The words to a famous song say that “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em.” And those words are the furthermost things from anyone’s mind this time of year. The more outlandish the idea, the more fans are drawn to the concept in the NFL off-season. You know the rumors that we like to hear: “What if Philadelphia trades quarterback Nick Foles and their first round pick to Saint Louis for the pick they got from the Washington Redskins, do you think we could get Texas A & M star quarterback Johnny ‘Football’ Manziel?”
It’s insanity gone amok. Trade a player who has proven that he CAN play extremely well in the NFL for the chance to draft somebody who MIGHT play well in the NFL? But that’s where we find ourselves, chasing the mirages and the sounds of victory in the closet as soon as we close our eyes. And that is what the Philadelphia Eagles learned in 2011 and 2012. If you chase a mirage, you end up with nothing but regrets.
In the land of drive up service, instant everything, disposable anything, it’s only natural that part of the “what have you done for me lately?” mentality rules the discussions of who stays on the roster of the NFL. If your team did not lead the league in every possible statistic, then your team was surely lacking and this draft and this free agency is the ticket. It isn’t difficult to find top players, is it?
Well since it’s so easy to do, it should be easily done, and it’s not. Change is neither good nor bad, it’s different. In the grand scheme of the NFL, there are salary caps, roster limits, draft order, and schedule adjustments, and each is designed to handicap successful teams and skew the playing field towards teams who have not been as successful. It is those very factors which aided the Philadelphia Eagles surge from a 4-12 team to the 10-6 NFC East division winner. By drafting fourth of the thirty-two NFL teams, Philadelphia was in position to draft skilled players who were able to make immediate contributions.
In 2012, the Eagles offense was misfiring, and the defense was so out-manned that opposing quarterbacks routinely put up career number against the Birds. With a few free agent signings and a successful draft, the team played better in virtually all aspects of the game. And when the results are framed within the knowledge that this was Chip Kelly’s first year, and that the team was learning along the way, fans simply have to pause a moment in awe.
This off-season, the team will be faced with difficult decisions. Which player will the Eagles resign, which player will explore free agency. To a fan ignoring salary cap issues, the team must spend top dollar for top talent at all positions. To the fan who monitors the salary cap, the team has sufficient cap room to sign a couple marquis players. To the Philadelphia organization, positional budgets are already established, and now it’s simply trying to get the best talent within the allotted funds.