PHOENIX – Jeffrey Lurie’s message when he spoke at the 2018 league meeting was about his obsession with repeating as Super Bowl champions. The Eagles narrowly reached the playoffs, needing a late-season surge to finish 9-7 before they won their first postseason game and almost upset New Orleans.
The Eagles’ owner was left impressed with the work of coach Doug Pederson.
“To follow winning the Super Bowl with some ups and downs of the past season and remaining so poised, even-keeled, focused, dynamic,” Lurie said Tuesday at this year’s owners’ meetings. “As impressive as the year we won the Super Bowl last year.”
Lurie touted Pederson and top executive Howie Roseman during his annual address at the meetings, while also explaining that he’s “very excited for every aspect of 2019.” He expects the Eagles to remain legitimate contenders this season and believes they’re positioned for long-term success with a franchise quarterback and nearly 20 draft picks expected during the next 13 months. With the way Lurie talked, he’s not expecting a post-Super Bowl slide or a need to rebuild any time soon.
“I think our future is very bright,” Lurie said. “We certainly have a philosophy of, in the present, trying to win another championship, and at the same time not sacrificing the future in any significant way. It can be done. And that’s what we’ve been doing the last few years. It’s going to continue that way, where we’re going to be aggressive for the present. We think we can compete at the very highest level in 2019. And at the same time, plan for 2020, 2021, and be as good of a football team as we can be.”
The Eagles’ strategy for improving this offseason has seemed to focus on acquiring older players. They’ve added five players, with three in their 30s and two at 29. Roseman said earlier this week that the Eagles believe they can find value with these acquisitions because teams are doing a better job retaining in-their-prime players, and improvements in science and training have allowed players to remain at a higher level longer into their careers.
“Should you sign a player who is a potentially good starting player at age 31 or 30, versus the low-level starting players who’s a lot younger?” Lurie said.” When I talk to Howie, it’s always, ‘What are the next two years in that comparison?’ Yeah, you get the 25-year-old, 26-year-old on his second contract, but he’s a low-level starter, his team didn’t want him. Maybe he can be a low-level starter for us, at best. Or you can get a guy who can make an impact, several guys that can make an impact. And we’re banking on them for one-to-two years. That’s resource allocation, with the idea of what we’re going to be allocating for quarterback and for every other position and the notion that we’re going to have about 20-odd players coming onto our roster in the next 13 months.”
Lurie’s answer includes references to Carson Wentz’s eventual long-term contract, which appears to be an inevitability within the next two years; and the two upcoming draft classes, when the Eagles have accumulated draft picks to try to infuse the roster with young talent. The Eagles have had a dearth of high draft picks in recent years because of trades for Wentz and Ronald Darby. But those moves were made with the understanding that the Eagles could spend on veterans while Wentz was on his rookie contract. As Wentz’s contract swells, the importance of players on rookie deals will become apparent. The Eagles have seven draft picks this year; might have 10 to 12 next season, depending on compensatory picks; and will surely keep undrafted players during that span, too. Lurie said the Eagles have planned “exactly how it’s gone.”
The highest-profile additions are wide receiver DeSean Jackson and defensive tackle Malik Jackson. Lurie saw DeSean Jackson arrive in Philadelphia in 2008, get cut in 2014, and be brought back this month. The receiver spoke fondly of his relationship with Lurie during his introductory news conference, saying that Lurie would always greet him and check on him when the Eagles played against Jackson’s teams in the last five years. Lurie indicated that he’s kept track of Jackson and has wanted him back on the Eagles.
“We’ve watched him and his maturity,” Lurie said. “It’s not the first time we were able to bring him back. We were finally able to. I’m glad we have him.”
Lurie’s also glad he has Pederson in charge this season. During the head-coaching interview process in January 2016, one anecdote especially resonated with Lurie. Andy Reid told Lurie that during a Kansas City losing streak in 2015, Pederson was “the most resilient” person on the coaching staff. When the Eagles struggled last season, Lurie remembered what Reid told him. He saw it, too, in the way Pederson did not blame a sluggish offense or other parts of the team and instead was able to keep the locker room together for its December winning streak.