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They weren’t in need of a complete overhaul on either side of the ball this offseason, but the tweaks the Eagles made have played a critical role in fueling their league-best 8-1 start. In signing Alshon Jeffery (above) to a one-year, $9.5 million deal, plucking cornerback Patrick Robinson off the scrap heap, and trading the equivalent of a sixth-round pick to steal defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan away from the Ravens, the Eagles were able to fill out the edges of their roster with a series of low-risk moves. In years past, this type of roster construction might have been frowned upon; neither Jeffery nor Jernigan remains under contract in Philly beyond this season. Yet in a climate where parity reigns, adding even a single year of high-end veteran talent can shake up the conference hierarchy.

Parity has been a theme in the NFL of late, as the league has a shortage of dominant teams and a burgeoning middle class. With teams both creeping closer together in the standings and growing more consistent, a franchise can stand to make a huge jump with a collection of the right incremental moves. That may be the biggest reason the 2017 NFL trade deadline was so wildly active.

And one of the key differences with overhauled playoff (and would-be playoff) teams over the past two seasons is where they fall in the NFL power structure. In years past, the teams that turned over a significant portion of their starting lineup and snuck into the postseason were bounced quickly. They were wild-card winners and little more. In 2016 and 2017, though, these revamped rosters have developed into real Super Bowl threats. The Eagles now have 4-1 odds to go all the way, according to Vegas, putting them behind only the Patriots. Surveying the rest of the league, Philly felt that getting one year of players like Jeffery and Jernigan was worth it; right now, that logic looks like it could pay off in a big way.

Outside factors like coaching changes, schematic tweaks, and the progress made by young stars such as quarterback Carson Wentz have all played an undeniable role in the Eagles’ success, but the team’s series of less-heralded offseason moves has allowed them to tie everything together on both sides of the ball. And given the reverberations those types of moves can make, expect a growing number of franchises to enter each spring with cause for hope—and the inspiration to make to a major splash in free agency:

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