By Dave Spadaro
Between now and when the NFL free-agency period opens on March 14, you’re going to hear a lot about the players the Eagles are going to lose and the players that they can’t afford and perhaps even about a rumored trade scenario or three to consider.
Don’t let that stuff take away what’s important: The Eagles, even as they are crunched up against the salary-cap wall and will be incredibly challenged to hang on to the handful of major contributors who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, have an enviable roster situation that should allow them to contend in 2018.
“Look, we know we have a lot of work to do. We know that we can’t sit around with a smile on our faces because we won the Super Bowl and think everything is going to be fine next year,” Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said. “At the same time, we have a roster that we like very much. We have a great situation at quarterback. We have running backs under contract who were extremely productive for us. We have both lines of scrimmage signed through next year, a group of wide receivers that we’re excited about and a secondary that we think is growing together.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to continue to build the roster by being creative and adding talent and at the same time developing the talent we have on the roster.”
Put this Eagles team on the field right now — minus the projected unrestricted free agents — and match up against the rest of the NFC East and maybe even the entire NFC in the same scenario and the Eagles would look pretty good, right? Led by their quarterback picture, with young star Carson Wentz rehabbing his knee injury, with Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Nick Foles under contract through 2018 and with third-stringer Nate Sudfeld, who Roseman said at the NFL Scouting Combine last week had “starting” upside as a quarterback in this league, and you understand why the Eagles are optimistic.
They’ve got Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement in the backfield. The wide receivers are all under contract and two of the kids, Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson, are expected to take big steps forward, just like the entire 2017 rookie class.
If winning at the line of scrimmage is what matters in the NFL, then the Eagles are in line to win big again. They return an intact offensive line. The defensive line is stacked with the starters and second-year man Derek Barnett vying for more playing time in Year 2.
It is true, though, that salary-cap space is at a premium. That Roseman and the Eagles were able to wheel and deal and maneuver and bring in as much help as they did last year was remarkable, and a primary reason Roseman was named the NFL’s Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers’ Association.
What should you expect when free agency starts on March 14? Truthfully, not much. But I said the same thing last year and Roseman proved to be a wizard. The Eagles may add a player here and there, but they’re largely going to go with what they have, and what they have is a roster that is in need of some help, no question about that, but also one that is chock full of talent and promise. ••