If I were an aspiring NFL team-builder looking for a blueprint on how to construct a perennial contender, I would spend most of my time studying Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles. The savvy general manager brought a Super Bowl title to the “City of Brotherly Love” at the end of the 2017 season and has the team positioned to claim another in the near future.
As the 7-1 Eagles prepare to host the 5-2 Cowboys on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app), Roseman’s team is currently the No. 1 seed in the NFC. His fellow executives around the league should pay closer attention to the formula that has produced wins and more wins in Philly. Moreover, team-builders should incorporate some of the principles utilized by the Eagles to build a powerhouse in an ultra-competitive league.
Let’s start with these.
Build a quarterback factory
Perhaps Roseman was onto something when he said the Eagles wanted to build a “quarterback factory” after selecting Jalen Hurts with the 53rd overall pick of the 2020 draft. The controversial selection drew the ire of some fans and observers based on Carson Wentz‘s presence, but the decision to add a young quarterback to a roster that already featured a “franchise” QB has enabled the Eagles to stay one step ahead of the competition in the NFC.
Hurts not only provided the Eagles with an insurance policy to protect against an injury to their starter, but he also gave the coaching staff a young, developmental prospect to groom on the practice field. If he responded to the coaching and developed into a good player, the Eagles would have a future starter or valuable trade chip that could bring additional team-building resources.
During the Andy Reid era, the Eagles had success flipping A.J. Feeley and Kevin Kolb for second-round draft picks after they flashed promise as key backups/spot starters. The quarterback developmental plan also enabled the Eagles to trade Donovan McNabb after the team rescued Micheal Vick from football purgatory to install an MVP-caliber playmaker at the QB1 spot.
The Eagles’ investment in the quarterback position extends beyond the starters and developmental prospects. The team has routinely signed high-end backups and paid them top-of-the-market dollars. Whether it was Chase Daniel breaking the bank a few years ago to upgrade the quarterback room and mentor a young quarterback (Wentz) or signing Nick Foles to operate in a similar role, the Eagles have remained a perennial contender by pouring their resources into the most important position on the field. Foles, of course, wound up guiding the team to that Super Bowl win after Wentz got hurt.
Invest in the trenches
To win in the NFL, you must be able to control the line of scrimmage on each side of the ball. The Eagles have soared to the top of the league behind a talented collection of offensive and defensive linemen crushing opponents at the point of attack. The franchise has routinely snagged “bigs” in the first round (Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Jordan Davis, Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis) to ensure the units are stockpiled with blue-chip talent.
In addition, the Eagles have also utilized free agency to add elite players like Haason Reddick to the rotation. With a deep and talented collection of trench warriors controlling the line of scrimmage, the Eagles can “bully the bullies” in matchups against top teams. Considering how the San Francisco 49ers and others take pride in beating opponents up with their overwhelming physicality and toughness, the Eagles have a team capable of going toe-to-toe with the heavyweight contenders in the league.
Acquire blue-chip playmakers by any means necessary
The NFL is about talent development and talent acquisition. The Eagles have not only mastered the draft and development piece, but they have crushed the trade and free agent markets. Philadelphia has inked a handful of impactful free agents such as Reddick and James Bradberry to fill voids or upgrade key positions.
The money has been well spent, with most of the blockbuster deals netting a solid return on investment. Reddick played at a Pro Bowl level as a designated pass-rushing specialist on the edge, as evidenced by his 22.5 regular season sacks since his arrival in 2022. Bradberry has been the perfect complement to the defensive backfield as a veteran cover corner with outstanding instincts and awareness on the island.
While those notable free-agent additions have unquestionably bolstered the Eagles’ lineup, the team has transformed into a juggernaut due to its willingness to dabble in the trade market. Roseman has swapped picks to acquire Darius Slay, A.J. Brown, D’Andre Swift, and most recently, Kevin Byard to upgrade a lineup regarded as championship-caliber in scouting circles.
The constant wheeling and dealing involve some risk due to potential chemistry issues in the locker room, but the Eagles’ vetting process has resulted in few misses at the craps table. And the educated gambles have helped the Eagles separate from the rest of the pack, building a roster with the talent and depth to become a perennial contender worthy of emulation.
Bucky Brooks is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He also breaks down the game for NFL Network and as a cohost of the “Moving the Sticks” podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.
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