Five years ago, the Ravens were confronted with a similar reality to what the Philadelphia Eagles are currently grappling with at the scouting combine.
The Ravens had just won the Super Bowl and they fully understood that they were not going to be able to keep several players who helped make it happen. Middle linebacker Ray Lewis had already announced his retirement and the team had a good idea that center Matt Birk would follow suit shortly. The Ravens were right up against the salary cap and had to sign Super Bowl MVP-winning quarterback Joe Flacco.
They were powerless to stop a free-agent exodus that included safety Ed Reed, inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, cornerback Cary Williams and pass rusher Paul Kruger. They still needed to create more cap space and that led to the release of safety Bernard Pollard and the ill-advised trade of wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
The Philadelphia Eagles, fresh off their Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots, almost surely won’t endure the amount of changes the 2012 Ravens did. They have a younger team in a lot of areas and star quarterback Carson Wentz is still on his rookie contract. However, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman acknowledged Wednesday that the organization is still bracing for significant change.
“It’s very hard. It’s hard to avoid looking at those guys, guys who did unbelievable things for your football team and have unbelievable character, and separate it from what we need to do going forward,” Roseman said. “By the same token, this is a unique position for us, and certainly for me personally, in the fact that we need to make these decisions coming off a championship year.
“But we want to get better. We want to continue to be in a position to get better, and we’re going to have to make tough choices. It’s not like we can just bring the band back together and expect the same results. To have a chance to get back here again, that’s the mentality that we have to have.”
Adding to the Eagles’ challenge is they have the least amount of salary cap space in the NFL based on current projections and their 14-man free agent class includes Nigel Bradham, Beau Allen, Trey Burton and LeGarrette Blount. With so little cap flexibility, there’s speculation that Philadelphia will have to release a few more key players, including former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith.
“That responsibility starts with me and making sure that we’re able to keep guys and sign good players and we’re not just doing things because of our cap situation,” Roseman said.