You know the expression. It’s what the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles declared themselves. Offseason champions.
You really can’t blame them. How were they to know that signing Vince Young and Ronnie Brown and Steve Smith and Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin and Nnamdi Asomugha and trading for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would result in an extremely embarrassing 8-8 season?
This offseason, however, the Eagles took a completely different approach. A much-smarter approach.
They signed their OWN players. Running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson received new contracts, keeping them in Philadelphia for at least half, if not more, of their career.
Offensive tackle Todd Herremans and defensive end Trent Cole earned contract extensions, likely keeping them in Philadelphia through the remainder of their career.
And left guard Evan Mathis, arguably the biggest surprise player in the entire National Football League in 2011, earned a hefty contract extension. He too will likely remain an Eagle for life.
That’s McCoy, Jackson, Herremans, Cole, and Mathis who were locked up to long-term deals. Jackson’s came in an offseason when a number of fans weren’t even sure if he would return for the 2012 season.
In the draft, the Eagles added some of the top talent from the college level. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and linebacker Mychal Kendricks will probably start from day one, and both figure to be huge playmakers on the Eagles’ defense.
Look at some of the other guys the Eagles added. Nick Foles might be the quarterback of the future. Vinny Curry and Brandon Boykin might be the top two backups on the defense, and Boykin could also be the missing piece the Eagles have needed at kick returner for so many years.
And let’s not forget the huge trade that brought in former Pro Bowl linebacker DeMeco Ryans from the Houston Texans. Linebacker was the weakest position on the 2011 Eagles but two of the three starters on the 2012 squad figure to be new.
That’s a tremendous improvement to one team in such a short period of time. You could legitimately make the case that every position got stronger. The only exception is left tackle, where Jason Peters suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in March and will miss the entire 2012 season.
So with the improvement the Eagles made to their team throughout the offseason, the question arises again. Were the Eagles offseason champions, just like last season>
First of all, this is a term I hate. An offseason champion doesn’t mean anything.
Look at the Washington Redskins. How many times did they sign prized free agents, only to see their team finish 7-9 or 6-10?
Look at last year’s Eagles. They were the definition of offseason champions, and their entire season completely blew up in their face.
So no, I really don’t think the Eagles were offseason champions. I think they had a very good offseason.
But so did the Dallas Cowboys, who brought in Kyle Orton, now the best backup quarterback in the league, and drafted Morris Claiborne, the best cornerback available in the 2012 draft.
The Buffalo Bills added a ton of new talent. They brought in Mr. Dream Team to be their backup quarterback, and added defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. Oh, and don’t forget the draft pick of Stephon Gilmore.
The Indianapolis Colts drafted arguably the best player in a draft since Peyton Manning in 1998. You could make a case for them as “offseason champions” based on the one pick alone.
But when you get down to it, I really don’t think the Eagles were offseason champions. I think they did a great job of signing their own players and adding new talent through the draft.
But you want to define offseason champions? That’s exactly what the 2011 Eagles were. It’s exactly what you don’t want your team to be labeled.
These Eagles? They’re just a good football team that is being considered by many to be a great football team after a spectacular offseason.
But champions? That’ll happen in February.
This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for Eagles Central and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.