Mike Sielski: The Eagles are running it back in 2023. That's a bigger risk than it might seem.
Published in Football
PHILADELPHIA — What the Eagles are trying to do next season is not unheard of in the NFL, but it’s pretty damn close.
What they’re trying to do is win a Super Bowl the year after they lost a Super Bowl. Just three teams in the league’s history have managed to pull off that trick, and only one, the 2018 New England Patriots, has done it in the last half-century.
If, once he finishes signing free agents and drafting players and creating cap space, Howie Roseman has built a team that ends up celebrating a championship at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Feb. 11, 2024, it would rank as his greatest achievement as a player-personnel executive. He could even resign that night — go out on a high note, in Costanza-like fashion — and no one would begrudge him.
The tack that Roseman has taken so far has been, generally speaking, to run it back. Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, James Bradberry, Darius Slay, Boston Scott: All of them were here already. All of them could have retired or been traded or released. All of them are staying.
It’s a tack that, by virtue of the Eagles’ salary-cap and contract situations, Roseman in many ways has forced himself to take, and it’s not necessarily a bad one. Kelce was still the best center in the NFL last season. Graham had a career-high 11 sacks. Cox rebounded from a so-so 2021. Slay and Bradberry were among the best cornerback duos in the league. Scott is a solid second or third running back.
Plus, at the positions that matter most in pro football, the Eagles would seem to remain in excellent shape. Jalen Hurts is their quarterback. Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata are their offensive tackles. Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat are terrific pass-rushers. Slay and Bradberry … Ibid. See the above paragraph.
Every NFL season is its own self-contained entity, though, and it’s worth noting two factors whose outcomes aren’t easily predictable and that will play heavily into the Eagles’ fortunes in 2023.
One, some of those important veterans were already old by the standards of pro football and, of course, will only get older. Kelce is 35. Graham turns 35 on April 3. Johnson turns 33 in May. Cox is 32. Slay is 32. Bradberry turns 30 in August. At those ages, players can tend — not universally, but often — to decline in their performance and/or suffer more injuries. That decline can be swift, and those injuries can be severe.
Two, whether any of those players prove they’re past their prime or have to sit out games with strains and pulls, the Eagles are going to need several younger players to take on greater roles and responsibilities: Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean, Cam Jurgens, Milton Williams, Kenny Gainwell. For any team, the keys to sustaining success are to draft well and develop that talent. That’s the task before the Eagles now, if they want to accomplish the improbable.
The question about Mariota
©2023 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Visit inquirer.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.