The Phillies won the World Series in 2008, made it back there a year later, then went into a downward spiral that has included six straight playoff-less, non-winning seasons.
The Eagles, who won their first NFL title in 57 years in early February, are hoping to avoid the same fate.
“We want to win this year, but we want to continue to win,’’ executive vice-president of football operations Howie Roseman said. “We want to win in 2018 and we want to win in 2019 and 2020.’’
The Phils’ fall from grace was largely caused by old age and an anorexic farm system.
The biggest nemesis to the Eagles’ sustainability hopes is the same one that every Super Bowl champion must deal with — the salary cap.
Roseman already had to restructure the contracts of several players this offseason, including Pro Bowlers right tackle Lane Johnson, right guard Brandon Brooks and tight end Zach Ertz, to clear enough cap space to sign a few inexpensive free agents, trade for defensive end Michael Bennett and pay the rookies that they draft this weekend.
And the fun is just beginning. The Eagles have nine players with a 2019 salary cap number of $9 million or more, including defensive tackle Fletcher Cox ($22 million), Johnson ($15.3 million), wide receiver Alshon Jeffery ($14.7 million) and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan ($14 million).
And that doesn’t include franchise quarterback Carson Wentz, who is going to be getting a big, big raise in the next year or two.
“Going forward, we have to make sure we have the resources in place where we have more draft picks, more guys who are making rookie-level salaries to balance the higher salaries,’’ Roseman said two months ago at the NFL scouting combine. “We have a lot of guys on our roster who are making real money. We want to keep those guys. The best way to do that is to try to balance that with some young salaries.’’
Hence the reason why the Eagles were only too happy to trade out of the first round Thursday night and pick up a second-round pick in next year’s draft.
And hence the reason they signed just one of their 13 unrestricted free agents (Nigel Bradham); departures they hope will translate into multiple compensatory picks in next year’s draft that they can parlay into younger, cheaper players to put around big-ticket players like Wentz, Johnson, Ertz, Jeffery, and Cox.
One of the free agents they bade farewell to was tight end Trey Burton, who signed a four-year, $32 million contract with the Bears. On Friday, the Eagles drafted his much cheaper potential replacement in the second round, South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert.
“We’re trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle (together), not only this year, but going forward,’’ Roseman said.
“We don’t have a lot of picks this year. We’re trying to get more picks as we go forward the next couple of years. As we looked at 2018, 2019 and even peaking in 2020, we’re trying to figure out how we can be a really good team in the short term, and then also in the long term.’’
That’s easier said than done. Of the previous 17 Super Bowl winners since 2000, seven weren’t even able to qualify for the playoffs the year after they hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
The Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2012 and have missed the playoffs four of the last five years.
After the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl in ’08, they failed to qualify for the postseason three of the next five years.
In the six years since the Giants won their last Super Bowl in 2011, they’ve made the playoffs just once and have lost 54 of their last 96 games. The Broncos haven’t made the playoffs since they won the 2015 Super Bowl.
“When you’re successful, you’re going to lose guys every year (in free agency),’’ said NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout with the Eagles, Ravens and Browns. “The fallback is you get all of those comp picks.
“So you have to be able to hit on your third-, fourth-, fifth-round picks in order to find cheap starters and stay viable. Because the curse of having stars on your roster is you have to pay them.’’
The Eagles will have four selections Saturday, two in the fourth round, and one in the sixth and seventh. They traded away their fifth-round pick Friday to move up three spots to get Goedert.
With the addition of the 2019 second-round pick they got in Thursday’s trade-down with Baltimore, the Eagles currently have nine picks in next year’s draft. They’re hoping to receive three or more compensatory picks as a result of the free agents they lost this year. Compensatory picks are awarded at the end of rounds three through seven.
Stockpiling draft picks hardly is a new strategy for the Eagles. They did it during the Andy Reid era when the Eagles went to the playoffs nine times, won six division titles and made it to the NFC Championship Game five times during an 11-year period.
From 2004 through Reid’s final draft in 2012, the Eagles never had fewer than eight draft picks and had 10 or more five different times.
But having a lot of picks is one thing. Using them wisely is another. As time went on in the Reid era, the Eagles’ personnel judgment started to get faulty. Too many Ricky Sapps and Jaiquawn Jarretts and Curtis Marshes and too few Jason Kelces and Brent Celeks and LeSean McCoys.
“There have been a lot of teams — us, the Patriots and the Steelers to name a few — that for a long time have believed that it was important to accumulate extra draft picks,’’ said former Eagles president Joe Banner. “That’s a good theory and it’s the right theory. It helps you win. But if you’re not getting the evaluations right, it doesn’t matter what your strategy is. You’re not going to win.’’
Which is why the teams with the best talent evaluators usually win and the teams that have baseball analytics guys running their personnel departments usually finish 0-16.