Roseman: Birds willing to spend big on right free agent

Cleveland's T.J. Ward is one of the top safeties in this year's free-agent class. The Eagles still lack depth at the position.
Cleveland's T.J. Ward is one of the top safeties in this year's free-agent class. The Eagles still lack depth at the position. (AP)
Posted: February 22, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS - The Eagles remain haunted by their 2011 free-agent spending spree, when they handed out big contracts with little return. They took a more tempered approach the last two seasons. Even when pursuing free agents to help rebuild the roster last winter, the Eagles did not hand out burdensome contracts.

General manager Howie Roseman, however, said the team is still willing to spend big money as it did with Nnamdi Asomugha and Jevon Kearse if the player's talent, age, position, scheme fit, and makeup all match what the team desires.

"I think unique situations call for unique action," Roseman said. "If there is a unique player in free agency that is hard to find other than top of draft and fits all the criteria that we outlined, some publicly and some privately, you have to look at it. We still view ourselves as aggressive and risk-takers. Sometimes you have to take risks to get better."

Roseman's concern in free agency is paying a B-level player a salary reserved for an A-level player. He said there is an "A player" available in this free-agent class. Free agents can still be designated with the franchise-player tag or re-signed to long-term deals, so the top players might not even hit the market. Even those players, however, can require contracts that are too steep for the Eagles.

"Is it A money, or is it like A-plus-plus money, and how does that fit into the structure of your football team?" Roseman said. "When you talk about chemistry and rewarding your own players, when you bring in somebody from another team and you're paying them A, A-plus money, how are your other players going to feel?"

These are all considerations for the Eagles, who want to build through the draft and maintain enough cap space to re-sign their homegrown core players. That's why Roseman insisted any big-money free agent must be a "special person."

The Eagles have had a difficult time finding the right safeties. This year's free-agent class includes Buffalo's Jairus Byrd and Cleveland's T.J. Ward, a pair of second-team all-pros who are 27. Both are former Oregon standouts who would represent a significant upgrade in Philadelphia. They could still be tagged or require a contract the Eagles deem burdensome.

Roseman cautioned against forcing a signing or a pick just to try to address the need.

"You're going to compound the problem, because you're going to put money and picks into it, and you're still not going to have the right answer," Roseman said. "We've got to find the right answers."

Roseman also said that the team must be aware that some of its young core players are due for contracts in coming seasons. Center Jason Kelce is already eligible for an extension, and 2012 draftees Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Nick Foles, and Brandon Boykin are eligible for extensions after this season.

The Eagles establish a "walkaway price" for every free agent, and they refuse to go beyond that price.

"You're not going to have superstars at every position, but you don't want to have weaknesses, either," Roseman said. "You have to figure out what the market's going to be. You could want a bunch of players, but you have to be disciplined."

If the top safeties are too expensive for the Eagles, the team would be willing to go with a patchwork solution in free agency. But Roseman is at least willing to spend when necessary.

"You can't force things, you can't make something that's not there," Roseman said. "Sometimes, the option is just to get through the moment and to do some stopgap things."

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