January 30, 2018
During the 2017 offseason, and later into the regular season, the Philadelphia Eagles loaded up on older players who went on to provide significant contributions in backup roles.
On Tuesday night, Howie Roseman was asked what he learned in his time away from the team, in terms of building a roster from 1 to 53. His answer was that he became more open to adding those kinds of older players.
"I think that sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its part," philosophical Howie said. "You're going to have a bunch of injuries over the course of the year, and obviously it's the 'who' of who is going to get hurt, but to me to be in a position where one injury derails your ability to compete, we didn't want that to happen, so we wanted to make sure we built up as much depth as possible.
"I think you've seen that maybe in the past, we would go for younger players. But here we brought in some veteran guys to fill those roles because we felt like we had a good football team, and we wanted to be able to have this 'next man up' mentality where guys can come in and play at a high level, whereas taking it on the chin wasn't as much as we had done in the past."
The Eagles signed five players in 2017 with significant roles who are now over the age of 30. Indeed that was a departure from Roseman's strategy in the past. For example, in 2012, the Eagles didn't have a horrible roster, but after they sustained a few key injuries, their depth was young and inexperienced, and the team ended up 4-12. That roster was the second youngest in the NFL, and it helped cost Andy Reid his job.
This season, the Eagles had the 23rd youngest roster (or 10th oldest depending how you look at it) in the NFL after 53-man cutdowns. That was due in part to a bunch of 30-somethings the Eagles signed.
• DE Chris Long (32): Long had a great season as a rotational defensive end, collecting five sacks and 4 forced fumbles during the regular season, and then making a huge play in the NFC Championship Game when he affected a Case Keenum throw that was returned for a TD by another 30-plus addition, Patrick Robinson.
• S Corey Graham (32): Graham closed the season on a high note, when he made a big play against Evan Engram in the back of the end zone against the New York Giants, helping the Eagles clinch a first-round bye. He also had an interception against the Vikings in the NFCCG.
• LB Dannell Ellerbe (32): Ellerbe didn't have any major impact plays this season, but as a fill-in starter he has been good against the run, and an upgrade over younger linebacker Joe Walker.
• RB LeGarrette Blount (31): While Blount was technically a starter for much of the season, he was used more like a role player, as he averaged 10.4 carries per game. In his role, Blount was effective, carrying 173 times for 766 yards and 2 TDs.
• CB Patrick Robinson (30): The aforementioned Robinson had the play of the playoffs for the Eagles when his pick-six completely changed the momentum of that game. He was also one of the best slot corners in the NFL during the regular season.
You might even throw Nick Foles (29) into that mix, as he is among the most experienced backup quarterbacks in the NFL, with 39 starts under his belt (42 including the playoffs) and 1386 career pass attempts.
The "old guy" market is one that was wildly undervalued this offseason by the NFL, as Long and Robinson were signed three weeks into free agency, while Blount (May), Graham (August), and Ellerbe (November) were just sitting on the street waiting for someone to sign them long after many of their less talented peers had already signed deals with teams around the league. They were all also dirt cheap.
|Chris Long (32)
|2 years, $4.5 million
|Corey Graham (32)
|1 year, $1.6 million
|Dannell Ellerbe (32)
|1 year, $900,000 ($370,588 prorated)
|LeGarrette Blount (31)
|1 year, $1.25 million
|Patrick Robinson (30)
|1 year, $775,000 (as estimated by overthecap.com)
Youth is good, if you're looking to develop players over time and hit a home run on a budding prospect. However, Roseman's 'old guy' strategy paid off in the short term in a huge way for the Eagles in 2017.
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