March 10, 2017
Howie Roseman wasn't kidding when he said that Thursday "was a good day."
For the Eagles executive vice president of football operations, the first day of NFL free agency saw him land two starting receivers – coveted former Bears wideout Alshon Jeffery and deep threat Torrey Smith – and shore up the offensive line by adding Chance Warmack, a former first-round pick who provides depth to the interior line (not to mention re-upping Stefen Wisniewski for three years). He also released Connor Barwin, saving millions in cap space and re-signed linebacker Najee Goode, a solid special teams contributor.
But it was the phrase he uttered immediately before referencing his favorite Ice Cube song that should inspire Eagles fans the most: "We still have a lot of work to do."
It wasn't the first time he alluded to the Birds not being done. In fact, he said that right up front, before even fielding any questions.
“We’re really excited to add Alshon [Jeffery], Torrey [Smith], Chance [Warmack], re-sign Najee [Goode] and Wiz [Stefen Wisniewski]," Roseman told the media gathered at the NovaCare Complex on Friday, after thanking Barwin and giving a shoutout to those who work behind the scenes in the personnel department. "We’ve got a lot more work to do. Obviously, we know that this is just part of the process. We’re excited about the draft. We’re excited about the next few weeks here to look at what we have, to see if there’s opportunities to add to our team, and then go into the draft and really be able to take the best available player.”
The draft is still over six weeks away, but by improving one of their weakest positions in free agency, wide receiver, Roseman and the Eagles can now enter the draft focused on solidifying a weakness on the other side of the ball: cornerback.
But we're only on the second day of free agency, so there could be more moves to come, especially if Roseman wants an insurance policy at cornerback – someone he can plug in there this season in case the right guy isn't there at 14th overall OR if a guy like Dalvin Cook were to fall to them.
For now, he'd like to keep his options open, waiting for the right deal to come along, even if that means temporarily being unhappy with that state of certain positions on the depth chart.
“You don’t want to go into a draft ‘having to have’ something," he said. "By that same token, what we said last week is true. We’re trying to minimize risk and make smart decisions, and if a contract gets out of hand and you set a number and a price point for it, we’re going to walk away. What will happen in the next few days out there is hard to predict. Obviously, people have expectations when the market opens.
“But we have to be uncomfortable with some things here. We’re not going to address everything right now and if there’s a particular position that we don’t address right now, that doesn’t preclude us doing something before the season starts that’s certainly not in the draft.”
But with the deals already handed out, including $14 million to Jeffery alone, the Eagles have very little cap room with which to work. That could mean the moves to come require some sort of subtraction before there can be any more additions. Roseman is again taking a day-by-day approach, and doesn't foresee an issue with the salary cap potentially keeping him from signing a player.
“Yeah, you know, I think from our perspective, we’re going to have to look at things as they come," Roseman said when asked how he might try to free up some cap space. "When it gets to the draft, things obviously change. We’re going through all that now. Again, I think as we look past this moment, we’re going to be OK. But it is a unique situation that we have, and I think when you look around the league, [other] people have had it. I’m trying not to be too specific about it and not getting into strategy.”
If finding that cornerback of the future has to wait until the draft, that won't be the worst thing. This is largely regarded as one of the deeper cornerback drafts in a long time (maybe ever), meaning there's likely going to be talent at the position beyond the first round.
And even though that's a position at which the Eagles are already relatively young, Roseman is comfortable with possibly starting a rookie there in Week 1.
“I think when you look back to 2004, and certainly not comparing this team to that Super Bowl team but, we went into that year with Lito [Sheppard] and Sheldon [Brown] who hadn’t started and there were some of those same questions," Roseman said. "We would be comfortable if that’s how it turned out. Again, we’ve got a long period of time before we play a game or start training camp.
"So we’re going to look at every option to try to improve this team, but certainly we’d be comfortable if that’s how it shook out."
No matter how it shakes out, Roseman already has one win under his belt this offseason, and that's likely going to buy him some more latitude with Eagles fans moving forward. Especially if the work he said the team still has to do looks anything like it did in Day 1 of free agency.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin