackson, leading Louisville in catches (16), yards (360) and receiving touchdowns (three). He's quick in and out of his breaks and is a decent route runner with decent hands. Quick is another player we'll learn more about through the combine process when he's not catching balls from Jackson.

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