PHOENIX — The Eagles aren’t starting a new over-30 league. They’re not building an NFL retirement community.
They’re trying to win a Super Bowl in 2019 and they think signing some aging but still productive players is the way to do it. This offseason, the Eagles have added or extended several players who are over (or nearing) the age of 30.
Typically, NFL teams try to find ways to get younger.
So this seems to be a concerning trend. My colleague Reuben Frank even wrote about it.
But at the annual league meetings in Arizona on Monday afternoon, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman offered up a perfectly reasonable explanation:
I think the big thing is you look at the league and a lot of the free agents who are 26 and 27, they’re getting re-signed early, those better players. Teams are doing a better job of keeping their own players. So where you used to have value at that point, there is now value in older guys.
You look at the Super Bowl, you look at the Rams, they added four or five guys in the pro player market, their left tackle, their center, their starting corners, their nose tackle, who are all over 30.
There is also value in having good players. Players are playing longer, the science is better in keeping those guys healthier. And so you have opportunity to get these guys. And again, we would rather have really good players instead of signing lower-level starters or guys who are rotational players or backups that maybe are two years younger.
That’s an interesting answer and does kind of signal a philosophy shift from just a few years ago, when the Eagles signed several free agents in their mid-20s. But as Roseman said later, the market also dictates what they do. If players like Brandon Brooks, Rodney McLeod and Nigel Bradham aren’t out there like they were a few years ago, it makes some sense to pivot.
Here’s a look at some of the players the Eagles have either brought in or kept (and their ages) this offseason:
Jason Peters - 37
DeSean Jackson - 32
Andrew Sendejo - 31
Jason Kelce - 31
Brandon Graham - 30
Malik Jackson - 29
L.J. Fort - 29
Now, the Eagles did re-sign Ronald Darby (25) and extended Isaac Seumalo (25), but they didn’t bring in any free agents or trade for any players in their mid-20s. Earlier this offseason, Roseman talked about the importance of second-tier free agents, guys with one contract gone. Roseman said teams in recent years have become much more aggressive in re-signing their own players.
The market determines what the Eagles do, Roseman said. They deemed their best bet was to give out contracts to some older players they think still have tread on their tires.
When you look at the players we’ve signed, [Graham] is incredibly durable. Malik Jackson is incredibly durable. We try to sign guys that are older but also have the ability to withstand the age and what’s going on with the league. We don’t have any concerns that we’re getting guys that are anything other than difference-makers. That’s our job: to add difference-makers. It’s on us to find guys who can back up, who can be rotational players in the draft and maybe not spend money on those spots when you have difference-makers on your team.
Roseman is certainly right about those two. Graham has played 111 of 112 games since 2012. And Jackson has played in all 16 games in six of his seven years; he played 14 games as a rookie in 2012.
It’s pretty clear the Eagles’ plan to get younger is to do it through the draft. They have been stockpiling draft picks and have gone to great lengths this offseason to ensure they’ll be given compensatory picks in the 2020 draft. Now, there’s even more pressure on Roseman and Joe Douglas to nail their draft classes over the next couple of years as the Eagles balance staying competitive and eventually paying Carson Wentz a huge contract.
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