By Michael Donovan
The Eagles have had an active offseason, with a fine draft and some useful free agent signings.
But the question remains:
Are they simply patching a roster around quarterback Carson Wentz or are they in it for the long haul?
They signed receivers Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery in free agency – two moves that are sure to help Wentz in 2017. They also just signed LeGarrette Blount, who’s a much-needed running back.
Smith is 28 and is coming off of a stint with the 49ers in which he caught 53 passes for 930 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons. San Francisco’s quarterback situation had plenty to do with that, but Smith has only one 1,000-yard season in his career and is mostly just a deep threat.
His three-year contract indicates that the Eagles are absolutely not committed to him long-term. Heck, if they wanted to cut ties with him this offseason, they could. He received $500,000 guaranteed, meaning they’re not tied to him for even this year. Don’t be surprised to see him out of Philly by 2018.
The Eagles are slightly more committed to Jeffery. However, how sold on him can they really be when he’s only under contract for 2017? He can walk away next offseason as long as the Eagles don’t slap him with the franchise tag, opting for a big contract in free agency. That’s the sort of player Philadelphia is surrounding a young franchise quarterback with?
The same goes for Blount, who will be more of a role player than a bell cow for the Eagles. He’ll primarily handle first and second down, while getting most of the goal-line opportunities. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and has had one good season with a team not named the Patriots. He’s also on a one-year deal with very little financial commitment from the Eagles.
If things go poorly and all three players perform at a level below their expectations, we could see the Eagles even thinner on offense a year from now. Jeffery can walk, Blount isn’t a long-term option and Smith has no guaranteed money beyond 2017. Meanwhile, Jordan Matthews, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles will all be free agents next offseason.
In what way have the Eagles surrounded Wentz with long-term stability? By drafting Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round?
Dak Prescott has Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott. Jared Goff has Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin. Deshaun Watson has DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller. Marcus Mariota has Corey Davis, Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray.
Granted, some of those players were in place before the quarterback was drafted, but they all have young, high-ceiling playmakers to grow with – to build a rapport with. Wentz doesn’t have that, and it’s all because the Eagles haven’t committed to a single Pro Bowl-caliber skill-position player for the long-term besides tight end Zach Ertz.
Wideout Nelson Agholor is inconsistent and is trending toward being a bust, and Matthews has been plagued by drops. Smith and Jeffery will replace both players on the depth chart this season, but neither is locked up contractually.
So while the Eagles did a decent job adding necessary pieces on offense, they didn’t make the necessary moves to ensure their franchise quarterback has a stable cast of playmakers as he develops for the next few years. And ultimately, that’s likely to come back and bite Philly down the road.
There’s a balance between being financially smart – which the Eagles were – and ensuring stability for the future. Philadelphia failed to find that happy medium, and the turnover each year will hinder Wentz’s development.
Next season will be telling in how the Eagles truly view their offensive playmakers and whether any of them will stick around in 2018.