In a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman denied that a series of moves unloading veterans -- the latest being today's trade of CB Sheldon Brown and LB Chris Gocong to Cleveland for fourth- and fifth-round draft picks and LB Alex Hall -- is a signal that the team is rebuilding.
"We're trying to win. We're always trying to win," Roseman said, "For us, this is a football decision. We're excited about some of the players on our team and we're excited about the quality of the draft."
The Eagles have shed RB Brian Westbrook, DE Darren Howard, G Shawn Andrews, LB Will Witherspoon, WRs Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown and DE Chris Clemons, in addition to Brown and Gocong, and apparently are attempting to trade franchise QB Donovan McNabb.
"All those veterans have been good players for us, and I don't want to slight those guys at all," Roseman said. "As we looked at it going forward, and this year and what kind of team we wanted to build, we saw an opportunity to do that (get younger) and obviously, it won't take full shape until we get to minicamp and even farther than that, but we have a direction, we have a plan, and we're just trying to execute it. Sometimes, when you look at it piecemeal, it doesn't all come together."
The fourth- and fifth-round picks are 105th and 137th overall in what is said to be a deep, talented draft.
Roseman touted CB Ellis Hobbs, coming off a serious neck injury, as Brown's successor, but a first-round cornerback in the draft certainly looks quite possible now.
“We like Ellis Hobbs," Roseman said. "Ellis Hobbs was a starter on a team that was 18-0. We think Ellis Hobbs is a good starting corner in this league. We think we have other players on this team who can step into that spot and contribute. Obviously we have some options here going forward in the draft and we’ll just see what other things become available here.”
Roseman also mentioned nickel corner Joselio Hanson as a possibility.
Hall, 6-5, 250, played in 14 games last season with no starts and had 10 tackles. He started two games as a rookie in 2008 and finished with 28 tackles. He also has three career sacks and played on special teams.
Hall was a seventh-round pick by the Browns from Division II St. Augustine’s, where he played defensive end. He was the school's career leader in sacks with 26.
“Alex is going to come in here and compete for a spot," Roseman said. "We’re going to start him off at [strongside] linebacker, at least on first and second downs. He’ll have an opportunity to put his hand down on third down, as well. [Hall is an] interesting prospect for us. He was productive for Cleveland a couple years ago and didn’t have as much of an opportunity in the last year.”
With the additional picks, the Eagles now have 10 selections in the draft: 1st round (24th overall), 2nd round (55), 3rd round (70, from Seattle), 3rd round (87), 4th round (105, from Cleveland), 4th round (121), 5th round (137, from Cleveland), 6th round (200, from Indianapolis), 7th round (243, compensatory pick), and 7th round (244, compensatory pick).
"I think it allows us to have a lot of options on draft weekend," Roseman said. "If we wanted to go and move up or move around, I think that gives us those options.”
On the trade, coach Andy Reid said in a statement: “Sheldon Brown has been a very good football player for the Eagles over the last eight years. He’s a good person, a legitimate tough guy and he’ll do a good job helping the Browns. Chris did a good job converting from defensive end to linebacker and helped us win a lot of football games. We wish both of them all of the best.”
Added Roseman, “Sheldon and Chris have been nothing but professionals on and off the field during their tenure in Philadelphia and we wish them all the best as they continue their careers in Cleveland. Alex Hall is a big, athletic linebacker who we’ve had our eyes on over the last couple of years and he’ll have a chance to compete at the SAM linebacker spot.”
Apparently, Brown is getting his long-sought contract adjustment, which was the final piece of the trade puzzle. The Browns are believed to have added money to this coming season.
Brown, his agents and Gocong and his agent did not return messages this morning.
Brown, 31, has been disgruntled with his contract, signed in 2004, and last spring requested a trade. He skipped the team's voluntary minicamp but reported on time for training camp and had one of his better seasons, including a career-high five interceptions. He also played through a hamstring injury.
At the owners' meeting last week, Reid said the Eagles had received "a few" inquiries about Brown, and added this: "The nice thing with Sheldon is he’s still under contract and been able to make a living. We’ll just take it from there. We’ll see what happens over time."
Gocong has been the subject of trade discussions for quite some time, as he never became the pass rusher the Eagles expected. He played strongside linebacker for the Eagles, but Judge reports he would move inside with the Browns. Gocong signed his restricted free agent tender earlier this week. The Eagles tendered him at the original third-round level.
Asked about the strongside linebacker situaton last week, Reid said, "You’ve got Chris (Gocong) and (Moise) Fokou. We’ll see what happens there."
The connections between the Eagles and Browns have been well-documented. New Browns general manager Tom Heckert formerly held that same position with the Eagles, and Reid and new Browns president Mike Holmgren are best friends.
As for the McNabb situation, Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked about McNabb yesterday, despite the Cardinals consistently denying they are interested.
"As of right now, he's with another football team so it's not something I can comment on," Whisenhunt said, according to the Arizona Republic. "I've known Donovan from being on the field with him, and he's a good football player and a good person. Hopefully, things work out for him the way he wants it to."