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March 13, 2023

Ranking Howie Roseman's biggest challenges this offseason

Eagles GM Howie Roseman will need to balance contending now and building for the future with many key veteran free agents set to leave while also possessing two-first round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft.

The NFL's new league year begins on Wednesday. Even coming off a Super Bowl appearance, the Eagles are likely to look a whole lot different in 2023 than they did in 2022 with moving parts both on the roster and among the coaching staff. General manager Howie Roseman will look to continue with this great foundation and avoid the pitfalls that caused the 2017 Super Bowl-winning squad to quickly fall off in the ensuing years. 

Continuing to be a legitimate championship contender is tough, but Roseman is up for the task. Here are his five biggest challenges this offseason ranked in order of importance. 

5. Giving Jason Kelce a fresh keg of beer and bringing him back

There's been a "will he or won't he" dance on Jason Kelce's NFL future the last few offseasons as the eventual Hall of Famer ponders retirement. Kelce, who would be entering his age-36 season in 2023 and was a First-Team All-Pro choice each of the last two years, is still the best center in the game. There is a necessity to balance the present and the future health of the franchise (more on that in a bit), but if Kelce remains as dominant as he has been, he should be back in the fold to anchor the league's top offensive line. 

4. Nailing the Eagles' two first-round picks

Please stop mocking Bijan Robinson to the Eagles with the 10th overall pick. Would the Eagles take Robinson with the 30th pick? There's a shot, but it's not a slam dunk (I'd make the selection in two seconds). With a top-10 pick though? I see national media members at huge publications doing that. Do you all live under the rock? Do you even understand the teams you're covering? It makes zero sense. Eagles fans in the know are laughing at you all. 

Rant aside, the Eagles have an opportunity to give a team that coulda/shoulda/woulda won the Super Bowl an influx of premier young talent. It may come off as boring, but expect the Eagles to build in the trenches with at least one (if not both) of their firsts, presuming they don't trade one of them out of the first round entirely. 

My as-of-right-now prediction for the 10th pick: Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee 

My as-of-right-now prediction for the 30th pick: Florida offensive lineman O'Cyrus Torrence

The Eagles have players in their mid-20s in their prime with Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, Josh Sweat, A.J. Brown, Landon Dickerson, Jordan Mailata and Dallas Goedert. Cam Jurgens and Jordan Davis can be great contributors sooner rather than later, too. Hitting doubles (they don't have to be grand slams!) with these firsts will go a long way to having the Eagles in a spot to make the Super Bowl again not just in 2023, but in 2024 and beyond. 

3. Reshaping the defense

By this time next week, Darius Slay, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, James Bradberry, Marcus Epps, T.J. Edwards, Kyzir White, Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave could all be playing for new teams. 

Roseman will have to retool a defense that was the No. 1 pass defense and No. 6 in Defensive DVOA rapidly. Two-first rounds, as mentioned, can help with that, but the Birds will be limited with minimal open cap space in the free agent period. Maybe they can snag a guy like Broncos defensive end Dre'Mont Jones, an under-the-radar signing that would be akin to the Eagles bringing in Hargrave in 2020. 

This, clearly, won't be easy. Expect regression from this D. Their gaudy total of 70 sacks won't be replicated. A step back is inevitable, but a certain level of competency is needed from new defensive coordinator Sean Desai to let this high-flying offense carry the Eagles deep into the postseason again. 

The Eagles could also just load up on offense while punting on D to a degree, as our own Jimmy Kempski explored in his Monday morning mailbag

2. Giving Jalen Hurts a mega contract extension 

Hurts getting a gigantic contract extension is essentially a formality, but the parameters of that deal will decide the Eagles' team-building structure for years to come. Hurts will likely command around $50 million per year. I have doubts it ends up being a fully guaranteed one like Deshaun Watson received from Cleveland in 2022, but the Birds are going to back the Brink's truck up for QB1. 

An expectation of Hurts taking a hometown discount to allow the Eagles to stack the roster around him is laughable. Unless you're Tom Brady and the Patriots with some murky "TB12" financial situation going on, that's simply not how the NFL operates. The Eagles were able to have an elite roster in 2022 on the way to the Super Bowl because Hurts was playing on an ultra-cheap Day 2 rookie-scale contract. That won't be the case going forward. Roseman will need to continue working the margins to get the Eagles' cap situation in order. No GM in the league is better at that than him. 

The Eagles should be looking to give Hurts a contract that's as long as possible, while Hurts' camp would be wise to look for a shorter-term deal with the way QB salaries are rising annually. For example, a seven-year contract worth roughly $50 million per season will be wild money in 2024, but by 2027, it'd be a steal. Look no further than the way Patrick Mahomes' previously record-breaking 10-year deal worth $450 million is already a bargain for the most talented quarterback ever. Hurts should be aiming for, say, a three-year deal where he can cash in yet again in the middle of his prime. Who knows. By 2026, QBs could be making close to $60 million per year. 

Roseman has to do what's best to have as talented of a team as possible outside of the quarterback position while also keeping the organization's relationship with its most crucial figure on good terms. It's a hard balancing act.

1. Balancing the present vs. the future

Speaking of balancing acts, Roseman has a duty to have the Eagles in a position to hoist the Lombardi Trophy next February while simultaneously allowing them to be at the level of contention throughout the next half-decade. It's the hardest task for a front office staff in the sport. Unless you have someone like Brady or Mahomes, it's a rarity. 

I was not alone among Philadelphians in believing that after the Birds' Super Bowl LII win that they'd be in a similar spot for years to come. That, of course, did not come to fruition. The Eagles clung too tightly to their aging core, their quarterback had an unprecedented fall from grace and it culminated in a four-win season just three years later. 

I have faith that Roseman has learned from his past failures in that regard. Making matters easier is that their current quarterback is primed for continued growth and production. Carson Wentz was as elite as anyone in 2017, but he's entering his age-31 season and has nine playoff snaps to his name. Hurts has already racked up four total Super Bowl touchdowns. Quarterback should not be a variable in the team-building equation that leads to another Super Bowl berth. 

When is it time to move on from franchise mainstays? Is it too soon to give rookies and second-year guys large roles for a fan base that expects a parade in 2024? What's more important: contending in 2023 or contending from 2025 through 2027? Those questions fall swiftly on Roseman's plate. 

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