Eagles have cash but are reluctant to spend

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Eagles have cash but are reluctant to spend

At noon Saturday, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman can pick up his phone, speed dial to Jairus Byrd’s agent and start discussion about awarding the NFL’s top free-agent safety with a handsome contract to play for Chip Kelly.

All NFL teams can start negotiations with free agents at 12 p.m. Saturday. Not until 4 p.m. Tuesday can free agents officially sign on the dotted line.

Even though Roseman committed nearly $130 million in theoretical money over the past 10 days to secure several standouts from last year’s NFC East championship team, he left the cupboard full enough to dig deep for someone of Byrd’s caliber.

Are we sure of this?

“Yes,” Roseman said. Actually, he cautioned more than said. “It will affect other things going forward,” he added, “but yes.”

By “other things going forward,” Roseman dropped a big hint about the team’s free-agent strategy and revealed why the Eagles aren’t likely to land Byrd -- who’s seeking upwards of $9 million annually -- or any other free agent seeking to capitalize on Jeffrey Lurie’s prior habit of stretching the pocketbook.

Looking forward -- say, one year from now -- several pieces of the Eagles’ nucleus will be eligible for contract extensions. Among them are Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and potentially Jeremy Maclin.

Roseman has talked all offseason about the team’s newer model of building from within, of manicuring home-grown talent, of stockpiling draft picks and farming them through the system the way Green Bay and Pittsburgh do.

Given the windfall he just lavished on Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Riley Cooper, and the money he’ll need next season to keep the foundation intact, it becomes fairly clear why Roseman isn’t sending out strong signals that he’s about to authorize some big checks.

“It doesn’t take an expert researcher to go back and look at teams that are having success and how they’re having success,” he said. “Most of the time when guys are on the free-agent market, their teams have chosen not to sign them for one reason or another.

It may be cap room. It may be because they have a particular player at a position.

“But I don’t know that we can go back in the history of free agency and look at free agency and say, 'Well, there’s a team that built totally on free agency and it worked.' You have to draft well to the extent that you can. You have to keep your own players and you have to keep supplementing through the draft."

This doesn’t mean the Eagles won’t be active in free agency.

They have no depth at safety and they need help at outside linebacker, inside linebacker and on the defensive line. They can’t address all these needs in the draft, especially with Roseman firm on picking the best overall prospect regardless of position.

But they’re likely to repeat last year’s blueprint that netted them several mid-level free agents who didn’t break the bank but played significant roles, guys like outside linebacker Connor Barwin and corners Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher.

So maybe the Eagles decide to mortgage the house on Byrd, or maybe they go the economical route with Malcolm Jenkins or Mike Mitchell.

Only the folks at One NovaCare Way know what will happen over the next three days, but Roseman’s warnings about the perils of big free-agent spending were fairly telltale.

“It’s almost like the draft, where you don’t want to force anything,” he said. “We look at it as just try to grade players as they are, not do it because we need a particular position. We’re going to go out and try to do things that make sense for our football team.”

Gunner's 10 NFL draft thoughts: Eagles have to get plug-and-play guy with 1st pick

Gunner's 10 NFL draft thoughts: Eagles have to get plug-and-play guy with 1st pick

Live draft coverage begins Thursday at 5 p.m. with Philly Sports Talk and continues until midnight on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App.

CSN's Derrick Gunn checks in with his 10 thoughts before the NFL draft kicks off in Philadelphia on Thursday night with Round 1.

1. Wouldn't it be great if the NFL draft opened up Thursday night with Sylvester Stallone on top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps announcing the first pick in the draft? 

It would be an iconic moment that both Philadelphia and the NFL could own. We can talk all we want about how world class our Art Museum is (and it is!), but let's face it — the NFL didn't choose the Art Museum steps for its world-class art. The league chose it because Rocky made those steps synonymous with Philadelphia.

2. Who dresses some of the soon-to-be millionaire athletes the night they are drafted? Some of the outfits end up looking like a cross between Easter Sunday's best and Halloween.

3. So much has been said about which direction the Eagles will go in this draft, but one thing is crucial: whether the Birds go offense or defense first, it better be a player that can be plugged in and play right now. The development of Carson Wentz goes much further than QB play or a playmaker to throw to. Even on defense, this year's draft will affect both the Eagles' and Wentz's future.

4. I wish the decibel level would be broadcast when Roger Goodell steps onto the stage to open the 2017 NFL draft. With all those loud boos, Arrowhead Stadium's world record noise level could be in jeopardy.

5. I wonder if they are going to have cheesesteaks backstage. If so, how cliché. But I wonder where they would come from: Geno's, Pat's, Tony Luke's, Jim's, Steve's and many more?

6. Think about this … in the last few years, Philly has hosted the Pope, the Democratic National Convention and now the NFL draft. It would be hard to argue that Philadelphia isn't a must-see destination.

7. After the first two rounds of the NFL draft, do we really care about rounds three through seven? I do, but that's because it's my job.

8. I firmly believe that Myles Garrett, the defensive end from Texas A&M, will be the first name announced Thursday night. He will bring some much-needed defensive help to Cleveland. The Browns have been woeful on defense the last several years. Too bad LeBron can't play defense for the Browns — he would be an upgrade. Goodness knows the Browns have screwed up enough first-round picks over the last decade. It's about time they hit on one.

9. Speaking of picks, I think the Eagles go with Corey Davis, the wide receiver from Western Michigan. Here's why: The Eagles invested in Wentz last year. You don't make that investment and not build around him. Howie Roseman said as much when he stated: "We want to build around our quarterback." Davis will be the perfect complementary building block to the Wentz foundation.

10. If you go down to the Ben Franklin Parkway for this year's NFL draft, have fun and enjoy. Things like this don't come around that often. Soak it in. I'll be back at CSN's command headquarters keeping you up to date online and on TV. I hope my boss is catering this thing. (I'm making a request for smoked ribs!)

Best and worst Eagles draft picks ever at each defensive position

Best and worst Eagles draft picks ever at each defensive position

Live draft coverage begins Thursday at 5 p.m. with Philly Sports Talk and continues until midnight on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App.

We continue our look at the best and worst Eagles draft picks since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 with a look at the defense.
 
Click here for the best and worst Eagles draft picks on offense.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Best: Jerome Brown, 1st round, 1987
This comes down to Jerome Brown and Fletcher Cox. Their numbers are pretty similar through five years, which tragically is how long Brown played before he was killed at the age of 27 in a one-car crash in his hometown of Brooksville, Florida. As good as Cox is, Brown was as dominating as any defensive tackle I ever saw, both rushing the passer and stopping the run. In a few years, Cox might get the edge, but for now, I have to go with Brown. 
 
Worst: Leonard Renfro, 1st round, 1993
Rich Kotite was not very good at this drafting thing. In 1993, the Eagles took defensive tackle Leonard Renfro in the first round. In 1994, they took defensive tackle Bruce Walker in the second round. Those two busts go head-to-head here, and it's not an easy call. Renfro was the 24th player taken overall in 1993. How bad was he? Defensive coordinator Bud Carson refused to play him, but owner Norman Braman — upset that he was getting no return out of a first-round pick — overruled the legendary Carson and forced his hand. Renfro wound up starting two games in the middle of 1993 — against the Cowboys and Cards. Both teams ran right at Renfro, and the Cowboys amassed 271 rushing yards, including a career-high 237 from Emmitt Smith, and a week later the Cards netted 243 rushing yards, including a career-high 160 from Ron Moore. Renfro never started another game and was out of football a year later. But Walker may have been worse. He never played a snap for the Eagles, spent part of 1995 with the Patriots, and was out of football by 1996. But we'll go with Renfro because he was a first-round pick and the Eagles' opponents averaged 257 rushing yards per game that he started. One of the worst draft picks in franchise history.

DEFENSIVE END

Best: Clyde Simmons, 9th round, 1986
This is really a two-man race between Trent Cole, a fifth-round pick, and Clyde Simmons, a ninth-round pick. (Remember, Reggie White was a supplemental pick who had played in the USFL, so he's not eligible.) Cole had 85½ sacks in 10 years with the Eagles, and Simmons had 76 sacks in eight years, so those numbers are fairly close, with Simmons averaging one sack more per season. The big difference is that Simmons was as good as anyone against the run. Now, Cole, despite his lack of size, always gave a tremendous effort against the run. But Simmons was just one notch above.
 
Worst: Jon Harris, 1st round, 1997
OK, good luck sorting this one out. The Eagles have drafted no fewer than six defensive ends in the first three rounds who averaged fewer than three sacks per season while wearing an Eagles uniform: Greg Jefferson, Victor Abiamiri, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Jerome McDougle, Jon Harris and Marcus Smith. They're the only team in NFL history to draft three defensive ends in the first round, none of whom recorded more than four sacks. It really comes down to those three — McDougle, Harris and Smith. The jury is still out on Smith, and as unproductive as McDougle was, it has to be Harris, who was out of football before his 25th birthday. He had two career sacks, and only two first-round defensive ends since sacks became an official stat in 1982 have had fewer.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

Best: Seth Joyner, 8th round, 1986
A no-brainer, not only because Joyner was such a brilliant player — the only player in NFL history with 50 sacks and 25 interceptions — but because the Eagles have drafted so poorly at outside linebacker over the years. William Thomas, a fourth-round pick in 1991, had a terrific Pro Bowl career, but Joyner was a unique outside linebacker who played like an inside linebacker against the run and a safety against the pass. It's a travesty he has not yet been enshrined in the Eagles Hall of Fame. Heck, you can make a pretty good case that he belongs in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
 
Worst: Alonzo Johnson, 2nd round, 1986
Same draft. Different result. Johnson, taken 160 picks before Joyner, started nine games as a rookie in 1986, played in three games in 1987, went into drug rehab and never played again. He was out of football soon after his 24th birthday.

INSIDE LINEBACKER

Best: Jeremiah Trotter, 3rd round, 1998
If we went back to 1949, it would be Chuck Bednarik, maybe the greatest Eagle of all-time. But we're starting in 1970, so it's gotta be Trott. He made four Pro Bowls as an Eagle — two in his first stint and two in his second stint, following two unremarkable seasons with the Redskins — and along with Brian Dawkins was truly the heart of the Jim Johnson defense. The only defensive players the Eagles have drafted since 1970 picked to more Pro Bowls are Dawk and Eric Allen. Pretty darn good company.
 
Worst: Barry Gardner, 2nd round, 1999
Donovan McNabb wasn't the only Chicago native the Eagles took early in the 1999 draft. Barry Gardner, who had played Pop Warner football against McNabb as a kid, was the 35th pick overall, an early second-round choice. But their careers took divergent paths. McNabb became a perennial All-Pro quarterback, but Gardner started only 18 games as an Eagle before bouncing around to the Browns, Jets and Patriots and drifting out of the league.

CORNERBACK

Best: Eric Allen, 2nd round, 1988
There've been a lot of good ones. Bobby Taylor. Lito Sheppard. Sheldon Brown. But E.A. is in a class by himself and should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Heck, if you're going to put Aeneas Williams in, you have to put Eric Allen in. During his seven years with the Eagles, he led the entire NFL with 34 interceptions, four more than Deion Sanders, who had the second most. Including playoffs, Allen had nine INT returns for touchdowns — only five players in NFL history (including Asante Samuel) had more. Only three second-round picks in NFL history had more interceptions. The best cornerback in Eagles history.
 
Worst: Curtis Marsh, 3rd round, 2011
Not a lot to choose from on this side of the ledger. The Eagles have done well for themselves over the years drafting cornerbacks. But Marsh was a huge disappointment. He was the 90th pick overall but lasted only two years plus a few games in the NFL. He's one of only 23 cornerbacks taken in the first three rounds since 1970 to never start a game in the NFL.

SAFETY

Best: Duh
Not much we can say about Dawk that hasn't already been said. The greatest safety in Eagles history and a Hall of Fame hopeful, Dawk roamed the deep secondary with class and distinction for a decade. He combined ferocious physical skills with an incredible football mind and the product was simply one of the best safeties in NFL history. Hard to imagine 60 players being drafted ahead of Dawkins in 1996, but they were. Including people such as Lawrence Phillips, Alex Molden, Cedric Jones, Reggie Brown (not that one), John Michels, Andre Johnson, Alex Van Dyke, Leeland McElroy, Bryant Mix, Israel Ifeanyi, James Manley, Dedric Mathis and Michael Cheever. See you in Canton, Dawk!
 
Worst: Jaiquawn Jarrett, 2nd round, 2011
Yes, that 2011 draft strikes again. Jarrett was the 54th player taken in the 2011 draft, and the fact that he played college ball at Temple made it a popular pick. Then he started to play, and all of a sudden it wasn't that popular a pick. Jarrett struggled from the get-go both against the run and in coverage and after starting two games as a rookie, the Eagles released him one week into his second year to make room on the roster for … yes, Mardy Gilyard. Jarrett hung on three years with the Jets and was even named AFC Defensive Player of the Week once. But he was only 26 when he played his last NFL game.