Eagles fans, just a few months ago, were hunkering down for the long haul.
The team had missed the playoffs for the second straight year in 2016 and they couldn’t avoid the glaring holes on the roster at key positions like wide receiver, running back and cornerback. Eagles VP of football operations Howie Roseman told fans that the team would not be signing “band-aids” to a young roster, and that the team aimed to build — slowly — a Super Bowl contender.
That’s what the Eagles said. But that’s not what they did.
In free agency, the Birds signed veteran wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to short-term contracts. They signed veteran pass-rusher Chris Long and swapped draft picks for a veteran defensive tackle in Timmy Jernigan. The drafted two project wide receivers to develop over time with quarterback Carson Wentz and a handful of durable mid-round prospects.
And this week they continued the trend, signing 30-year-old running back LeGarrette Blount.
So are they trying to win now?
“For us, a band-aid is a guy who’s in the twilight of his career and doesn’t have a lot of time left and probably not someone that you would want to extend going forward,” Roseman said in March after the Jeffery deal was signed. “But in terms of what we got here, you know, we got guys who are in their 20s, mid-to-late 20s, which is always stuff that we talked about, and guys that we have an opportunity if they do a good job to keep here for the future. I think it’s consistent with what we’ve been talking about. We’re excited that we were able to get those particular guys.”
The conversation is slowly shifting as the Eagles are signing weapon after weapon for soon-to-be sophomore Wentz, not to whether or not they will try to win — but to whether they actually can.
“I think they are trying to win now, for sure,” Blount told the media Thursday, declining to comment on which teams he spurned to decide on Philadelphia. “I had interest from other teams but I chose Philly cause I thought it was the best fit for me. I like the guys here. I like the way they do things around here. I like the way they play ball, so I felt it was the perfect fit.”
Blount knows about winning, having won two of the last three Super Bowls as a member of the Patriots. And his claims that the Eagles are “building something special,” and that “Cason is one of those guys you want to build a team around,” have to make Eagles fans burst with anticipation.
With Washington taking a step back after losing a few key free agents, the NFC East looks to be a three-team race between Philly, New York and Dallas, last year’s division champ.
The Eagles have overhauled both their offense and their secondary (relatively speaking, of course), investing in true talent and giving players heavily incentive-based contracts. Year 2 under Wentz and head coach Doug Pederson may pan out to be more than just rebuild year two — it could be the first of many winning seasons.
“For us being able to play home playoff games is something we are striving for,” Roseman said back in March. “We are not sitting here saying we are one player away … we are going to try and build it piece by piece.”
The Eagles have done just that. Whether or not it is a winning formula will pan out this fall.