Howie Roseman, architect of the Philadelphia Eagles’ 53-man roster, didn’t reveal much about his offseason strategy Wednesday in his NFL Scouting Combine press conference.
Roseman, the team’s executive vice president of football operations, told the media gathered in Indianapolis that his objective is to retain as many significant players as he possibly can.
The only statement that shined some light into his offseason blueprint was his comment about finding “creative ways” to improve the roster for the best chance at his team’s Super Bowl repeat bid.
Creativity isn’t blowing $50-plus million in free agency to patch holes; the Eagles have been there, done that, failed miserably at it, and have insisted that those days are beyond them.
Creativity is restructuring contracts, working the trade market, finding veterans willing to take less to play for a championship contender, and extending contracts of in-house standouts to keep them as cap-friendly as possible.
With punter Donnie Jones’ announced retirement Tuesday, the Eagles are about $7.625 million over the projected salary cap, per overthecap.com, but Roseman – who once prided himself on maintaining enough cap space annually to outbid the competition for impactful free agents – suggested that he is not willing to swap production for salary relief.
Of course, he’ll need to maneuver to comply with the cap, so there will be some difficult goodbyes… but perhaps not as many as previously thought.
“We’re not on a short sale right now,” he said. “We’re very comfortable with our flexibility to make moves that we have to make. That doesn’t mean we’re in as good of a situation as a lot of other teams in the league, there’s a lot of cap room out there, there’s teams with a ton of cap room.
“But we’re not going to make decisions, we’re not going to get rid of good plyers, because of our cap situation. We’re not just doing things because of the cap situation.”
Roseman’s comments can be construed two ways – that he is truly devoted to bringing back as much of last year’s core as possible, or he is simply sending an early message that certain veterans carrying cap figures that won’t match their production aren’t just going to be given away for minimal return.
There’s been speculation that defensive end Vinny Curry, who carries a cap figure of $11 million in 2018, will be shipped out to accommodate 2017 14th pick Derek Barnett’s entrance into the starting lineup.
There’s also a sentiment that Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, who will cost $10.6 million against the cap, won’t be back.
The Eagles went 7-2 with Halapoulivaati Vatai at left tackle after Peters underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The 2017 team won the franchise’s first Super Bowl with Vatai — the 2016 fifth-round pick — anchoring Carson Wentz and Nick Foles’ blind side.
Roseman gave no indication he is ready to move on from Peters or any other major contributor to the team’s championship, although he admitted that he and the staff must make “tough choices” soon.
“It’s not like we can just bring the band back together and expect the same results,” Roseman allowed. “There are going to be some tough ones we have to make. But talking to Coach (Doug Pederson) and our staff, we understand that’s the mentality we have to take to have a chance to get back here again.”
For all the talk about the benefits of cap space, it’s noteworthy that the four teams with the most money to spend in 2018, per overthecap.com – the Browns, Jets, Colts and Bucs – aren’t annual playoff contenders.
Three of those teams haven’t appeared in the postseason in quite some time. The Browns last made the playoffs in 2002, the Jets in 2010, and the Bucs in 2007.
By contrast, many of the teams with the least cap space are frequently making postseason trips, mainly because they have elite quarterbacks who cover up blemishes. The Packers, Patriots, Seahawks, Falcons, Ravens, Steelers and Chiefs are all near the bottom of the league in available cap space.
Without having to pay Carson Wentz big money for another year (and possibly two), Roseman need not be concerned with pawning everyone off and clearing room for future free-agent binges.
Because of the franchise tag and a cap that rises nearly every season, free agency isn’t as rife with superstar talent as it once was.
The Eagles are deep in key positions and have much of their nucleus under contract for several more years, including Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery and Tim Jernigan. If Wentz stays healthy, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be contenders for years to come.
Clearly, Roseman has changes to make, but they shouldn’t be sweeping.
— Geoff Mosher, a longtime Philadelphia sports reporter, is also a host on @975TheFanatic in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffMosherNFL.