Eagles analysis

15 leftover Eagles notes from 2024 owners meetings

Here are 15 leftover Eagles nuggets after the NFL's annual league meetings from Orlando, Florida.

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It was a busy few days in Orlando for the NFL’s annual league meetings this week.

Over the course of a couple days from the lavish Ritz-Carlton, we heard from Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Nick Sirianni. It’s the only time of the year where these guys all speak over the course of two days.

We had plenty of coverage this week, including Roseman’s explanation for signing Saquon Barkley, Sirianni’s plan to maximize Barkley, Sirianni’s non-committal at center, Lurie’s explanation for retaining Sirianni after the 2023 collapse and more.

But before we really start to dig into next month’s draft, let’s clean out the notebook from Orlando:

1. At the combine, Roseman didn’t say much about James Bradberry other than he was part of their plan. He said a bit more this week. Of course, 2023 was an awful year for Bradberry after signing a three-year contract following his second-team All-Pro season in 2022.

“I think it’s obvious to everyone, including JB, that JB didn’t have the year that he was expecting and that we were expecting,” Roseman said. “I think, obviously, he understands that and he is driven to show that he is the player that he was in 2022.”

When asked about the cornerback position in general, Roseman mentioned that it was still March 25, meaning there’s a lot of time to add. The Eagles in both of their Super Bowl seasons under Roseman’s watch added a cornerback late in the process. In 2017, they traded for Ronald Darby in August. In 2022, they signed Bradberry in May.

So even if it’s true that Bradberry is in the Eagles’ plans right now, those plans could certainly change. But after saying that Bradberry was driven to return to his 2022 form, Roseman was asked why he thought the 30-year-old could have a bounce-back season after a terrible 2023.

“He has had some adversity in his career, where he had a bad year and he bounced back from that,” Roseman answered. “Obviously, when we signed him, we did it believing that he was going to be a part of this team for those three years. And did it based on the data we had on him and obviously watching him play. And so we had some objective and subjective criteria we were looking at. 

“The year didn’t go, not only how he wanted, but also how we didn’t want. Right now, I think you look at it and he understands that and he’s working hard. But we’re not shying away from the fact that he didn’t have the year that we expected and he expected.”

2. It’s very clear that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is going to have a ton of autonomy on that side of the ball. The Eagles didn’t add the veteran coach to meddle with his ways.

“I’m excited about adding a piece like him that has done it for so long,” Sirianni said. “To be quite honest, you know with Jonathan (Gannon) and with Sean (Desai) they were first-time-ish coordinators and so Vic's done it for a very long time. I'll obviously have suggestions on things of things that you know in situational football that we've talked about a lot. I'll have some things that I'll want to talk through with him. But man, I'm really excited to get somebody like Vic in here. And yeah, he's in charge of the defense.”

As the head coach, Sirianni made sure to take ownership for all phases but it’s clear Fangio is in control on defense.

3. I got a chance to catch up with Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans at the AFC coaches breakfast on Monday morning and asked him about two of his former teammates, Jason Kelce and Fletcher Cox, who both recently retired.

Before beginning his ascent to becoming an NFL head coach, Ryans played the final four years of his career with the Eagles from 2012-15. 

“Two great teammates, Jason and Fletcher,” Ryans said with a smile. “Two great teammates, great competitors. It was fun competing against Kelce every day. One of the best centers to play the game. You talk about centers who stick out, it’s their athleticism. It’s their ability to get up to the second level in a heartbeat. Kelce was one of those guys. He’s athletic, quick and physical and just a fun guy in the locker room to be around. He kept things loose, kept them light. Always knew how to enjoy life, enjoy the locker room. Fun being around him. An outstanding career by Kelce.

“Fletcher was a guy, Fletcher was a rookie my first year in Philly. Man, you talk about outstanding talent from the moment he walked in, he was a dominating interior defensive lineman. And he’s continued that throughout his entire career. Fletcher, not only a great teammate, a great friend. Was able to go down to Mississippi and do some camps with him in the offseason and see the support for his community back home. It was awesome to see him grown, not only as a player but as that man in the community as well. Fletcher has done a lot of great things. He was a great teammate. Proud of both of those guys for the careers they had.”

4. There are not yet specific plans to honor Kelce and Cox but Lurie said “there will be.”

Lurie said he also expects Kelce, Cox and Brandon Graham (who is playing his 15th season in 2024) to remain a part of the organization in the future. Lurie sees an advantage to having a culture where great players remain involved after their playing days.

5. The Eagles brought in a couple of veteran receivers in free agency this month, so I asked Sirianni about the additions of DeVante Parker and Parris Campbell.

Parker, 31, was released by the Patriots this offseason and pushed to come to Philadelphia to play with Jalen Hurts. The former No. 14 overall pick has been productive at times in his career but has had just one great season in nine years.

“DeVante gives us another guy that can win on the outside,” Sirianni said. “He's proven that he's a really good player on the outside that's had a lot of production, that can win 1-on-1 on the outside. That's really important to have not only A.J. (Brown) and DeVonta Smith that can win on the outside, but what if they have to come out for a play? That you get another guy in there that can consistently win vs. man-to-man coverage.”

It’s worth noting that Sirianni talked about Parker as an outside receiver because Parker has predominantly played out there most of his career. So if he sees the field with Brown and Smith, one of those guys would likely need to slide into the slot.

While Parker is a new face for Sirianni, he coached Campbell in Indianapolis. Campbell was a second-round pick out of Ohio State and hasn’t had a very productive career. But Sirianni said Campbell “brings an element of speed.” The speed hasn’t translated into consistent production, but Campbell ran a 4.31 at the combine in 2019.

Sirianni said that right before the Eagles signed Campbell, he watched Campbell’s performance in a game from 2020 with Kellen Moore and Kevin Patullo. Campbell played just two games in 2020 (Sirianni’s last season in Indy) before landing on IR. But in the season opener in Jacksonville, Campbell had 6 catches for 71 yards.

6. The NFLPA last year began a player poll than graded and ranked all 32 organizations in different categories. The Eagles finished 14th overall last year but improved to 4th in 2023. While some teams have downplayed the importance of the poll, Lurie said he found the survey to be helpful and took action because of it.

The best example of this is that the Eagles changed their travel this year, chartering two planes instead of one so player would have some extra room.

7. The Eagles are listing free agent pickup Zack Baun as a linebacker but his versatility was very attractive. After the former third-round pick never really ascended as an off-ball linebacker in the first three years of his career, he finally got to rush the passer for the Saints some in 2023 and showed some juice.

The Eagles have a defined role in mind for Baun and you can look back and see it in Fangio’s defense in Miami last season. While Roseman didn’t want to mention Andrew Van Ginkel by name, that’s clearly who he was talking about this week.

“Vic when he went to Miami last year, had a player with a similar skillset that hadn’t really ascended yet,” Roseman said. “Obviously, I don’t want to talk about somebody else’s player, but you saw that guy in Vic’s defense who’s got the ability to play off the ball, who’s got the ability to play on the edge, who had these tools in his body, really ascend under Vic. We think Zack is a versatile player who can rush from the edge, who can rush off the ball, tremendous special teams player. We were excited. He was a target guy for us.”

This offseason, Van Ginkel signed a two-year, $20 million deal with the Vikings. It would have made sense for the Eagles to be interested in him, but perhaps they found a cheaper option they think can yield similar results. For an idea of how Baun might be used on defense in 2024, here’s how most of Van Ginkel’s defensive snaps broke down last season with the Dolphins: 

D-line: 561
Box: 105
Slot: 56

8. The Eagles pulled off a trade for Kenny Pickett to be their backup quarterback this offseason and it sounds like Pickett’s having two years left on his rookie contract was a big part of what made him so enticing.

“I’m excited to add Kenny,” Sirianni said. “Sometimes you feel like you go through the backup quarterback process each year. It’s like, ‘OK, I’m going to watch these guys again.’ And then when we got Gardner a couple years ago, I’m like, ‘Alright, we’re set for a couple years.’ And same thing here with Kenny.”

9. The Eagles clearly don’t view free agent pickup Bryce Huff as just a situational pass rusher. They didn’t give him a three-year deal at $17 million per season to not be an every-down player.

So why do they think Huff can take on a bigger role in Philly than he did with the Jets?

“I think one of the things that you look for is his skillset,” Roseman said. “Bryce is heavy handed, he understands leverage, he has explosiveness in his body. The Jets did an unbelievable job of having that edge rusher position with five or six guys when I look at their depth chart. Joe (Douglas) did a great job of bringing those guys in. They were trying to find roles for guys and get guys play time based on the amount of guys they had, first-round picks, guys under contract. 

“We see it on tape. We obviously believe that our edge guys and having these fastballs off the edge and getting guys in the game. I think this perception that he’s a liability against the run, obviously we’ll see that, but we know he’s got the tools in his body and we’re excited to see him.”

There’s obviously some projection when it comes to Huff against the run because he was used more as a situational pass rusher with the Jets. His career-high in snaps was 480 last season. So it’s fair to wonder how he’ll perform when asked to play more and in non-clear-pass situations.

Former Eagles nose tackle Beau Allen had some thoughts on this:

10. One reason the Eagles signed Barkley to a top-of-the-market deal was because they view him as more than a traditional running back. They see him as an offensive weapon.

The other reason? Roseman mentioned that the pendulum had swung on running back contracts and Lurie backed up that thought process.

“We’re always looking for inefficiencies in the marketplace,” he said. “And if we think the league is overvaluing a position or undervaluing a position, we will try our best, not always capable, of taking advantage of those inefficiencies.”

Former Eagles president Joe Banner explained a bit more about how the Eagles might have looked at the Barkley deal:

11. The NFL owners approved a new kickoff rule on a trial basis for the 2024 season. Lurie was one of the 29 owners to approve the rule, which needed 24 of 32 to pass.

“I think it's going to be so much more exciting than what we had,” Lurie said. “So there's always a pendulum between health and safety. They almost eliminated kickoff returning leading into this past season. We had 13 kickoffs in the Super Bowl, not one got returned.  

“I think for the fans, this will be so much more exciting. I think for all of us, it's going to be exciting. We don't know how it's going to go, but it's going to be very exciting. And I think it was creative. They got all the special teams coaches together and tried to devise something that would be both as safe as a run play and a pass play, which is a lot safer than a typical kickoff return in the past — and at the same time, not boring like kick it into the end zone and have no return and it's a wasted play.”

Lurie mentioned strategy when talking about the kickoffs too, which means that Michael Clay and the rest of the Eagles’ coaches are probably already devising ways to maximize this new rule. It will be fun to see how teams approach it.

12. The Eagles’ biggest WR additions this offseason were Parker and Campbell but they added a few others on futures deals that Roseman seems very excited about:

Shaquan Davis (6-5, 215)
Jacob Harris (6-5, 211)
Austin Watkins (6-3, 210)
Griffin Hebert (6-1, 239)
Joseph Ngata (6-3, 217)

“What was interesting to us was this opportunity with some of these practice squad receivers that we signed as futures,” Roseman said. “I thought our personnel staff, in conjunction with our football administration staff, did a great job of adding some of those guys and we’re excited about them. All those guys that we added, we think, have some sort of Superman trait added to the mix. And we needed to add receivers.”

13. Lurie is proud that the Eagles will be playing in the NFL’s first game in South America when they play as the home team against either the Browns or Packers on Sept. 6 in Brazil.

Every team is going to be guaranteed to play a home game at an international site every eight seasons. While no team is ever going to be happy to lose a home game, it works on a rotation and with the 17-game season, the Eagles will still have eight at the Linc in 2024.

“We stepped up and thought let’s do it in South America and Brazil, a really dynamic country,” Lurie said. “And then we won’t be doing that as the rotation goes through.”

That game on Sept. 6 will be on Peacock, but available locally on NBC10.

14. During his press conference on Tuesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about a couple of ongoing tampering investigations.

The investigation into the Eagles is looking into possible contact between Roseman and Barkley during the negotiation window earlier this month. During those couple of days, GMs are only allowed to speak with agents or players who are not being represented by an agent. So if Roseman had direct contact with Barkley, it was prohibited.

Barkley said comments from Penn State's James Franklin, which alluded to improper contact, were because Franklin misinterpreted their conversation. The Eagles have maintained their innocence and Lurie on Tuesday didn’t seem very concerned.

“We’re very comfortable with everything with our activity,” he said. “We know exactly what we’re doing. We just have to rely on the NFL to do its work and respect that and I’m sure they will.”

15. Last week, the Phillies announced that they have partnered with Comcast Spectator on a proposed $2.5 billion mixed-use development project at the sports complex in South Philadelphia.

Lurie was asked for his thoughts on the project and if the Eagles have any plans to join.

“We talk closely all the time with Comcast and with the Phillies,” he said. “It’s something we monitor. At this point, we’re not a part of that but it’s something we monitor closely. We’re part of the sports complex and we have 8 or 9 more years on our lease so we’ll just keep monitoring it and try to figure out what’s best for the Eagles.”

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