Ranking the Birds' offseason moves

Trent Cole's new contract sent a message to the Eagles' younger players that performance will be rewarded.
Trent Cole's new contract sent a message to the Eagles' younger players that performance will be rewarded. (DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: July 20, 2012

These are the moves that defined the Eagles' offseason. We're attempting to rank them by importance:

The trade for DeMeco Ryans: If you said the signing of Demetress Bell to replace left tackle Jason Peters was really the most important move of the offseason, you might be right in a strict football sense, but if you're talking about intangibles, about calming the smoldering outrage of the fan base, Ryans has to be No. 1. For so long, the faithful have decried Andy Reid's refusal to consider Pro Bowl play at middle linebacker a top priority. If Ryans gets back to where he was before he tore his Achilles' in Houston in 2010, he should be the best Eagles MIKE since Jeremiah Trotter keyed the march to Super Bowl XXXIX. As we all saw last season, the wide-nine front makes linebacking important, even to Andy.

2 Demetress Bell: I kind of took away all the suspense in the previous item, didn't I? Here's the rationale: If you're ranking Eagles players relative to their peers in 2011, Jason Peters was the best player on the team. The Eagles were lucky Bell, an excellent athlete, was still available on the free-agent market when Peters tore his Achilles'. They'll be even luckier if he stays healthy all season.

3 The front-office shakeup: This ranking really should come with an asterisk. We don't know what the change in Joe Banner's role (and before that, the departure of personnel czar Ryan Grigson to Indianapolis) will ultimately mean for the Eagles, but we know Banner has had a bigger impact on the franchise's approach to fans and players over the past two decades than anybody except Andy Reid. Banner's decision to move on is huge, something that might well affect the fabric, the culture of the organization.

4 Making DeSean Jackson happy: After Joe Banner stepping aside, this was the biggest surprise of the offseason. When the Eagles franchised Jackson after a distracted 2011, and he indicated he'd be OK playing under the tag in 2012, observers figured that was that. Credit Howie Roseman with doing something for a player he did not have to do – which, frankly, was not the organization's hallmark under Banner. Roseman signed Jackson to a $47 million, 5-year deal. The guaranteed money wasn't outrageous; assuming good health, Jackson stood to make more if he'd just been franchised 2 years in a row. We can debate whether Banner would have been willing do a deal on those terms, but what we can't debate is Roseman's new emphasis on a happy locker room, where players feel valued.

5 LeSean McCoy's contract: In addition to the touchy-feely stuff about making people happy referenced above, this deal had a very practical value, given that McCoy, coming off one the greatest running-back seasons in franchise history, was heading into the final season of his rookie deal. He could have been a 2013 unrestricted free agent, if the Eagles didn't franchise him. With McCoy and Jackson signed, they now have that tag available, if they need it, for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. And McCoy has peace of mind at a really hazardous position.

6 Drafting Fletcher Cox: On draft day, the Eagles got a defensive tackle many experts thought would go in the top 10, and they only needed to move from 15th overall to 12th to do it. Jim Washburn's wide-nine needs superior athletes to work. The Eagles seem to have given him one.

7 Ending the Asante Samuel drama: Will the Eagles be more talented at corner with Rodgers-Cromartie manning Samuel's spot? Maybe not. Will they benefit from not having to accommodate Samuel's off-the-ball style in a defense designed to press? Absolutely. Are they better off not having a very vocal Asante walking around the locker room feeling ill-used? Yes, again.

8 Rewarding Trent Cole: The 146th player taken in the 2005 draft is the best defensive player the Eagles have drafted under Andy Reid. Nobody lines up for every snap with more relentless determination, and the Eagles made sure their No. 3 all-time sack leader, behind Reggie White and Clyde Simmons, would be paid in line with his contribution. This is an important message to send to younger players.

9 Bringing back Evan Mathis: Nobody really saw Mathis as a starter when the Eagles signed him to a 1-year deal in the chaotic aftermath of the NFL lockout last year, but he came in very handy at left guard after Todd Herremans moved to right tackle. The continuity afforded by re-signing Mathis became even more important when left tackle Jason Peters went down this offseason.

10 Locking up Todd Herremans: Like Trent Cole, Herremans is a hard-working veteran, a leader who does things the right way. His seamless transition to tackle last season was overshadowed by the overall disappointing season the team endured. Like Cole, Herremans had been working under one of those endless contracts the Banner-era Eagles liked to dangle in front of second-year guys who weren't making much money. Now he isn't. (And the rules have changed – no player can sign an extension now until his third season.)

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