Good morning, Eagles fans. The Eagles won the Super Bowl. They paraded up Broad Street. They cleaned out their lockers. They're now free for almost two months. The afterglow of the Super Bowl remains, but the players will begin their offseason in earnest on Friday.
This is the final five-day-a-week edition of the Early Birds newsletter until next season. We'll shift to a weekly version beginning on Wednesday, with some bonus editions during busy periods of the offseason schedule (free agency and the draft). If your friends haven't subscribed to Early Birds, it's free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.
— Zach Berman
Jason Kelce's speech headlined the Eagles parade, and it will long be remembered for resonating with the Philadelphia crowd. But Kelce's message had a lot of truth to it, especially when talking about his teammates. It illustrated just how many concerns there were about this team entering the season. Some of them predated those players' time with the Eagles — Carson Wentz's lack of a Division I-A background hasn't affected his role as the team's franchise quarterback — but others showed just how much the Eagles overcame this season.
He noted how "Big V was told he didn't have it" — who wasn't concerned when the Eagles lost a potential Hall-of-Fame left tackle in Jason Peters and turned to an offensive lineman who was inconsistent last season during Johnson's suspension? He mentioned how it was thought that "Stefen Wisniewski ain't good enough," and it's worth nothing the Eagles started two players ahead of Wisniewski this season.
He noted criticism that Nick Foles, Corey Clement, and LeGarrette Blount endured, and the snubs were more from the league than the public. Foles was not viewed as a starting quarterback by other NFL teams, which was why he signed as a backup. Clement went undrafted during seven rounds of the draft, including eight times by the Eagles. Blount was available to sign as a free agent in May — two months after free agency opened.
If you go on down the list, most of the labels attached to the players were legitimate concerns. The fact that they overcame them and proved otherwise shows what made this team a Super Bowl champion. They found motivated players, fostered a strong locker room culture, had a coaching staff that developed them and roles that fit them. If Patrick Robinson was the starting outside cornerback, maybe his season would be different. As the slot cornerback, he was one of the best in the NFL. Nelson Agholor developed in year three into a player he clearly wasn't in his first two seasons.
"It's the whole team," Kelce said.
It certainly is many of them who have been slighted or doubted. The reason the Eagles weren't predicted to be a Super Bowl team entering the season is because of some of these questions. They answered them by winning the Super Bowl.
What else stood out watching the players at the parade? It was noteworthy to see some of the present-day Eagles honor former Eagles.
Brent Celek wore a Harold Carmichael jersey. Jason Peters wore a Brian Dawkins jersey. Fletcher Cox wore a Reggie White jersey. Rodney McLeod wore a Randall Cunningham jersey.
There was obviously a historic element to the parade — it was the Eagles' first Super Bowl. Carmichael, Dawkins, White, and Cunningham are among the best players in franchise history since they last won a championship. It was notable that the current players honored them.
During Jeffery Lurie's speech, he mentioned the Eagles alumni. And there were Eagles alumni watching the parade. Those players know what this Super Bowl meant to the city.
You might have seen that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo agreed to five-year, $137.5-million contract with the 49ers.
What does that have to do with the Eagles?
Well, it shows the precious period that the Eagles are in while Wentz is on his rookie contract. Wentz is entering the third year of a a four-year, $26.7-million deal with a fifth-year option for the average salary of the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks. He's eligible for a contract extension after next season. When/if the Eagles extend Wentz's contract, you can bet it will be for a number that exceeds what Garoppolo received. The price for a franchise contract will only grow.
That factors into team building because the Eagles have this time when Wentz is on his rookie deal to allocate salary cap space elsewhere. At some point, Wentz will take the biggest portion of the Eagles' salary cap space. So the Eagles must take advantage of this moment when they can invest in other positions.
""You don't want to miss this moment," former Eagles executive Joe Banner said in an interview before the season. "Years 3, 4, and 5 with these young quarterbacks are a chance when you have a benefit of an A-caliber quarterback with an unprecedented opportunity to probably have $20 or $30 million of extra cap room that you should have while you have an A quarterback, that you won't have again for the rest of the career."
You never want to lose a good coach. That's why the Eagles didn't let John DeFilippo leave last season. But I think Carson Wentz is far enough along in his development and there's enough of a quarterback emphasis in place from Doug Pederson that it won't dramatically affect Wentz. He's a good player, and they'll make sure he gets the right coaching.
If Frank Reich is hired to be the Indianapolis Colts' head coach, then the Eagles lose even more quarterback knowledge in the room. The message starts from Pederson and funnels down. But with Pederson in place, you shouldn't be overly concerned. Quarterbacks are going to get attention. And when teams are successful, they're going to lose assistants. That's a byproduct of success.