While a small percentage of fans and maybe even a few teammates may continue to have reservations about quarterback Carson Wentz, the powers that be on the Philadelphia Eagles sure don’t.
That is by far the strongest takeaway on the state of the team coming out of the NFL Meetings in Phoenix, and it almost certainly was the picture owner Jeffrey Lurie, executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and coach Doug Pederson were trying to paint in separate meetings with reporters at the Arizona Biltmore on Monday and Tuesday.
Their collective message was as calculated as it was genuine and delivered as forcefully as Admiral Farragut himself: Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.
Injury history? No worries.
Decision-making issues stemming from mobility that was lost after his devastating 2017 knee injury? Not a concern.
A prickly personality that may rub some teammates the wrong way at times? Meh.
Going without the league’s top safety net in Nick Foles? A tough call, but what else could they really do? Besides, they’re pretty high on Nate Sudfeld — higher perhaps than they suggested a month earlier at the NFL Scouting Combine, where Pederson and Roseman said he would have to compete for the backup spot.
More on that later, but for now, this is the Carson Wentz show.
“The wonderful thing about Carson is he’s humble, he’s smart, he’s got a feel for every type of person in the building,” Lurie said. “He’s as nice to the janitor as he is to his left tackle. High integrity, regular guy. You hope if you find a talented quarterback that he has those characteristics, and we’re lucky to have that.”
“… Highly competitive, very type-A personality, demanding, very smart, obsessed with winning and winning big, respected by everybody. You can’t really draw it up much better.”
So Roseman and the Eagles are clearing salary cap space by the minute to gain the flexibility for a contract extension that could come sooner than most think.
Because the Eagles plan on having (and paying) Wentz for the next decade or so, they also are loading up on draft picks in 2020 and beyond, knowing they’re going to have to get younger at some point in Wentz’s development — if only because they’ll need a much higher percentage of the team to be making minimum wage than they do now.
Just not this year.
Their moves this offseason to bring back veteran defensive end Vinny Curry and wide receiver DeSean Jackson — both are north of 30 years old — along with signing 31-year-old safety Andrew Sendejo and trying to squeeze another year out of left tackle Jason Peters, 37, scream that they think they can win it all again before starting the conveyor belt they believe will be loaded with young but unproven talent.
Hence the compilation of extra picks, which Lurie believes they need to offset their many misses.
“We’re not cocky enough to feel that you’re going to draft way better than anybody else,” Lurie said, “and it’s very important to create volume. This draft we’re going to have good volume, especially in the top of the draft, two [second-round picks] and two [fourth-round picks] to go with our [first-round pick], and next year we’re going to have quite a few draft choices.”
Letting Foles leave via free agency will help with that process, as they likely will get a third-round compensatory pick next year for incurring such a necessary loss. They also could wind up with the maximum number of four compensatory picks in 2020.
“Nick, as you all know, exceptional person,” Lurie said. “There’s no understating it. Exceptional person. It was hard. We went through every alternative we could think of as an organization on how to proceed. Really, in the end, I think Nick really did want to have a team to take control of and be the guy.”
As attached as they grew to Foles, the Eagles knew they had to let him go.
Lurie also admitted hoping that Foles wouldn’t land with NFC East rivals Washington or New York and was relieved when he signed with Jacksonville.
As for Sudfeld, he looks more like the sure backup with each day that goes by without the Eagles signing a veteran quarterback.
Pederson, in fact, hinted that the Eagles will draft a quarterback in the later rounds. That revelation, coupled with the fact that they have offered Sudfeld a second-round restricted free-agent tender, points to him.
“This will be another big spring for him, another giant step in his progression,” Pederson said. “Really encouraged where he was at the end of the year and where he can go this season.