The Eagles took a more measured approach this offseason compared to 2011, and the difference in strategy wasn’t lost on GM Howie Roseman.
“I think (2011) was an aberration in terms of us going out in the free-agent market and signing a bunch of guys,” Roseman told PFW. “We just felt like we had some cap room and there were a couple of players we thought who fit our scheme and could be here for a couple of years, we wanted to dive into that opportunity.”
That was then, and the season that followed was an unmitigated disaster. A more measured approach this offseason was focused on adding a few key outside pieces but more in terms of locking up the team’s young talent long term. They re-signed several key cogs — among them RB LeSean McCoy, WR DeSean Jackson, DE Trent Cole, OG Evan Mathis and ORT Todd Herremans — keeping the core of a talented team in place, and the Eagles currently sit in first place at 3-1.
The Eagles have been among the best in the business at locking up talent well in advance of their contracts being up. With most key players signed through at least 2014, only a few names remain.
Don’t be shocked if the team makes serious headway with contract extensions for CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (whose deal ends after the season) and WR Jeremy Maclin (whose contract ends after the 2013 season) in the coming weeks and months.
When asked about that possibility, Roseman took a pass at answering directly but did hint that the team’s flexible salary-cap situation — they currently are more than $20 million under the cap — could allow for some in-season negotiations with those two players and others to occur.
“We are going to be a draft-and-develop type of team that tries to retain as many of our own players as we can,” Roseman said. “We tried to do that in the offseason with Todd and Evan and DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, and I think that’s going to be the model for the foreseeable future.”
Calls to the agents for Rodgers-Cromartie (Eugene Parker) and Maclin (Ben Dogra) were not immediately returned.
Rodgers-Cromartie is perhaps the more immediate task. Not only is his deal up a year sooner than Maclin's, but the NFL demand for corners is significant. Recent free-agent deals for Baltimore’s Lardarius Webb, Dallas’ Brandon Carr and St. Louis’ Cortland Finnegan were all in excess of $50 million total and $20 million guaranteed. At 26, Rodgers-Cromartie is roughly the same age as Carr and Webb, and his play has been strong this season, so he’s sure to demand a deal at or near those same parameters.
There’s less rush for Maclin, and he has been hampered by a recent hip injury, which could slow down any talk of a new deal temporarily. Still, the Eagles are believed to want to lock him up long term — either this year or next — in advance of his contract expiring.
Roseman said the Eagles’ system of strengthening the roster with a young base of talent is twofold. One is that the team is not in danger of getting too old, and two is that younger players tend to be cheaper. That remains true often when they can be retained long term before they hit the open market, when prices usually go up.
“We want to always (have salary-cap flexibility) because the cap is going to be relatively flat for the next couple of years,” Roseman said. “We’re going to have to, like everyone else, make some tough decisions on our guys.
“But I think a lot of credit goes to our owner, Jeffrey Lurie, and our head coach (Andy Reid) to be willing to take chances on young players and develop a young roster while at the same time retaining our talented veteran players.”