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January 25, 2018

Eagles should be Super Bowl contenders for the foreseeable future

When the Eagles traded up from 13-to-8-to-2 prior to the 2016 NFL Draft to select Carson Wentz, they found a quarterback who was arguably the best player in the NFL in just his second season, before it was cut short by his devastating ACL tear.

The Eagles were steamrolling toward the Super Bowl, and then in an instant, not. Or so most of us thought.

In the weeks that followed, the Eagles continued to win anyway, going 4-1 without Wentz, with the lone loss coming in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Dallas Cowboys in which the Eagles played their JV team. To the surprise of most (self included), it turns out that the cast surrounding Wentz was able to make it all the way to the Super Bowl without him.

And the Eagles are not going anywhere for a while. The following is a graph that shows how long each player on the 53-man roster (plus IR) is signed through:

Signed through Players (starters in bold)
 2017 (free agent)LB Nigel Bradham, CB Patrick Robinson, RB Darren Sproles, DT Beau Allen, TE Trey Burton, S Corey Graham, RB LeGarrette Blount, K Caleb Sturgis, LB Dannell Ellerbe, OT William Beatty, ST Bryan Braman, LB Najee Goode, RB Kenjon Barner 
 2018 DE Brandon Graham, LB Jordan Hicks, CB Ronald Darby, RB Jay Ajayi, QB Nick Foles, TE Brent Celek, DE Chris Long, OG Chance Warmack, DE Steven Means, DT Destiny Vaeao, QB Nate Sudfeld
 2019OT Jason Peters, LB Mychal Kendricks, WR Torrey Smith, OG Stefen Wisniewski, WR Nelson Agholor (w/5th year option), CB Jalen Mills, OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai, ST Chris Maragos, P Donnie Jones, OG Isaac Seumalo, RB Wendell Smallwood,  LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB Joe Walker, RB Corey Clement, LS Rick Lovato (EFA), QB WR Marcus Johnson (EFA), K Jake Elliott (EFA)
 2020 QB Carson Wentz (w/5th year option), DE Vinny Curry, OG Brandon Brooks, S Malcolm Jenkins, S Rodney McLeod, C Jason Kelce, CB Rasul Douglas, WR Mack Hollins, WR Shelton Gibson, DT Elijah Qualls, LB Nate Gerry
 2021 OT Lane Johnson, TE Zach Ertz, DT Timmy Jernigan, WR Alshon Jeffery, Derek Barnett (w/5th year option), Sidney Jones (w/RFA year inc.)
 2022DT Fletcher Cox  

The above may look like a cluster of names, but what it shows is that they have their best players under contract for years to come. Some quick analysis of the above:

• 21 of 22 starters are signed through the 2018 season. The only unsigned starter is Nigel Bradham, who shouldn't be too difficult to bring back, as other teams around the NFL may be wary of possible suspensions coming his way.

To note, we're considering Jay Ajayi the starting running back at this point, not LeGarrette Blount. We can all agree on that, right? Good, OK. There's also an argument to be made that Patrick Robinson should be viewed as a starter, from the slot corner position. That's fair. If so, make it 21 of 23 starters. Robinson could be difficult to re-sign after the great season he just had. On the bright side, the loss of Robinson could also turn into a nice compensatory pick if he makes bank.

• 17 of 22 starters are signed through the 2019 season, as Brandon Graham, Ronald Darby, Jordan Hicks, and Jay Ajayi are the only starters with expiring contracts after the 2018 season. All four will be in the contract extension conversation soon.

• The corners were the potential death knell for the Eagles heading into the season. They exceeded expectations and were often a bright spot this season. Robinson aside, the elder of the position is old man Darby, who turned 24 last month. Jalen Mills (23), Rasul Douglas (22), and Sidney Jones (21) should only continue to improve.

• The entirety of the offensive line is intact through at least the 2019 season, with Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, and Jason Kelce all locked in through at least 2020. No matter what happens with Jason Peters, assuming reasonably good health and no severe dropoff in play, the Eagles are set up to have a great offensive line for at least the next three years, giving them plenty of time to continue to draft and develop along the front line.

• The defensive line is in great shape, as Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, and Derek Barnett (if you include Barnett's fifth-year option) are signed through at least 2021.

Wentz will have to prove he's the same player whenever he returns to the lineup, and the Eagles' hope is that devastating injuries do not become a theme throughout his career, as it has for other quarterbacks. 

Taking the 60,000-foot view, the Eagles are as strong in the trenches on both sides of the ball as any team in the NFL, and they may already have a top-five quarterback. That is about as ideal a situation as you can ask for in terms of the potential for long-term dominance.

Howie Roseman very quickly assembled a team that made it to the Super Bowl (and hey, maybe they'll even win it) two short years after the Chip Kelly disaster ended, for which he deserves a lot of credit. However, equally impressive is the position Roseman was able to put the team in, long-term.

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