5 takeaways: Howie Roseman might not be set on Hurts at quarterback, and are the Eagles toxic?
It's hard to get excited about the Eagles' prospects going into 2021 when in the first two days of free agency, the team signed exactly one player from another team.
And that was a safety, Andrew Adams, who played exactly 23 snaps on defense last season for the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Yet he might have a chance to start on a team that lost one starting safety in Jalen Mills to the New England Patriots and the other, Rodney McLeod, is recovering from a torn ACL and might not be ready for the start of the season.
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Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Thursday that the team "climbed the mountain once" and won a Super Bowl three years ago, before adding: "Our goal is to climb it again, and that started over the last month."
Roseman and new head coach Nick Sirianni have a steep climb. Since the Eagles completed their 4-11-1 season in early January, they fired head coach Doug Pederson and replaced him with a first-time coach in Sirianni. They traded quarterback Carson Wentz and replaced him – for now – with Jalen Hurts, and they have very little money to address their biggest needs in free agency.
Here are five takeaways from their Thursday press conference:
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1. It's Hurts' time, unless it isn't
Roseman didn't exactly give a ringing endorsement of Jalen Hurts as the quarterback of the future.
Roseman began his answer about Hurts' future by saying: "When people start talking about Jalen, I think the first thing that they go to is his athleticism and his strength as a runner. I don’t know that that’s necessarily fair. Here’s a guy who completed over 70% of his passes at Oklahoma. He’s got a feel for the passing game. He’s got a plus arm. I think he’s going to get better and better."
That's fine, except Hurts completed only 51% of his passes in his 4½ games replacing Wentz to end the season. And his passer rating of 76.5 during that time was only slightly better than Wentz's, who was second from the bottom among NFL starters at 72.8.
Roseman didn't exactly rule out drafting a quarterback. Of course, why would Roseman rule that out six weeks before the draft?
"We only have one quarterback on our roster, so it’s definitely not going to stay that way," Roseman said. "We’re going to look at the free agent market. We’re going to look at the trade market. And we’re certainly going to look at the draft to strengthen the position."
Semantics might be involved. Did Roseman mean another QB or two added as backups, or someone to challenge Hurts? We'll find out when the Eagles pick in the first round of the draft on April 29. As of now, their pick is sixth overall.
He did deny a report that Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie ordered Roseman and the coaching staff to prioritize making Hurts successful in 2021.
2. What's the free agent plan?
For those expecting a big splash to address a position of need, that doesn't seem to be happening.
At this point, the Eagles are estimated to have less than $10 million to spend in free agency. But they do have 11 picks in the draft after having 10 last year.
Roseman gave the impression that many of the team's holes will have to be filled by players drafted both last season and this season.
"We’re not in the same position we’ve been in years past with our cap situation," Roseman said. "It’s clear that some of our young players are going to play right away, whether that’s from last year’s draft class, the year before, or players that we draft this year."
3. Clarity on Carson?
Roseman was saying that Wentz's agent, Ryan Tollner, had told him that Wentz wanted to be traded, saying: "(We had) a lot of honest conversations with (Wentz) and his representative about where he was, and the feeling that maybe it was best to kind of move on."
About 20 minutes later, Wentz was holding his introductory press conference in Indianapolis, saying that he wouldn't say "one way or the other" if he wanted to be traded.
It hardly matters anymore as to who forced the trade. What does matter is that the Eagles ultimately decided that taking the $34 million salary cap hit this season, along with the third-round pick this season and first- or second-round pick in 2022, was more worthwhile than keeping Wentz and his contract on the roster through 2024.
"It’s a win-win trade," Roseman said. "For (the Colts), the player that they’re getting. And for us, not only the opportunity to get the picks, but to reset us going forward from a cap perspective."
Beginning in 2022, when the NFL salary cap is expected to rise significantly, the Eagles won't have Wentz on the books, and they should have plenty of money to pursue the kind of big-time free agents they have to pass on this year.
That is all dependent on having a starting-caliber quarterback, whether it's Hurts or a draftee.
4. Veteran selection
Tight end Zach Ertz, who is the second leading receiver in Eagles history, is clearly on his way out, whether via trade or outright release.
Contrast what Roseman said about Ertz to what he said about defensive end Brandon Graham and center Jason Kelce, both of whom had their contracts restructured to end up with more money.
First, on Graham and Kelce: "As we transition to 2021, it was really important that we started by retaining Kelce and (Graham). Not only were they Pro Bowl players last year, but they're culture setters for us."
Now, Ertz: "Zach has been a huge part of the success that we've had since we've drafted him. He is a heck of a player, a heck of a person, and we value him. For us to trade any player, it's got to make sense for both sides. It's got to make sense for the Philadelphia Eagles, too, because none of us have the year that we wanted last year."
5. Toxic team?
Real or not, there could be a perception around the league's free agents that the Eagles have issues.
Roseman bristled at that suggestion, saying the team "dealt with a lot of adversity" last season, but that "we've always rebounded."
"I don't necessarily think that's really fair," Roseman added. "We are constantly trying to improve. I think if you're not trying to improve, you're kind of stuck in the mud ... We have a lot of good people in this building, people that care about this team and people who bring positive energy."
The Eagles need to show that this coming season.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.