There’s been a common theme to this Eagles’ offseason: Culture.
Not long ago, Howie Roseman agreed with my assessment that the Eagles can’t just try to recreate the Super Bowl team, that they have to remain innovative (see story). He did, however, say they can take lessons from the 2017 season. One of the big ones is about chemistry.
He said this at the combine:
Character and chemistry of the football team was unbelievable. And sometimes, that’s a big reason for your success.
Roseman also talked about the organization’s desire to sign its own players with top-of-the-market deals and supplement that with free agency. Now, that’s a lot easier to do when you have talent on your roster, but that’s the situation the Eagles are in. And they know rewarding their own is a great way to improve team chemistry. (Same goes for the coaching staff.)
If you take a closer look at just about every move the Eagles have made this offseason, team chemistry plays a role.
First, the Eagles re-signed Brandon Graham to a three-year extension and didn’t let him hit the open market. Then they extended Jason Kelce and Isaac Seumalo a year earlier than they needed to. Then they figured out a way to keep Jason Peters for the 2019 season. They held on to Nelson Agholor despite a huge cap hit. They slapped a second-round tender on Nate Sudfeld, ensuring he’ll be back. And on Friday, they signed Ronald Darby to a one-year deal despite a defensive back’s room that is full of younger and cheaper talent.
You can argue the merit of all those moves, but it seems pretty obvious that the Eagles like what they have going in the locker room and are trying to do what they can (within reason) to keep that chemistry.
Look at that list of players. They’re all really well-liked in the locker room. Peters, Graham and Kelce are the three-longest tenured players on the team and are all leaders. There was also a possibility not that long ago that all three weren’t going to return in 2019.
The Eagles rewarded younger players like Seumalo and Sudfeld for their efforts. Seumalo’s contract is very team-friendly, but he was probably happy to get a chunk of change in his pocket early and Sudfeld will also get a nice pay raise.
Agholor is making $9.4 million this year, which is very expensive. But the Eagles wanted to keep their own guys.
And then there’s Darby. Despite having Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc, they are still bringing him back for one more season as he recovers from a torn ACL. This move can be questioned — and rightfully so — but Darby’s a well-liked guy too. And his teammates will be happy to have him back.
That brings us to the guys who won’t be back. Nick Foles almost doesn’t even count. We all knew he wasn’t coming back. Jordan Hicks got a bigger contract than the Eagles could justify. And they have so much money tied up into their receivers that it was always unlikely Jordan Matthews or Golden Tate would return. Tim Jernigan’s departure was also a financial decision.
After that, the Eagles traded Michael Bennett and didn’t pick up Stefen Wisniewski’s option year. Both those moves are slightly odd from a football perspective. Bennett was the team’s top DE in 2018 and Wisniewski’s $3.7 million salary wouldn’t have been too hard to swallow for a top interior backup, one who might have needed to start if Brandon Brooks isn’t ready to go.
Sure, financials played a role. But what did Bennett and Wiz have in common? They were both vocal in their desire to be starters and with their unhappiness being reserves. I’m not saying either of them had been a problem in the locker room. In fact, their teammates seemed to like them. But unhappiness with role or salary doesn’t bode well for chemistry.
Then there are the two major players the Eagles have brought in: the Jacksons … Malik and DeSean.
Malik Jackson is a pro who, even though he was upset, didn’t cause any locker room problems last year in Jacksonville after he was benched. He’s also a former Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee. He’s going to fit in fine in Philly.
And DeSean might still be DeSean, but he has matured a lot in the five years since Chip Kelly cut him. If he hadn’t, the Eagles wouldn’t have brought him back. Sure, the Eagles will have to keep an eye on him, but if they really thought he was a threat to their locker room chemistry, they wouldn’t have made the deal.
It seems like they’re not going to make any deal that truly threatens the chemistry of the team. That’s part of the Super Bowl team they think they can recreate.
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