The offseason has officially begun (for the Eagles), and that means its time to look at the roster from a higher level. You can get a basic breakdown from most of the Eagles beats; I’ve just got a few thoughts to add. The biggest point to make is: Don’t forget about the team’s strength. Too often, fans focus entirely on team weaknesses and forget that nothing in sports is static. Remember back to the Andy Reid peak. Those teams were built upon the strength of the DEFENSE. Over time, the defensive roster was allowed to atrophy while the focus was on the offense. Fixing weaknesses is obviously vital, but the first priority, in my opinion, should be ensuring your team’s strength remains a strength. This year, the team’s success was built upon a great offense. However, there’s no guarantee that the offense will remain at that level. Personally, I still think they’re still missing a “weapon” at WR.
Now, a few player notes:
– Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin are both free agents. I do not expect both of them to be back next year, and wouldn’t be shocked if neither returned. Cooper seems like a prime candidate to be overpaid elsewhere, and he’s exactly the type of player teams should be very careful not to overpay. He had a very good year, but how far above replacement-level is he?
He had 47 catches, which ranked 82nd in the league this year.
He had 835 yards, good for 38th in the league.
His best stat was probably the 17.8 yards per reception, tied with Calvin Johnson for 3rd in the league. However, the following players averaged more than 15 yards per reception: Denarius Moore, Jerome Simpson, Doug Baldwin, Nate Washington, Chris Givens.
The point is NOT that Riley Cooper shouldn’t return. I think his skill-set is particularly well-suited to Foles’ game (deep jump balls especially). However, in a salary-cap league, it’s important not to pay decent players like stars. The fact is the Eagles could probably replace Cooper’s production without too much difficulty.
Maclin is a slightly different story, but I think it comes down to the same analysis. There will likely be another team willing to pay him more than the Eagles will.
– Remain skeptical of rookie performances. Don’t discount them entirely, but don’t overreact. I’m talking mainly about Bennie Logan and Earl Wolff. Both had nice years, but if you’re penciling them in as starters, you’ve gone too far. It might help to remember Macho Harris…. I’d still like to see an “impact” NT, and Logan probably isn’t at that level. If Wolff is starter-material, fantastic, but he might have also benefited from low-bar comparisons. The record of late round safeties (or any position really) isn’t great, and he’s hasn’t shown enough to leave me confident he’ll beat those odds. I’m hopeful that both players can be contributors, but neither would stop me from pursuing an upgrade in either FA or the draft (provided BPA of course).
– Best Player Available. As far as I’m concerned, there are very few positions on the team that I would NOT draft if a player at that position was the best player available at the Eagles pick. Running back is obvious. QB…probably (and I’m a big Foles fan!). Center. That’s about it. The Eagles are a very shallow team. They need to add talent, regardless of where that talent comes from. Many fans will point to the Safeties and hope for a 1st round pick to address that need. However, that kind of thinking is how you end up drafting a 27 yr old Guard in the 1st round…
– Plug holes with Free Agency. Most fans, during free agency, focus on the top players available. That’s a mistake (for now). The Eagles are still very much in the “building” phase, and it’s too early to take a shot at a star player in free agency. If they see someone who’s young and fits the system perfectly, then go for it. However, given where the team is, it’s more important to add depth where possible (at a reasonable price), and perhaps address STs. It won’t grab headlines, but it’s important to building a team. If you’ve added depth and patched holes in Free Agency, it becomes much easier to take the BPA in the draft. In generally, teams should try to add impact talent in the draft, and plug holes in Free Agency. Signing star players in free agency (A) forces you to overpay (winner’s curse), and (b) limits flexibility going forwards. As a result, that approach should only be used by team’s whose rosters are close to set already. If there is a clearly defined weakness, the risk of FA is lower. With needs everywhere (the Eagles now), I’d rather maintain flexibility until the roster is further defined.
I’ll leave it there for today. I’ll have a much more extensive roster breakdown soon, but I wanted to get a few of the more important thoughts out there beforehand. After such a successful season, it’s hard to remain patient. However, the Eagles are still a ways from being a legitimate contender. Missteps in roster-building now can short-circuit the entire process and undo all of the progress the team made this year.