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January 16, 2019

Eagles are prepping for a potentially enormous amount of roster turnover

Eagles NFL
0116_Brandon_Graham_Chris_Long_USAT Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports

Chris Long and Brandon Graham could both be gone next season.

The end of an NFL season is kind of like the end of a school year — only everyone doesn't stay for four years.

Which is why back on Monday, as the Eagles were cleaning out their lockers and discussing their plans for the offseason, there was a bittersweet and palpable sadness among the players. There will be a lot of change coming, and the Eagles know it.

"Typically you’re looking at 15-20 percent turnover of your roster in every year," Howie Roseman told the media when asked if he expects a higher than usual number of players leaving. "Some of that is just based on attrition. Some is based on decisions you have to make. It's very important also that we keep our core together and that we maintain the culture that coach Pederson and his staff have built and continue to keep leaders here to show our young players the right way to do things. 

"We're going to try to make sure we do everything possible to field the best possible team. This isn't a situation where we're looking to have just a youth movement. We're looking to compete at a very high level next year and, really, hopefully be doing that for as long as we're standing up here."

The list of upcoming free agents is super long. When added to the list of players with contracts Philadelphia can wiggle itself out of to get some of the salary cap savings it needs, it gets even longer.

 PlayerContract 
 Brandon GrahamFree agent
Golden Tate Free agent
Mike Wallace Free agent
 Haloti NgataFree agent
Chance Warmack Free agent
Chris Long Free agent
Chris Maragos Free agent
Corey Graham Free agent
Darren Sproles Free agent
Ronald Darby Free agent
 Paul WorrilowFree agent
Richard Rodgers Free agent
LaRoy Reynolds Free agent
Jordan Matthews Free agent
Jordan Hicks Free agent
 Jay AjayiFree agent
 D.J. AlexanderFree agent
 Nate SudfeldFree agent
 Rick LovatoFree agent
 Jake ElliottFree agent
Nick Foles  Buy out
 Jason Peters $8m in savings if cut (or retires)
 Rodney McLeod$5m in savings if cut 
 Michael Bennett$7.2m in savings if cut 
Jason Kelce $6.5m in savings if cut (or retires)


So, yeah... that's a lot. 

Some number of players from that pool of 25 (or even others if the Birds make a few trades) could conceivably be gone from a team that fields just a 53-man roster. Granted, the Eagles had a ton of injuries last season and several of the above players, like Jay Ajayi and Chris Maragos, finished the year on IR. But a bunch of these players won't be back. The Eagles will also add nine players via the NFL draft.

And players are understandably upset by this.

"The physical ailments go away, the losses subside, the pain of those subside, but not being able to be with your brothers every day is probably the toughest part," Zach Ertz said. "This year there’s a good chance a lot of my closest friends probably won’t be here next year and that’s just the reality of this business. And it’s the toughest part of this league, because even if you’re going to stick together and be friends for life you aren’t going to see them every day. 

"Playing in this city, meeting the guys in this locker room it has changed my life forever and I am definitely grateful for meeting these guys. But this locker room will never be the same."

Between their Super Bowl win in 2017 and this past season, the Eagles added eight veteran players, about the middle of the pack among NFL teams. In terms of snaps, the Eagles lost cumulatively around 2,735 snaps to departed players who were on the championship roster, according to overthecap.com. This number, too, is just around the median for NFL teams.

There will be a lot more than that before the 2019 season. And how that effects the players who are staying will be a big storyline as the team takes four months off before rookie camp and OTAs return in the early spring.

"Yesterday was probably the last time that this team will play together," Fletcher Cox said looking back at the team's grueling 20-14 loss in New Orleans. "The business part of this is there will be a new look in this locker room, the guys who won’t be here. It sucks to see them leave knowing they were teammates and part of something special. You have to wish them the best."

The NFL is a business and players know that. They have their own coping mechanisms and are professionals — the Eagles notably boasting some especially mature and professional players as part of their special locker room dynamic.

"I think you understand it’s just a business," Brandon Brooks said, a day after tearing his Achilles' tendon. "The turnover rate is crazy high but the friendships you make each year, just because a person goes to a different team, that doesn’t have to change."

"The front office does a great job of identifying guys with extremely high character," Ertz said, showing confidence in Roseman and his staff. "You don’t have a lot of 'me' guys on this team you just have guys who want to win. We experienced how much joy this city has when we win and that’s the goal."


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