Saying that a tumultuous offseason lies ahead for the Eagles would be an understatement. Whether it’s the 20 pending free agents, the battle against the long-term cap strains, or the decision looming over Nick Foles, there’s a lot for Howie Roseman to wade through. But none of these are the biggest challenge of all.
Roster turnover is inevitable in the NFL. After all, it’s what keeps the league balanced and exciting as stars rise to claim their deserved paychecks and veterans seek one last long-term deal. For the Eagles, this year, in particular, could hit pretty hard and not just because of the abundance of players set to hit the open market.
Doug Pederson has worked wonders to implement a resilient culture within his locker room. One in which a team can suffer a 48-7 loss to the Saints, endure an overtime heartbreak in Dallas that pretty much eliminates them from the playoffs, and then somehow find a way to gatecrash the party and spring tremendous upsets along the way, despite playing four of their last five games on the road with three of them coming against playoff teams.
The underdog status from one year ago that sparked one of the most miraculous runs in sporting history all came as a result of the culture Pederson instilled. From the return of the ’10/10/10′ practice in OTA’s, to the way Pederson emotionally connects with each player, it’s bigger than Football. Leaders shine the light for the younger players and a family bond is built week in and week out. That’s what makes this season so difficult.
Among the names of those who could potentially hit the open market are guys like Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Darren Sproles, Jordan Matthews, and Chris Maragos. While all play different roles and are at different stages in their career, they have all undoubtedly played a vital role in embodying everything Pederson’s culture stands for. Losing a combination of these players would see far more than just the production on the field slip away, as the influence, leadership and inspiration would likely follow suit, leaving a void that Roseman and company would have to work hard to ensure they fill correctly.
“Yeah, typically you’re looking at 15-20% turnover of your roster in every year.” Howie Roseman told reporters earlier this week. “Some of that is just based on attrition. Some is based on decisions you have to make. It’s very important also that we keep our core together and that we maintain the culture that coach Pederson and his staff have built and continue to keep leaders here to show our young players the right way to do things. We’re going to try to make sure we do everything possible to field the best possible team. This isn’t a situation where we’re looking to have just a youth movement. We’re looking to compete at a very high-level next year and really hopefully be doing that for as long as we’re standing up here.
The challenge extends beyond the realms of finances and retaining the people who helped curate such a thriving culture however. Something Doug Pederson would later allude to:
“I think on the football side, and Howie alluded to this, looking back on it, you just have to keep your foot on the gas, you have to stay aggressive in your off-season, in your preparation.
There are things you look back on, and as coaches, we like to go back and scheme evaluate, go back and watch our schemes, offensively, defensively, and special teams. That was cut short. You’re kind of buzzing through some of that. I think there are different things you can do moving forward — having looked back on it now moving forward where you can sort of not expedite it, but you can be a little more efficient in some of your evaluation process offensively and defensively, and I think on special teams.
And then at the same time, your players are right back in the building within a matter of two months and your OTAs are going. You have to stay aggressive. You can’t pull off. You keep kind of the hammer down.
It becomes learned. It becomes a trained habit, and we’re trying to create good habits here. We want to be playing in January, playing for championships, and that’s all part of the process.”
No matter how you look at it, this is going to be a very difficult offseason for Philadelphia. But their biggest challenge isn’t just replacing the production they lose on the field but finding those who will buy in and enrich an environment that has done nothing but push through the walls of adversity where other teams would likely fall, turn, and go home. It’s sustaining the belief in what is a very young locker room that although they fell short of the mark this time, the only way is up. Doug Pederson’s strengths as a coach have been highlighted like never before in recent months…and they will be tested in those to come.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports