Fitting Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Jason Babin and Steve Smith under the salary cap may have been the easy part of the Philadelphia Eagles’ torrid offseason talent binge.
What about the ego cap?
“I think with the character of the guys here, we will be able to make it work,” said Asomugha, the cornerback who was arguably the most-sought-after player in an offseason truncated by the four-month lockout. “Nobody is saying, ‘I’m not going to do this. I’m not going to do that.’ It’s whatever is best for the team.”
Eagles players and coaches have sloughed off the “Dream Team” talk in the days since backup quarterback Vince Young, another free-agent acquisition, dropped the phrase after he arrived at camp. After one preseason game and a couple of weeks of training camp in the hills above the main campus of Lehigh University, players are staying in their respective lanes.
There’s probably no better navigator for a team increasingly full of big name-talent than Andy Reid, who has dealt with the likes of Terrell Owens and others during his first dozen years as Eagles head coach.
“I think it’s pretty simple,” Reid said. “You need to be honest with them and have some trust. Those are two things that are crucial for a football team, crucial to any relationship in life. We are going to try to work at it.”
Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ salary cap wiz and general manager, also dismissed any notion that the players who got Philly to within a touchdown of beating the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in the first round of the playoffs last season will be forgotten with the influx of new faces — and big contracts like Asomugha’s five-year, $60 million deal.
“This is a unique situation in terms of where we were cap-wise and the free-agent market,” Roseman said. “We were able to aggressively go after some guys. Our commitment to our (existing) players continues. I bet if you look at it, we’re in the top five when it comes to extending contracts to our current guys.”
By trading quarterback Kevin Kolb last month, the Eagles dealt one potential distraction for another. Gone was Kolb, who went down in the first week of last season with a concussion and surrendered the starting job to a resurgent Michael Vick. But the deal also gave the Eagles three Pro Bowl-caliber cornerbacks: Rodgers-Cromartie (acquired along with a draft pick for Kolb), Asomugha and two-time Super Bowl winner Asante Samuel.
The Eagles aren’t quite as stacked at other positions, but they are definitely deeper. LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 1,080 yards a season ago, is now backed up by Ronnie Brown, a 734-yard rusher with the Miami Dolphins last season. Tight end Brent Celek now has former Packer Donald Lee behind him.
The only tenuous skill position on offense during camp has been wide receiver, even with the addition of Smith, who played his first four seasons with the New York Giants.
Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson, who is slated to make about $600,000 this season, missed the first 11 days of camp before he ended his holdout. Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles’ No. 2 receiver who had 10 TD catches a season ago, has missed all of camp as doctors ran tests to determine what caused rapid weight loss. After a brief cancer scare, Maclin told FOXSports.com’s Jay Glazer on Wednesday that he has a clean bill of health and is ready to return.
“Everything is starting to jell,” said Vick, who enters the season as the No. 1 QB for the first time since he was a member of the Atlanta Falcons in 2006. “Everything is looking good. We are making strides every day. We’re getting comfortable with one another. I’m glad to have DeSean back in the mix.”
Beyond Maclin, the Eagles had a scare when defensive tackle Mike Patterson fell to the ground and had a seizure on Aug. 3. He later was diagnosed with a brain disorder known as arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in which blood vessels are tangled near the skull. He returned to individual workouts on Saturday.
Reid said he’s optimistic both will be back in the mix soon.
“With both players, I know they can play,” Reid said. “We just want to make sure they are OK.”
Reid told reporters a day before camp opened that he didn’t agree with the elimination of two-a-day practices, one of the elements of the league’s new collective-bargaining agreement. Known for his physical, high-impact practices, Reid said his players adjusted so well to the new rules that he broke camp on Tuesday — a day earlier than scheduled.
“We’ve had some tough practice up here, and that really brought the team together,” Reid said. “There was no complaining and there was maximum effort, so that was rewarded. I’m going to give them a little bit of an early leave here. They deserve a day off.”
The players, coaches and team staff headed back toward Philadelphia, not that the scrutiny and expectations didn’t make their way 50 miles or so north to a waterlogged Lehigh Valley.
“It’s always like this, man,” longtime Eagles center Jamaal Jackson said. “It’s the City of Brotherly Love. Coaches and everybody else do a pretty good job of putting together a good roster. Of course, (the moves are) going to attract a lot of attention. We just have to put it all together on the field and make it work.”
All the splashy signings and proclamations haven’t changed one thing: The Eagles haven’t won the NFL title since 1960.
“Trust me, you guys don’t put any pressure on us,” Vick said. “We have to go out and play this game. It’s football. It’s something we dreamed about doing our lives. It’s honor to be able to play in this league. So pressure? There is no pressure. We are always thinking Super Bowl.”