Wholesale changes to the Eagles roster in 2018 may seem like an odd idea to many of our younger fans who hopped onto the Super Bowl bandwagon this past season. But older heads know an NFL championship team is a lot like a shark which must keep swimming forward in order to stay alive.
Some of the changes are going to be painful or puzzling to many of us. For example, bringing in a polarizing personality like Michael Bennett to the mix creates some doubt about team culture moving forward. Then trading away one of our lucky charms, Torrey Smith, although a value move on paper, has some lamenting the loss of an intangible element which made the 2017 Eagles such a special group of high-character guys.
The reality is the Eagles, for better or worse, have adopted the New England Patriots’ model for staying at the top once you get to the top. Sentiment goes out the window, every player (except your franchise QB) is a disposable commodity. You trade away declining assets, you sign available veterans who you think can give you one or two good years at a relative bargain rate. You bank on the strength of your system to neutralize any personality or character issues. Talent is acquired to fit the system, and not the other way around.
It may seem like a harsh approach, especially to say a young kid who just picked up the final card he or she needed for a complete Topps Philadelphia Eagles set. Here today, gone tomorrow. Winning teams don’t grow old together anymore.
But the Patriots’ model works if staying at or near the top every year is your pleasure as a fan.
Roster turnover makes more emotional sense to fans if you are coming off a bad year. For instance, the Eagles at this time last year (coming off a 7-9 season) were jettisoning players and signing new ones at a furious rate. It was Howie Roseman’s own version of March Madness. We were excited as fans, even though we struggled with a few of the departing moves, like Jordan Matthews’ getting shuffled off to Buffalo.
Wholesale roster moves are just a little tougher to process when you are still holding on to the delicious memory of a 16-3 season and a Super Bowl triumph.
As Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman continue to embrace the Patriots/Belichick model of success, we are in for a slew of roster moves coming up.
The latest move makes technical sense, although I hate to lose such a good spirit. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Eagles have agreed to trade wide receiver Torrey Smith to the Carolina Panthers for cornerback Daryl Worley.
It was believed that Smith would be moved this off-season, largely because of the $5 million he is owed in 2018. Although Smith proved to be a clutch performer through the 2017 season, the Eagles saw his contract as one that could be eliminated to free up cap room. Smith played one season for the Eagles as a complementary wideout and caught 36 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns. He was clutch in the playoffs.
Worley is coming to the Eagles fresh off a two-interception season. He was largely rotated in and out of the Pathers’ defensive lineup throughout the 2017 season. In terms of the cap situation, Worley has an upcoming base salary of $650,000.
The Eagles will be looking to get rid of another $14 million in cap space between now and the start of the league year on March 14.
Moves like this one also open up playing time for younger and cheaper guys, like Mack Hollins. That’s the Patriots Way.
Meanwhile, nobody likes us, but they sure as heck want to be like us!
The Rams are churning their roster at a crazy pace.
To anyone who suffered through the Mike Martz, Scott Linehan, Steve Spagnuolo or Jeff Fisher-led versions of the St. Louis and/or Los Angeles Rams, what’s happening now makes no sense. The team is actively engaged in improving itself. They’re not just grabbing expensive free agents out of a piñata; they’re making moves that fit together. Four trades for the Rams already, and the league year doesn’t even start until Wednesday…
The most impressive part of this roster churn is their secondary, where most of the effort has been focused. At corner, they dealt for Marcus Peters from the Chiefs, and then got Aqib Talib from the Broncos on Thursday night. Sandwiched between those two moves the team applied the franchise tag to Marcus Joyner, a player who had lost his passion for the game playing corner under Fisher but rediscovered it with a move to safety last year. He was one of the game’s top safeties last season.
Peters is one of the top playmakers at the position. He leads the NFL with 19 interceptions over the last three years. He’s third in pass breakups during that time. Talib is getting up there, at 32, but he was still one of the game’s top cover corners last season, ranked 15th best by Pro Football Focus. Joyner wasn’t the only productive safety the team had last year. John Johnson was a member of the 2017 All Rookie Team. Cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman is a free agent, but the Rams would be smart to bring him back to play the slot, where he thrived last year.
Notice the parallel now in L.A. with the Patriots’ model —franchise quarterback (check), now bring in the specific veteran pieces to build around him, even though you had a real good season with the guys you had. Trust in your system to control the head cases or malcontents you just recruited. Buy in, or bye-bye.