Eagles Legitimize “Super Bowl or Bust” Offseason Claims by Matt Lombardo

Seems Eagles GM Howie Roseman (pictured), President Joe Banner, and Owner Jeffrey Lurie have taken a page from across-the-street rival, MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies, by going “All-In” in an attempt to bring a football championship to the city for the first time in over 50 years.

In December Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro shocked the baseball world by swooping in out of nowhere to sign Cliff Lee away from the clutches of the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers. Lee was reunited with the city that fell in love with him two years prior when he helped lead the Phillies to their second straight World Series. The move was a bold proclamation that the Phillies were in it to win it all, at all costs, in 2011.

 This weekend, Howie Roseman, Joe Banner, Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles have orchestrated their own series of ‘Cliff Lee’ moments.  In 2010 the Eagles ranked 14th in the NFL against the pass, surrendering 217 yards per game and 33 touchdowns. Simply put, the weaknesses in the Eagles pass rush and secondary were exposed last season.  Enter Jason Babin, Dominique Rodgers-Chromartie, Cullen Jenkins and the crown jewel of free agency Nnamdi Asomugha.
The argument can be made that Asomguha is a top five cornerback in NFL history. Last season in just 14 games for the Raiders, Asomugha was only targetted 31 times. Pairing Asomugha with Asante Samuel who had seven interceptions while only facing 35 passes will certainly aid a pass rush that’s already been bolstered by the additions of Babin and Jenkins. Add in Rodgers-Chromartie who is a Pro Bowl caliber cornerback who thrives in big game situations and the Eagles boast one of the most formidable secondaries in the NFL.
Philadelphia already boasts a championship caliber offense when it fires on all cylinders with the likes of Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. That offense ranked fifth in the league a year ago and it’s obvious that the front office made it a priority to build a defense to match.  “We’ve, sometimes to our disadvantage, never put our goal any lower than winning the Super Bowl,” Banner said.
“Sometimes that’s resulted in expectations that we haven’t hit, and even though we’ve achieved a lot it’s left people disappointed. There’s no other way to do that. You’d run the risk, if you don’t do that, of people shooting for a lower bar. That’s what’s been our goal all along. I don’t mind that. There’s pressure in that and that’s fine. I want everybody here, I don’t care what part of the organization they’re in, and [Owner] Jeffrey [Lurie] feels the same way, feeling like that’s what it’s about. Whatever it takes to try to get there that’s what we’re going to do. I want the players to feel like that’s the goal. If we fall short of that, then we didn’t hit the goal. It’s really that simple.”
The Eagles have often been criticized for their handling of spare money under the salary cap. However, this season under Roseman’s watch and with the flexibility afforded them by the new $120 million cap for 2011, the Birds have positioned themselves well enough to corner the market and be in play for nearly every free agent they’ve targeted on the market.
After the press conference announcing the Jenkins deal Banner was asked if there remained enough flexibility under the cap to keep shopping the market. Banner’s response was quite telling, simply saying “Oh Hell yeah.”
Free agents seem drawn to Philadelphia by their sudden surge of urgency and infusion of talent at key positions.  Furthermore, the front office hasn’t lost sight on the future. Along with Rodgers Chromartie the Eagles picked up a second round pick for Kevin Kolb, and banished former first round pick Broderick Bunkley to Cleveland for a fifth round pick.
All told, even with all of this week’s freespending the Eagles also have stockpiled two second round picks, two fourth round picks, two fifth round picks and two six rounders in 2012.  It’s that sort of commitment to the present with an eye on tomorrow that has kept the Eagles near the top of the league for the better part of a decade. Just as Amaro has built the Phillies into consistent World Series favorites, the Eagles seem to have matched that commitment this season with an off-season plan that even exceeds it’s aggressiveness that was advertised months ago.
Matt Lombardo is a reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL

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