The Philadelphia Eagles‘ Super Bowl window started much sooner than expected, evidenced by the surprising championship in 2017 when Philadelphia had the best record in the NFL and upset the defending champion New England Patriots for the franchise’s first title since 1960.
It’s hard to blame the Eagles for wanting to keep the current run going, focusing on adding proven veteran players to an already established core group that won a championship in the hopes of winning another Super Bowl. But that strategy backfired, as the franchise did make the playoffs in 2018 and 2019 but had just an 18-14 record and failed to advance past the divisional round of the playoffs. Philadelphia was one of the most injured teams in the NFL over the past two seasons, one of the reasons being the Eagles had the third-oldest roster in the league in 2018 and the second-oldest in 2019.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman admitted his strategy to keep the championship window with his current core backfired and vowed to make changes in 2020.
“We need to infuse youth in this team,” Roseman said in his end of year press conference Wednesday. “We have a lot to do going forward. When we look at our team from 2017 to 2019, we knew that we had one team. Really, a team that we were basically going to stick with. We didn’t have a lot of resources in terms of draft picks. That’s on me. We made trades for some veteran players to go win. We stick to that. We’re glad of those decisions.”
The Eagles decided to bring back key veterans this offseason in their 30s. Left tackle Jason Peters ended up playing 13 games and performing well at age 37, but he was far from the dominant player of two seasons ago. Darren Sproles (36) suffered another major injury and played just six games, while DeSean Jackson (32) was out 13 games with a core muscle injury after the Eagles banked on him to be a huge part of their offense.
Philadelphia has older veterans like Malcolm Jenkins (32) and Jason Kelce (32) that have large contracts even though they still are playing at a high level. The Eagles also have several other core players set to reach 30 in the coming year: Zach Ertz, Fletcher Cox, and Lane Johnson. Philadelphia has a club option on Nigel Bradham (30) and other free agents age 30 or older set to hit the market in Vinny Curry (31) and Rodney McLeod (will be 30 this summer).
The Eagles had to establish the strategy of signing veteran players to compensate having just 10 total draft picks in the last two years. That won’t be the case this year, as Philadelphia is projected to have seven picks in the first four rounds.
“We have 10 draft picks,” Roseman said. “We think we’re going to have 10 draft picks in this draft and we’re excited about that. When we look at what the young players did for our team down the stretch, it’s a great tribute to them; it’s a great tribute to our coaching staff and it’s a great tribute to our developmental program that we take a lot of pride in.”
The Eagles struggled to reach the .500 mark when they were playing the veterans each week. As injuries forced Philadelphia to call up the likes of Greg Ward and Boston Scott from the practice squad, the Eagles’ injection of youth added life to a dormant offense. The emergence of rookie running back Miles Sanders and second-year tight end Dallas Goedert certainly helped.
The final quarter of the regular season demonstrated the mistakes Roseman made in constructing the roster, as the general manager needed to trust his young players more. Corrections will be made going forward.
“It’s a great lesson. I think that you have to let young players play, and it’s natural for us to want to have a safety net at every position,” Roseman said. “We have to allow these young players to grow and get some experience. But just the energy they injected into the team and obviously the production that they had. So we have to balance that.”