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Eagles limiting themselves with offseason approach

FootballPro FootballPhiladelphia EaglesNew Orleans SaintsPatrick ChungChris Maragos

Their plan to build and rebuild through the draft intact through one full week of NFL free agency, the Eagles remain determined to prove their recently revised general philosophy of not overspending for any one player or position group is the best way to go.

Really the only way.

Never mind that just two months after being bounced out of the playoffs by the New Orleans Saints, the Eagles signed one of New Orleans' safeties, Malcolm Jenkins, who was allowed to walk away because the Saints had their eyes on an upgrade, Jairus Byrd, widely regarded as the top safety on the market this year.

The Saints — did we mention they just beat the Eagles outdoors on the road in January? — have all kinds of salary cap issues, yet still found a way to get their man with a creative six-year deal.

This, of course, guarantees nothing. But it is undisputed proof that winning organizations — did we mention the Saints also captured a Lombardi Trophy within the last five years? — are not necessarily tied to one way of doing business.

Consider for a second, the symbolism and the irony in play. The Saints, who already had such a good player that the Eagles considered him an upgrade over anyone they had, allowed Jenkins to sign with a team that's attempting to leapfrog them in the NFC pecking order.

Yet as philosophies go, the one the Eagles are employing now just might work.

After all, they have done a great job of identifying and keeping the players they wanted in wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, offensive linemen Jason Peters and Jason Kelce, defensive end Cedric Thornton, punter Donnie Jones and safety Nate Allen.

They added a nice safety in Jenkins and perhaps a perfect third-down fit for their offense in running back Darren Sproles, who also will contribute heavily on special teams along with other newcomers Chris Maragos and Nolan Carroll, who are defensive backs, and linebacker Bryan Braman (thankfully no relation to Norman).

It's just the logic driving their actions that is flawed. And if they're even considering getting rid of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, an idea many insiders believe could happen, the logic behind that would require a serious explanation as well.

More on Jackson in a minute.

For now, we flash back to a simpler time, the summer of 2011, when an innocent remark by then newly signed backup quarterback Vince Young became the catch phrase for the beginning of the end of Andy Reid's tenure in Philadelphia.

Young's "Dream Team" never materialized.

Steve Smith — the other Steve Smith — was never really healthy. Defensive end Jason Babin didn't even last two full seasons. Young himself only lasted one. And the Eagles' free-agent crown jewel that year, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, was toast by the time his plane touched down in Philly. It was obvious early in the preseason that he could no longer stay with elite receivers, much less grasp the zones offensive line coach-turned defensive coordinator Juan Castillo wanted him to play at times.

On top of that, he became a hermit, clearly having never adjusted to the switch from Oakland to a major market, where there often are more reporters than players in the locker room. He started eating lunch in his car.

So he and fellow starting corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, another high-profile player the Eagles got in a trade in 2011, who still has a world of talent, albeit in a different world at times, were jettisoned at the end of 2012, along with Reid and most of his staff.

Having been burned by the higher-profile guys, which also included Demetress "Don't call me Demetrious" Bell as a disastrous replacement for the injured Peters in 2012, the Eagles suddenly began going low, leaping to the conclusion that the other way doesn't work.

"We felt like if we had a high batting average, we wouldn't put ourselves in bad position in the cap going forward and still get some good players and also have that flexibility that if there is an opportunity coming up, whether it's this year or next year or going forward, we have this opportunity of this prime free agent, we'd still have the flexibility to do that," general manager Howie Roseman said about the change.

Problem is, the batting average really was no different last year, when Patrick Chung, Isaac Sopoaga and Kenny Phillips proved to be total failures, cornerback Bradley Fletcher was mediocre and tight end James Casey could barely get on the field.

True, Connor Barwin and Cary Williams turned out to be hits. But was that any different from the Eagles' hitting on Evan Mathis in 2011?

The fact is, even when they were signing all those big names, they were never putting themselves in bad cap position. Hell, most of the guys, including Asomugha and Babin, took less to come here than they could have made elsewhere.

And just because those players didn't work out, it's no reason to discontinue apparent trust of your scouts and your instincts in similar situations down the road.

Last year, for example, the Eagles signed Chung and Phillips when they might have acquired Dashon Goldson. This year, they're hoping that Jenkins instead of Byrd, who is a better playmaker, will work out.

He might, but it's more of a gamble than it would have been to sign Byrd, and the Eagles don't really need to roll the dice because of how well they manage the cap.

As for Jackson, more reports are surfacing every minute. Now, according to Comcast's Derrick Gunn, the 49ers and Patriots have expressed interest in doing a trade.

You know, the same 49ers who were in three straight NFC Championship Games and the same Patriots who are favored to win the Super Bowl at the start of every season.

Those guys.

If Roseman and coach Chip Kelly think they might actually be better off without Jackson this year, that would be troubling.

Bottom line: The Eagles may well be on the road to true championship contention again, but they also may continue to fall one or two players short of getting over the top because they're holding themselves back for no good reason.

nick.fierro@mcall.com

610-778-2243

COMINGS AND GOINGS

Here's a breakdown of the Eagles' major roster moves since the end of the 2013-14 season:

Signed T Jason Peters, C Jason Kelce and DE Cedric Thornton to contract extensions.

Signed S Malcolm Jenkins, S Chris Maragos, LB Bryan Braman and CB Nolan Carroll as free agents.

Acquired RB Darren Sproles from New Orleans for a fifth-round draft choice.

Re-signed WR Riley Cooper, WR Jeremy Maclin, S Nate Allen and P Donnie Jones.

Released WR Jason Avant and S Patrick Chung.

*The following players feature expiring contracts and have not been re-signed: QB Michael Vick, S Colt Anderson, S Kurt Coleman and DE/LB Phillip Hunt.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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