The Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC East in 2013 after a surprising late season surge from their quarterback Nick Foles but fell in the wild card round of the playoffs to the New Orleans Saints. The Eagles surpassed the Dallas Cowboys in the final standings by winning seven of their final eight games culminating in a division clinching victory in Dallas in the final game of the season. The hope in Philadelphia is that Eagles head coach Chip Kelly can build a long term run of success for the Eagles with his new-style offense led by young quarterback Nick Foles, and expectations are very high from the fan base entering next season.
The team the Eagles overtook as the NFC East champions, the Washington Redskins, enjoyed a similar path to success during the 2012 season. The Redskins were led by rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III on a seven game winning streak to close out the regular season before a loss in the wild card round to the Seattle Seahawks. They also defeated Dallas on the last day of the season to clinch the NFC East. Both teams also constructed defenses that were not among the league’s best but played well enough down the stretch to put their offenses in better position to win games.
Despite the hysteria surrounding Griffin and the upstart spread offense of first year Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, the 2013 season turned into a disaster. Robert Griffin III was never fully healthy after an ACL surgery in the off-season, and Shanahan was eventually fired after the disappointing season. RGIII won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012, but the Redskins took a major risk by investing their future in the young, mobile quarterback. They traded their next two first round selections to draft him, and they overlooked the risk of injury for a player of his style.
With their division rival in a tough spot this off-season, the Philadelphia Eagles need to take a lesson in their own off-season strategy. Although there is a lot of pressure to build for this coming season and win right now, the Eagles need to be careful about weighing their long term and short term investments.
Much of the talk about the off-season needs has focused on free agent safeties Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward, but signing either would require a high price. This year’s highly rated draft class of wide receivers has also struck interest for the Eagles. A talented young wide receiver could flourish in Chip Kelly’s fast paced offense, but the Eagles have already invested a lot of money in re-signing wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper.
Long term stability has to be a major priority for Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman. The Eagles have already invested significant money in the wide receiver position retaining free agents, so a high priced deal to a free agent safety is a big risk if it ties up salary investments in the long term. The better solution is to forego the need for a safety in free agency and wait for the draft to address the position in the first round, prioritizing the long term construction of the defense instead of investing too heavily in the upcoming season.