Inside the Eagles: Birds locking up home-grown talent

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Eagles offensive tackle, Todd Herremans, smiles after signing a three-year extension. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

On an NFL Tuesday that was supposed to be all about the new, the most revealing moment for the Eagles came when a familiar face, tackle Todd Herremans, talked about a contract extension that will keep him in the same place he has spent his entire career.

"The Eagles have been known for a while as a team that doesn't take care of their draft picks and pays everyone else's as picks and players," Herremans said. "I think they're trying to change that stigma that they have."

Herremans wasn't trying to stir controversy - he repeatedly expressed gratitude toward the Eagles. He has been a reliable, loyal player even after long ago outplaying a modest contract.

But the words, coming from one the longest-tenured members of the team and a respected locker room presence, point to an underlying concern that the front office smartly tried to address on the first day of the NFL's shopping period. First the Eagles gave Herremans a three-year extension and a raise to reflect last year's move to Michael Vick's blind side. Then they reportedly moved close to a new deal for defensive stalwart Trent Cole.

In doing so the Eagles rewarded two team pillars who have played hard and played through injury, who still have productive years ahead and who both handled contract concerns quietly.

As some teams tore into the NFL version of Black Friday, the Eagles stayed home and spent quality time with the family. It was a good call.

Poll

Are you happy with how the Eagles fared on the first day of NFL free agency?

The Eagles were rushing the doors with the rest of the league a year ago, throwing elbows for the free agent equivalents of the discounted flat-screen TV (Steve Smith).

Meanwhile, homegrown two-time Pro Bowler DeSean Jackson watched cash flow every way but his.

How'd that work out?

Jackson took his business public, holding out of training camp. But Herremans' comment shows that the wide receiver wasn't the only one who noticed.

So before the Eagles laid out money to a linebacker who has never played a down in Philadelphia or rewarded Evan Mathis for one strong season (which they should do eventually), they took care of two key players who have worn green since being drafted together in 2005.

It wasn't the excitement many fans hoped for on a day hyped with the breathlessness and lack of perspective of a celebrity divorce. As instant reports poured in on Twitter - along with blatant manipulations of information - so did disappointed reactions.

The Bears got wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The Redskins splashed out contracts for two receivers. Prize wide out Vincent Jackson headed to Tampa Bay while Buffalo pushed hard for defensive end Mario Williams.

Soon the questions flooded in: What were the Eagles doing? Where were the big signings? The guys who would surely be the final piece?

They were all here last year, and so was an 8-8 finish.

Even as he wrote the checks last summer, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie acknowledged that marquee free agent prizes don't usually make up the backbone of successful teams.

"As the Redskins have proven over the years," he said last August, "you don't win by winning free agency."

That's not to say the Eagles shouldn't make some targeted moves. But Tuesday was just the start of free agency. There are days and weeks of negotiation ahead. There is April's draft. This is a long process, one that the Eagles started at home.

Wisely.

 


Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214, jtamari@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @JonathanTamari.