How the Eagles philosophy went from overpaying free agents to building from within.
A new Philadelphia Eagles philosophy has been adopted. Less that three years from the “Dream Team” fiasco and the boatload of money thrown to high-priced free agents that never panned out, the Eagles decided to start spending their money on more proven players. For every football team, no player is more proven than someone who has already played well for them.
Jason Peters has been the most consistent player of the Eagles the last five years. Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Kelce, with their ups and downs, have been solid contributors so far. All of them signed new deals with the Philadelphia Eagles this past week. Cooper and Maclin were about to become free agents, while Peters and Kelce were both signed through the 2014 NFL season. The Birds decided to invest in them for the foreseeable future.
Peters missed the 2012 NFL season after injuring his Achilles tendon twice. He made an impressive return in 2013. He looked like he didn’t miss a beat from his last game.
Cooper spent his first three years in obscurity. In 2013, he was called to replace Maclin as the Eagles’ number two receiver, when the latter tore his ACL. He started off slow, but he emerged as a reliable receiver when Nick Foles took over as the starting quarterback. Cooper finished the season with 47 receptions, 835 yards and eight touchdowns (ESPN stats).
Maclin was placed on the injured reserve list before the start of the season and stayed there throughout.
After the 2013 NFL season, Cooper’s contract expired, as did Maclin’s too. Would both of them leave Philadelphia? If one was to be brought back, who would that be?
The Eagles put an end to the debate by bringing both back. Cooper agreed on a five-year deal worth $25 million, per Tim McManus. Maclin, on the other hand, received a one-year contract which will pay him $5.5 million.
While Philadelphia didn’t break the bank for Cooper, I am convinced they could have signed him with less money. Jordy Nelson of the Green Bay Packers and Wes Welker of the Denver Broncos, two of the best receivers in the NFL will receive less money from their current contracts. As for Maclin, they wanted to get him on a multi-year deal but they met his demands for a year-long contract.
Jason Kelce is a key player for the Eagles. He doesn’t just snap the ball – he commands the offensive line. Philadelphia tied him up until 2020, a seven-year deal that will pay him $37.5 million ($13.5 million is guaranteed money).
Some suggest that the Eagles got Kelce to commit long-term at a fairly cheap deal, but it doesn’t look like that. Thirty seven million dollars and a half over seven years place Kelce among the highest earning centers of the NFL (see Sportrac’s rankings). Chris Myers of the Houston Texans is on a four-year, $25-million contract.
Re-signing both Cooper and Maclin was maybe a bit unexpected, but certainly no surprise. Peters’ and Kelce’s deals, however, came completely out of the blue. Their previous contracts expired next year and the team could have opted to address that issue by that time.
The new Eagles philosophy demands the complete opposite. Paying those who have contributed to the team is a necessity.
This Eagles philosophy is a result of a big cultural change. This change has been taking place in NovaCare Complex the last few years. It started with the dismissal of ex-president Joe Banner and the emergence of general manager Howie Roseman. Replacing Andy Reid with Chip Kelly further bolstered that change. New faces bring new ideas and new philosophies.
By placing their bets on the players that have been with them for a while, Roseman, Kelly and the Eagles are hoping for better results than by recklessly spending in free agency. If one thing is guaranteed, that’s the players getting a feeling that if they work hard and play well, they will get what they deserve. This can lead to a better locker room atmosphere and improve the team’s cohesion. It remains to be seen if that will turn into better things on the turf.