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February 20, 2018

What they're saying: How much will free agency, offseason trades impact Eagles offense?

By now, it's no secret that Eagles general manager and VP of player personnel Howie Roseman had himself quite an offseason in 2017. 

From the draft, where he landed Derek Barnett, to free agency, where he signed guys LeGarrette Blount, Nick Foles and Torrey Smith on offense, just to name a few. He also inked Chris Long, Tim Jernigan and Patrick Robinson, and he drafted Sidney Jones, who barely played in his rookie season but will provide insurance at the cornerback position going forward.

Even when he was making trades – like the deal that sent the team's leading wideout from the previous season, Jordan Matthews, to Buffalo for cornerback Ronald Darby – Roseman was winning. And, sure, Darby missed significant time in 2017, but dealing Matthews opened up the slot position for Nelson Agholor, who had a breakout season for the Birds. Roseman's dealings even continued into the season, like when he stole Jay Ajayi from the Dolphins for a fourth-round pick.

Of course, it's easy to look back at these moves now, knowing that the Eagles went on to win the Super Bowl, and marvel at the job Roseman did constructing a team that not only was built to win in the short-term but also has the long-term ability to remain more or less intact.

Currently, nearly all of the Eagles starters are under team control for next season. And that's a scary proposition for the rest of the NFL. Linebacker Nigel Bradham and Blount are the only two starters the team will need to re-sign if they hope to keep them for the 2018 season – three if you want to count Robinson as a starter. However, with Sidney Jones expected to take Robinson's starting spot and Ajayi essentially becoming the team's starting RB during the postseason, they're technically only in danger of losing one starter (Bradham).

That, however, doesn't mean Howie is going to sit back and relax this offseason. He's never been one to do that anyway.

Here's a look at what they're saying about the Eagles and how this offseason might change the complexion of the Super Bowl champs, especially on offense.

Foles gold

Mike Florio | Pro Football Talk

Former longtime Colts executive Bill Polian might want to have his head examined after this latest take. Nick Foles was incredible in the playoffs, but in what world is anyone going to offer the Eagles anything close to this for what amounts to a rental player on the last year of his deal? 

Spoiler alert: None.  

Hell, if a team offers half of that, the Eagles should immediately start driving Foles to the airport.

It’s a ludicrous, unrealistic assessment of the situation. The Eagles currently have Foles under contract for only one more season. He’ll revert to being a backup, behind Carson Wentz, in 2018. A year from now, Foles will be able to walk away, with the Eagles getting at most a compensatory draft pick in 2020.

Foles has trade value, but the Eagles should pounce on offers far less than two ones and a two. With more free-agent quarterbacks than ever available this year and a strong complement of incoming rookies, teams with needs will be able to fill them without getting grifted for Foles.

If the Eagles decide to reward Foles, who based on things said (and not said) last week may eventually be looking for one, a second-round pick (maybe even a high third-rounder) would be fair to everyone. If someone is willing to offer a first-round pick for Foles, the Eagles should rush to take it.  []

A Blount instrument

Daniel Kelley | Pro Football Focus

LeGarrette Blount gets the job done. He runs hard. He runs downhill. And he runs with power. 

Guys like him are becoming increasingly rare in the NFL, although it's easy to see why he's so fond of his position coach, Duce Staley, who played with a similar style during his career. (More on that in a minute...)

There’s an archetype to the modern running back. The best ones are excellent ball-carriers, and add a bit of receiving prowess to boot. The best of the best — the David Johnsons, Le’Veon Bells, Todd Gurleys — put up seasons where the could rank as a top-20 running back on carries alone, and as a top-30 receiver on receptions alone.

On one end of that bell curve are the receiving backs. Think Darren Sproles, Danny Woodhead, Christian McCaffrey. Their carries only exist to give them more reason to catch passes. They are receivers with a different pair of letters next to their name than “WR.”

On the other end is LeGarrette Blount.

It’s not quite that simple, of course, but in today’s NFL, Blount just doesn’t fit the stereotype.  []

Let's do it again

Brandon Lee Gowton | Bleeding Green Nation

Blount seemed to really enjoy his first season in Philly. Now, the question becomes whether or not that first season will also be his last. During a recent interview with NFL Network, Blount sounded like he wanted to come back to Philly, and Staley was a big part of the reason why.

Q: Have the Eagles told you they want to bring you back?

BLOUNT: It’s early. So we’ll see. Obviously I like it a lot there. They like me a lot there. It’s a mutual respect and a mutual agreement thing, about how we feel about each other. Obviously, you guys know how I feel about the guys, about the team. I love those guys. I can’t say enough about [running backs coach] Duce [Staley]. Just for the simple fact that how I was coached there. How good he helped me understand things. I feel like Duce is one the best running back coaches — one of the best coaches I’ve ever had in my entire life [period]. Obviously I want to be a part of that for a while, so we’ll see how it goes... 

But with Ajayi, Corey Clement and others already locked up, there's clearly a tough decision ahead for Roseman and Co. Still, they were able to make it work this year... 

"We knew that we had added a playmaker to our room with Jay [Ajayi]. A Pro Bowler. A guy that’s rushed for multiple 200 yards games. A hard runner. Make guys miss in space. We knew we added another playmaker to our room, so obviously we were going to welcome him with open arms. You know, they talked to me throughout the process of it happening. ‘We’re trading for Jay Ajayi, we just wanted to let you know.’ Like I said, that’s obviously another big thing for me, is the honesty in that building and how open they are. And how they feel like they don’t have to keep any kind of secrets from you. They just tell you how it is. Like I said, that’s a big respect thing. And like I said, Duce is the first person to reach out to me and be like ‘Hey, we traded for Jay Ajayi. I just wanted to let you know.’ So again, man, that’s why it’s a place that I love. I just hope to stay there." [h/t Bleeding Green Nation for transcribing]

So, what does this mean for next season?

I don’t doubt that Blount hopes to stay. That’s not the question here.

The question is if the Eagles want to bring Blount back. The 8-year veteran will turn 32 years old this season. With Philadelphia being so limited on cap space, Howie Roseman will have to manage his resources carefully. He might not be able to give Blount an offer that beats out other teams.  []

Even the team's play-by-play announcer Merrill Reese wants to see Blount back in midnight green next year.

Odd man out

David Hennessey | The Eagles Wire

If the Eagles decide to bring Blount back for the 2018 season – and maybe even if they don't – it's starting to look like Wendell Smallwood's time in Philly could be drawing to a close.

From the Eagles 2017 backfield, Ajayi and Corey Clement will certainly be back next year. Blount could be re-signed. Donnel Pumphrey will be in the mix as well, trying to earn a roster spot.

Smallwood could be the odd man out once again. But when given consistent carries, he’s proved to be an effective back.

Smallwood has had 12 or more carries in a game just four times in his two seasons. In those four games, Smallwood ran for over 70 yards three times. The only time he didn’t was when he faced Seattle’s stout run defense in Week 11 of 2016.

Smallwood may never get that kind of opportunity in Philadelphia again.  []

Torrey time

Brooke Cersosimo |

Wideout Torrey Smith will be back next year, but only if the Eagles want him. Smith signed a one-year deal last offseason with the final two years being club options. The Eagles can bring him back for $5 million this season, but will need to decide before March 14th.

Recently, Smith was interviewed by and said that he thinks he'll be back for 2018 – and said there's no reason to believe the Birds will suffer a Super Bowl hangover.

It's something that I'm probably anticipating, being back [in Philadelphia]. I think both sides know that, but I also know it's a business, as well. You understand that as a player, and you have to understand to protect yourself. I'd love to be back, and hopefully it works out that way. Anything else that happens, I'll kind of deal with it.

That's the challenge that I want. A majority of the reason of why [a Super Bowl hangover] happens is because there's a lot of change within the team. I don't know if this is a team that will have too many changes in key places. This team isn't really dependent on one guy, and that was proven. I think if there's any team who can handle that, this team is built for it.  []

A South Philly reunion?

Eliot Shorr-Parks |

If Roseman and the Eagles do decide to change some things up on offense, they'll have some options in free agency (and, of course, in the draft). Eliot listed 18 offensive players who might make sense for the Birds to sign this offseason, and these two names in particular just jumped off the page.


Murray wasn't very happy during his first stint in Philadelphia during the 2015 season, but now that the man that made him miserable -- former head coach Chip Kelly -- is gone, Murray might be open to a reunion. If LeGarrette Blount leaves, Murray could fill the role as a between-the-tackles veteran running back. 


Would Matthews and the Eagles want to have a reunion just one season after trading him? Matthews would likely welcome a return to Philadelphia, and could likely be had on a discount after a disappointing year in Buffalo. Matthews played both the outside and slot for the Eagles, and could allow the Eagles to move Nelson Agholor -- the team's best wide receiver -- to the outside.  []

That would be ... interesting.

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