Now that they broke the 57-year drought, what do the Eagles do for an encore?
How about back-to-back Super Bowl championships?
Hey, it’s not too early to start thinking about it. Even as you’re brushing confetti out of your hair after the victory parade, GM Howie Roseman will be back at the NovaCare Complex devising plans to defend the title we waited so long to celebrate.
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The good news: The Eagles are well positioned to remain an elite team next season and beyond.
The bad news: Staying at the top of the heap is incredibly difficult.
Let’s start with the bad news first. There hasn’t been a repeat Super Bowl winner since the 2004 season, when the Patriots beat . . . well, you know what happened.
In fact, while there have been eight back-to-back champs during the 52-year Super Bowl era, it’s happened just once in this century. That proves how hard it is to dominate a 32-team league now governed by free agency and expensive (but non-guaranteed) contracts.
Here’s another log for the fire: No franchise has even won the NFC East in consecutive seasons since those 2003-04 Eagles. Great teams just don’t stay together anymore.
But let’s look at the flip side. These Super Bowl champions seem well-positioned to avoid major turnover. And the majority of the players are either in their prime or still ascending.
It starts, of course, with the QB. The Eagles have built their franchise around Carson Wentz, who will be 25 when the 2018 season opens. And, to state the obvious, if Wentz doesn’t recover from his knee injury by September, the greatest backup in NFL history happens to be ready to continue his heroics.
I expect Nick Foles to be wearing midnight green next fall. Only a desperation first-rounder-for-Sam-Stinkin’-Bradford kind of trade could change things, and that wouldn’t be the worst scenario for the Eagles.
Beyond that, 17 of the 22 Super Bowl starters are under contract for 2018. Most of the nucleus players give you no reason to expect a decline. This includes Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor on offense; Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Malcolm Jenkins and Derek Barnett on defense.
There will be free agents leaving. Running backs LeGarrette Blount and Darren Sproles hit the open market. But the acquisition of Jay Ajayi and surprising talent of rookie Corey Clement shows the running game should still thrive.
Slot CB Patrick Robinson had a terrific season under a one-year deal. If he leaves, expect Sidney Jones to step in after sitting out all but one game as a rookie.
Two free agents I’d like to see the Eagles keep are LB Nigel Bradham, who led the team in tackles, and Swiss Army knife Trey Burton.
WR Torrey Smith could be salary cap casualty. So could LB Mychal Kendricks or DE Vinny Curry. And who knows the future for future Hall of Famer Jason Peters coming off major knee surgery?
But even when you add it all up, that’s minor turnover for a championship team.
Repeating ain’t easy. The first-place schedule can be arduous and every team in the league is gunning for you.
But these Eagles have depth at QB, a topflight tight end, a legitimate lead WR in Jeffery, strength at running back, a young secondary and a dominant defensive line. Beyond that, too many people have made the mistake of underrating Roseman and Coach Doug Pederson.
So save your spot at this year’s title parade. You may need it again in 12 months.