The Eagles are in an all too familiar spot. They are…almost there. In 2010, the Eagles wrapped up the NFC East title, allowing them to advance to their ninth playoffs in twelve years under Andy Reid. Whenever a team enjoys that type of success for that long, all the chatter is about whether the team in question qualifies as a dynasty. Well, the Eagles have ten playoff wins since 2000, and nothing to show for them. That must change.
No team ever wins the Super Bowl on paper. No team comes out of the draft claiming to be the Super Bowl champions because they have the best top-to-bottom roster in the league. Super Bowl winners are always fortunate. Their best players stay healthy, some average players rise to the occasion at critical moments, and the ball bounces their way sometimes. The reason why the game of football is so exciting is because of the human element. There are mistakes made in refereeing, bizarre occurences vault a team to victory on occasion, and players respond differently to pressure situations. Therefore, there is no clear-cut path to the Lombardi Trophy. The best a team can do in the offseason is to put a roster out on the training camp field that is in position to compete with any team in the world. Andy Reid, Joe Banner, and Howie Roseman have done that more consistently than any other team in the league, and for that, I applaud them. Barring seasons where the Eagles have sustained unsurmountable injuries, Philadelphia has been able to compete in the playoffs each and every year. There is nothing that you can do in March or April to ensure success in January. What you do in March and April guarantees you a chance to play in January.
What a front office cannot be satisfied to do is to assemble a roster that is capable of making the playoffs and calling it a day. All playoff teams are not created equal, although the numerous upsets that take place during that time of year can not be avoided through offseason acquisitions. So, the Philadelphia Eagles are not in the process of rebuilding. They have at least one franchise quarterback, a pro bowl left tackle, an all-pro cornerback, and very good skill players and an effective pass rusher. They are not good enough to slip into complacency either, though. They need to catch up to Green Bay and Chicago, the only two teams that they take a backseat to in the NFC. How do they go about their business?
The first step is an in-depth evaluation of the current talent on the team, then the current crop of soon-to-be free agents on the team. Who should the Eagles keep and who should they get rid of? Resigning Michael Vick to a long term deal is of the utmost importance. Teams figured out how to defend him towards the end of the season, but the Eagles can counter-adapt. Vick has to become more comfortable in a pocket passer role. When teams blitz, the Eagles must know how to shred the defense with all their explosiveness on the outside. Teams must pay for leaving some poor soul one-on-one against Jeremy Maclin or DeSean Jackson. Vick progressed from 2009 to 2010 and will simply have to continue to get better. He has an unbelievable arm, very good accuracy, and more natural athleticism than any other quarterback in the league. He is – excuse my basketball metaphor – a small forward always used to taking the last shot that must become the point guard and distribut the ball to the unparalleled talent the Eagles boast at wide receiver and running back. David Akers and Sav Rocca should also be brought back, as they would be very hard to upgrade should we let them go. Jerome Harrison is the perfect backup to LeSean McCoy and fits the offense like a glove. Don’t forget how productive he was in Cleveland when he was given carries. Quintin Mikell should be brought back on a two year deal just in case Nate Allen does not recover from his season-ending injury very well. Allen and Coleman are the future at safety, though. Stewart Bradley will likely be a bargain to retain after a pretty poor season – especially in coverage – following his torn ACL in 2009. He, Moise Fokou, and Jamar Chaney should fight for two linebacker spots, and I believe the competition will bring out the best in all players involved. Akeem Jordan should be brought back as the last resort option at WILL linebacker an a solid special teams contributor. Max Jean-Gilles was not nearly as bad as most make him out to have been, and I believe center and right tackle are bigger priorities for this team because they are more important positions. Jean-Gilles would ideally be the third guard, but I would not be worried if he had to start for us. Finally, I propose to convert Dimitri Patterson to safety, where his insticts and open field tackling would shine and his lack of long speed would be masked. If we do not make this move, there is no point in bringing him back. Similarly, I would allow Ernie Sims, Omar Gaither, Victor Abiamiri, Nick Cole, and Reggie Wells to walk.