Crunch time is coming. In a matter of a few weeks we’re going to see the Eagles’ free agency plan unfold – they have their plan in place, says executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman – and then all attention turns to the draft.
It’s a critical time as the Eagles look to improve all corners of the roster for now and the long term. And it’s a challenging time as Roseman and his staff balance a limited amount of dollars they can spend in free agency with the needs they have as well as the eight draft picks they currently own to use in late April.
Fun stuff. While it’s grass-growing-like slow at the moment, it’s going to change soon. The Eagles have a lot to do in a short period of time. Here is a look at the upcoming events that will set the table for 2017.
NFL Scouting Combine: February 28-March 6
It’s beyond a spectacle at this point. It’s maybe even a phenomenon. The Scouting Combine is a chance for NFL personnel evaluators to compare athletes in an apples-to-apples athletic environment, and the performances of players are extremely important. What the draft prospects do on the field is one thing. How they handle themselves in interviews and among their peers and in their interviews with the mass of media assembled all factor into the grading system.
As much as the Scouting Combine has become a must-see event for the hardcore NFL fan, it’s a vital time for teams to look at players in face-to-face situations, to get to know them, and narrow down the list of draftable players.
Something else really important is going to happen in Indianapolis: The Vikings and the Colts will have a coin flip to determine who has the No. 14 and 15 picks in the first round of the draft. The Eagles, of course, own the Vikings’ top draft choice. That’s all it is – a coin flip. And it means a spot difference in the first round on April 27. Big deal.
Beyond the obvious, the Scouting Combine is a time to get some deals discussed with the 31 other NFL teams. Nothing becomes official at that time, of course, but ideas are hatched and advanced a short time later. Let’s be honest: When you have 32 teams in one location, there is going to be a lot of chatter and a ton of innuendo.
Free Agency: March 9
A lot of this work is well underway, as the Eagles have been evaluating the players they project to become restricted and unrestricted free agents. They’ve evaluated their own players. They’re projected their salary cap situation, which is more restrictive than in past years. The Eagles, no question about it, have some very tough decisions to make in the coming weeks. They already cleared some room within the salary cap by releasing cornerback Leodis McKelvin. Who knows what’s going to happen ahead?
The idea here is to not fall in love with any players. The Eagles have to do what is right for the roster. They have to project some of their young players on the roster who they expect to make a big leap forward with some veterans who haven’t been as productive as hoped. They have to weigh the possibilities of signing some of the unrestricted free-agents-to-be like defensive tackle Bennie Logan, cornerback Nolan Carroll, and special teams ace Bryan Braman.
Offseason Conditioning Program: April 17
Any players at the NovaCare Complex now to work out are there coming back from injury, like linebacker Joe Walker who missed his rookie season with a torn ACL, players who had offseason surgeries, or players who simply want to get a workout on their own. There is no contact with coaches, no football work, and nothing structured as a team.
It all begins on April 17, when Phase 1 of the offseason conditioning program begins. And it’s a great time to see the locker room fill up and the players getting together after four-plus months away from the facility.
NFL Draft: April 27-29
This is the money weekend, held in Philadelphia for the first time since 1961. And it is so incredibly vital to the Eagles and every NFL team. The Eagles currently have eight draft picks, subject to moves. They’re drafting either 14th or 15th in the first round. The needs on this team are well defined and perhaps more expansive than many think. Sure, the Eagles want to add playmakers to the offense, and they need to improve the cornerback spots on defense, but can this team turn down a difference-making talent at any position, other than the quarterback position where Carson Wentz is entrenched?
The agenda is defined, and it is vital. We know the Eagles have to be really, really good with their personnel evaluations and decisions. We’re in a “lull” period at the moment, but that’s going to change in a matter of weeks. Then the flurry of fun of the offseason begins and we will see how the roster takes shape.