Imagine each of Philadelphia’s 120-plus pro athletes became a free agent tomorrow. What if you could only lock up 10 for, say, the next five years, while the others left town? Who are the elites you would keep?
The first name is easy. Fletcher Cox rose to star status in 2015. Now a defensive tackle in the Eagles’ 4-3 defense, Cox can rush the passer, stop the run, make the clutch play. His re-signing is at the top of Howie Roseman’s to-do list, and we’ll put him at the top of ours.
Next, we’ll keep a Flyer who, as a 22-year-old rookie, has already set NHL scoring records. I’ve been prematurely guilty of comparing defenseman Shane Gostisbehere’s style with a certain Hall of Famer (Paul Coff--, er, never mind), so I’ll back down. But I do believe as the wispy kid fills out and matures, he’ll be a perennial all-star.
Let’s add a few young Phillies. Mikael Franco played a half-season at 3B, and was on pace for 28 homers and 100 RBI. He’ll top both those number this season. Aaron Nola came up and flashed enough guile and confidence that manager Pete Mackanin compared him to a young Greg Maddox. The Skipper’s projection is even more outlandish than ours on Ghost, but we’ll certainly buy into Nola as a future front-line starter.
For purposes of this exercise, players yet to appear in the pros are exempt. So top SS prospect J.P. Crawford can wait, for now. Likewise, we hope to see Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov and Sixers enigma Joel Embiid (pretty please) push their way onto the list by Halloween.
Just one Sixer does gain entrance to this exclusive club. GM Sam Hinkie foolishly flirted with trading Jahlil Okafor last week, but we’re putting on our fictional five-year franchise tag. Yes, the 20-year-old can’t play defense (yet), but 17.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game as a rookie sells us on his future.
Of course Claude Giroux stays. Not one NHL player has scored more points in the past five seasons. At 28, Giroux’s good for another five. And we’ll hold teammate Jakub Voracek, even while griping that Voracek’s $8.25 million annual price tag is excessive.
Need to add a few Eagles. We’ll trust that Lane Johnson evolves into that lockdown left tackle in the future. And we’ll repeat our annual prediction that tight end Zach Ertz makes the Pro Bowl, rather than just stringing together a half-dozen good games each season.
That’s nine guys. Who gets the last spot? We considered Nerlens Noel, Odubel Herrera, Wayne Simmonds, Jordan Matthews and Bennie Logan. But in the end, it’s Eagles middle linebacker Jordan Hicks. He was off to a Rookie of the Year start last season before getting hurt. Injuries are a problem, but let’s take a flyer on his future greatness.
Oh, and not making the list? Sorry, Sam Bradford. We may commit to that one-year NFL franchise tag. But five years? No way.
For fun, let’s go back a decade and make the same 10-man franchise list for 2006. It’s dominated by Phillies, as you can imagine: Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Shane Victorino. All, of course, were integral in the future glory years.
Jeff Carter and Mike Richards make that list for the Flyers. Never mind how it ended up with those two – at the time, both were entering their prime. Andre Iguodala is the only worthy Sixer from that era – regardless of how you may feel about him. And with an aging Eagles team still led by Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and Brian Dawkins, only Trent Cole qualifies on our five-year plan.
Would you take the 2006 group over today’s as a whole? Of course, because the city got a championship out of it. You can’t predict that with any confidence today.