Unless he abdicates the crown, Julian Lurie will someday succeed his father as Eagles chairman and CEO.
Jeffrey Lurie, last week, explained the grooming process for his son and why the 26-year-old has been increasingly more involved with the Eagles over the last year.
“Obviously, he grew up in the family that owns the team,” Lurie said last week at the conclusion of the NFL owners’ meetings in West Palm Beach, Fla. “He’s an avid Philadelphia sports fan. He loves the Eagles, loves the NFL. He really has a great feel for many aspects of the sport.”
Julian Lurie has taken on a more visible role with the team. After college, he attended most home games and some away dates, but the number increased in 2021. And in February, he flew to Mobile, Ala., for Senior Bowl practices and was on the field with coach Nick Sirianni and general manager Howie Roseman during one workout.
But the younger Lurie has also been active behind the scenes. He was one of a dozen or so who participated in coaching interviews in January 2021. He was chosen to represent and question candidates for the analytics department, although Jeffrey Lurie said he was mostly there to observe.
While the elder Lurie always makes the final decision on head coaches, and seeks counsel from multiple leaders within the organization, his son helped advise him as the Eagles transitioned from Doug Pederson to Sirianni, a source familiar with the Eagles’ process said.
“He’s a real sharp guy,” Lurie said. “He’s going to have so much more going into it than I ever did, if he chooses to want to someday own and run the team. I mean, he’s going to have a gigantic advantage. He won’t make some of the early mistakes that I made.”
Following his graduation from Harvard, Julian Lurie took part in the NFL’s two-year rotational program for prospective executives. He worked in a variety of departments and office locations within the league. Upon completion, his father brought him into the fold with the Eagles and has steadily expanded his role.
“I’ve always, sort of like a lot of children of families that own teams, kind of [brought] him along,” Lurie said, “in terms of I want to expose him to all aspects of both business side and the operational side, the nuts and bolts, yet also the strategy side.”
The NFL has a long history of franchises staying in one family for multiple generations. The Rooneys (Steelers) and Maras (Giants) are two of the more prominent, but there are many more. The 70-year-old Lurie is a first-generation owner, having bought the Eagles in 1994.
He and his former wife, Christina Weiss, who divorced in 2012, have two children together. Milena and Julian were born around the time of his purchase. Lurie and his current wife, Tina, married in 2013. But it is Julian who is being prepared for a formal role in the organization and eventually to replace his father.
If he wants it, that is, although all signs point to its eventuality.
“I don’t know that exactly. We haven’t fully talked about that,” Lurie said when asked about his son’s plans. “I can say that he has my passion for the sport and the Eagles.”
Reading between the cornerback lines
The Eagles have yet to add a cornerback to the roster this offseason.
But rather than focus on the lack of an obvious starter opposite Darius Slay, Sirianni tossed into the ring four second-year corners who are essentially NFL blank slates.
“I think we have a lot of good young corners that showed us a lot in practice that maybe didn’t get the time to get out on the field last year to play that we’re excited about it,” Sirianni said last week. “I don’t want to miss anyone, but you have Zech McPhearson, you have Tay Gowan, Mac McCain, Kary Vincent.”
Only McPhearson was drafted by the Eagles. They traded for Gowan and Vinvent, and McCain was signed off waivers last season. While it’s possible McPhearson, a fourth-rounder last year, gets first crack, and the other three compete in training camp, it seems likely that Roseman will address the position at some point this offseason.
The Eagles may want to see how the draft plays out first. If they take a cornerback in the first round, it would affect their approach in free agency. Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner is widely considered the top cornerback, but unless Roseman is willing to trade up, there are other first-round talents in the draft.
Washington’s Trent McDuffie and LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. could be on the Eagles’ radar. They currently own the 15th and 18th picks in the first round after Monday’s trade that sent the No. 16 selection to the Saints for essentially a 2023 first-rounder.
Roseman, in his 11 drafts as GM, has never selected a corner in the first round, and only Sidney Jones in the second round. (Eric Rowe was drafted in the second when Chip Kelly had personnel authority.) Roseman has used later-round resources on the position, mostly to little avail.
Jalen Mills in the 2016 seventh round remains his best pick. But whether the Eagles draft a corner early or sign one in free agency after the draft, like Roseman did with Steven Nelson last summer, it’s hard to see them gambling on their youth.
McPhearson avoided catastrophe the few times he was pressed into duty. A full offseason should advance his readiness, and the same could be said for the other second-year corners. But Sirianni’s and Roseman’s uniformity in their messaging about their young cornerbacks suggests they have greater plans at the position.
Replacing Jim Bob
While Jim Bob Cooter was never formally a part of Sirianni’s staff last season, he did fill an important role as a senior offensive adviser to the first-time coach.
But Cooter’s stay in Philadelphia was brief. Former Eagles coach Doug Pederson hired him to be the Jaguars’ pass game coordinator this offseason. Sirianni didn’t look outside the NovaCare Complex to replace Cooter, though.
Offensive quality control coach Alex Tanney will be given some of his responsibilities, Sirianni told The Inquirer last week. During the week, Cooter was tasked with watching film of other teams and bringing specific plays or concepts to the Eagles’ Thursday offensive meeting.
“These are the things that happen throughout the league this week, and you can’t go over all of them, right?” Sirianni said. “So Jim Bob used to put together five clips of that for me, and go through it that way.”
It’s unclear if Tanney will assume some of Cooter’s game-management responsibilities on Sundays. But that Sirianni expanded his role suggests that the 34-year-old assistant, who began coaching only last season. could be in line for an eventual promotion.
Tanney played nine seasons in the NFL as a backup quarterback. Undrafted out of Monmouth (Ill.) College, he spent time with eight teams but played in only two games before retiring after the 2020 season.
The cost for Fletcher Cox
The Eagles still view Fletcher Cox, despite his decreasing production, as a top-flight defensive tackle. Otherwise they wouldn’t have re-signed him to a one-year, $14 million contract that was $4 million more than any other free-agent interior lineman received this offseason on a per-year average salary basis.
But it’s unclear if the Eagles had serious competition for Cox once they released him before a guaranteed roster bonus was triggered last month. They said they did.
“It was kind of a contract that made a lot of sense for us,” Lurie said. “We knew exactly what some other teams were interested in signing Fletcher for. He’s been a very valued member of our team. We think he can do even better in terms of playing with the same defensive coordinator and it was not a hard decision.”
The Eagles tried to move Cox, though, before last season’s trade deadline, and again this offseason. They initiated calls to at least three teams last month, NFL sources told The Inquirer. But his still-hefty contract, which necessitated the eventual release, made a trade seemingly impossible considering Roseman’s asking price.
Roseman was able to designate the release post-June 1, which allowed him to push dead money into future years, but the Eagles are still eating around $12 million in dead money from his original deal and an additional $15 million-plus in 2023.
As for the new contract, the $14 million is real, although two dummy years will allow the Eagles to spread the cost over three seasons. Cox’s salary still makes him the 11th highest-paid interior lineman on a per-year basis, and is $1 million more than teammate Javon Hargrave makes.
The 31-year-old Cox finished with just 3 ½ sacks and 12 quarterback hits in 2021 — among the lowest numbers of his 10-year career — and missed making the Pro Bowl for the first time in seven seasons. He openly griped about playing in Jonathan Gannon’s new scheme but was more effective as last season progressed.
“Fletcher Cox is still a dominant player in the run game ... and can still get after the passer,” Sirianni said.
Perhaps, but a one-year contract at this late date in his career suggests that it will be Cox’s last in Philly, whether he plans to catch on elsewhere, or retire.
Sirianni with more sway?
Sirianni doesn’t have final say in regard to the Eagles’ 90-man roster. Heck, he doesn’t have it for the 53, even though many coaches get to make the final cuts as they round out their rosters for the season.
Roseman certainly takes Sirianni’s and his coaches’ input on players, but few GMs have as much clout around the NFL. The same dynamic existed previously between Roseman and Pederson. But the ex-Eagles coach, when he felt strongly about a certain player, did spur certain moves.
The signing of backup quarterback Chase Daniel was one such obvious move. It didn’t pan out, although his release after one year paved the way for Nick Foles, with whom Pederson had worked previously.
If Roseman was inclined to listen to Pederson on quarterbacks, it would make sense that he heeds Sirianni’s advice when it comes to receivers. But the recent signing of Zach Pascal, who played under Sirianni for three seasons with the Colts, shouldn’t be viewed as an example of the coach having more say in personnel.
“Of course, I want Zach Pascal on this football team,” Sirianni said. “I don’t think that’s a secret here. But my job is to explain how we will use Zach Pascal. My job is to explain what we see in the player, the use of it.”
Roseman should have a better understanding of the types of players at each position that Sirianni and his assistants are looking for in terms of executing their schemes. The Eagles’ scouting department does have parameters for each position in terms of size, speed, and strength.
They aren’t as rigid as they were when Kelly was coach, however. Sirianni said that he places more emphasis upon specific skill sets in player evaluation.
“A guy that’s a good run-after-the-catch could look like T.Y. Hilton, could look like Jalen Reagor, he could look like Keenan Allen, he could look like Tyrell Williams,” Sirianni said “Those are all different body types. You’re looking for that specific skill set for what you want out of that wideout.”