Did anyone expect the Eagles to get off to this kind of start? 5-1 with our only loss coming to the Chiefs? I had high expectation for this year, but I can’t say I saw this coming. I mean honestly; our 2nd year Quarterback has been playing at an MVP level, Dougie P is finally coming into his own as a Head Coach, former 1st round bust Nelson Agholor is our most explosive receiver, our defense is playing at an elite level, and despite numerous injuries we haven’t missed a step. At this point, it seems like nothing can go wrong for the birds. My excitement for Eagles football is at an all-time high, I’ve never been more confident in our football team and I truly mean that when I say it.
So, who’s to praise for all of this? None other than our General Manager, Howie Roseman. Roseman has been doubted time and time again, and to be honest before he lost his job to Chip Kelly for a year he didn’t really do anything to prove any of those doubters wrong. Besides a few solid free agent finds and draft picks, he didn’t do anything to prove that he could build a successful NFL franchise. He constantly overpaid for free agents and his talent evaluation for draft picks was subpar. He was the culprit behind the disastrous Dream Team and he drafted players like Danny Watkins and Marcus Smith in the first round. For all intents and purposes, he was a below average General Manager at best.
But then in 2015 Chip got handed the keys to the franchise and we all know how that went. He got rid of most of what Howie put together in an attempt to surround himself with his “type” of players. He traded All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy for Linebacker Kiko Alonso, swapped quarterbacks with the Rams (Nick Foles for Sam Bradford), cut Pro Bowlers Evan Mathis and Trent Cole, and he invested a combined $103 million in cap space to Demarco Murray and Byron Maxwell. As everyone knows, none of these moves panned out and Chip was fired before the 2015 season was even over.
Chip didn’t exactly leave on good terms and what he left behind was a literal shit show. Roseman was subsequently promoted back to his former position of General Manager and was put in charge of cleaning up the mess that Chip left behind. He wasted no time in doing just that. Most of the moves that Chip made were effectively erased by Roseman. He was able to trade a tandem of underachievers in Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell along with their 2016 first round (No. 13) to Miami in exchange for their 2016 first round pick (No. 8), he traded Demarco Murray (along with his ridiculous contract) and a 2016 fourth round draft pick to Tennessee in exchange for their 2016 fourth round pick. Roseman pulled both of these transactions off on the first official day of free agency (March 9th), and he didn’t stop there. He handed out contract extensions to a handful of key players who were acquired by Howie before Chip took the reigns. These players included; safety Malcolm Jenkins (5-year extension), defensive end Vinny Curry (5-year extension), offensive tackle Lane Johnson (6-year extension), and tight end Zach Ertz (5-year extension). Putting effort into retaining his own players was something Roseman was not necessarily known for in his first tenure as General Manager. He was actually known for the complete opposite, overpaying for big name free agents who didn’t fit the system or culture they were going into. Retaining your own talent is a critical aspect of being a successful General Manager in the NFL and it was refreshing to see Howie finally recognize that.
Along with getting rid of Chip’s mistakes, Howie did something that Chip failed to do; get a franchise quarterback. Coming off an offseason in 2016 where the Chip/Mariota talk dominated the Philly media, getting one of the top quarterbacks in the 2017 draft wasn’t something many people were talking about. Just a month or two prior to the draft Howie had just resigned Sam Bradford to what looked like a “prove yourself” deal and all signs pointed to Sammy Sleeves yet again leading the birds at the quarterback position. And then it happened. With about a week to go before the draft Howie pulled off one of the biggest draft trades off all time moving from number 8 all the way to the 2nd pick that was held by Cleveland. The details of the trade are as follows; Eagles got the Browns’ 2016 first round pick (No. 2) and a 2017 fourth round pick, the Browns got the Eagles’ 2016 first round pick (No. 8), 2016 third round pick, 2016 fourth round pick, 2017 first round pick, and 2018 second round pick. Howie was able to get the 2017 first round pick back when he surprisingly trade Sam Bradford a week before the regular season to the Vikings in exchange for their 2017 first round pick. This trade jump started the Wentz era in Philly and the birds haven’t looked back.
Wentz and Pederson’s rookie campaign wasn’t anything special, they finished 7-9 after getting off to a promising 3-0 start. The 2016 team still had some glaring holes that needed to be addressed in the offseason. Most notable of these holes was the wide receiver position. Howie filled this hole with two free agent signings in Torrey Smith and pro-bowler Alshon Jeffery. Both were signed to one-year “prove it” deals, something Howie had never done before. As I mentioned earlier, Howie constantly overpaid for free agents in his first stint as GM. It’s nice to see that Howie is learning from his mistakes, something that has eluded Philadelphia sports figures for as long as I can remember (I’m talking to you Chip). Along with filling the holes at receiver, Howie also added depth to the defensive line with Chris Long, Timmy Jernigan, and Derek Barnett in the first round of the 2017 draft. He was also able to fill the biggest hole on defense, cornerback. At the time, the Patrick Robinson signing seemed like a move to just add depth to weak secondary but it’s proven to be much more than just a depth signing. Robinson is currently ranked as the number one cornerback according to Pro Football Focus through six weeks, which is simply remarkable. Roseman also added more corners in the draft with Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas. And during the preseason Howie traded wideout Jordan Matthews for another cornerback, Ronald Darby. All of these moves provided both talent and depth to the team, something that Howie has had a hard time balancing in the past.
I’m not sure what Howie was up to while Chip was tearing this team apart but whatever he learned or did in that time span has worked. The differences in his approach to building a team are night and day. It finally seems like he has a formula for success and he’s not just winging it with his free agent signings or draft picks. Getting a franchise quarterback is the most important step in building a sustainably successful franchise and Howie pulled it off in his first offseason back as General Manager. On the field, this team will go as far as Wentz takes them, and off the field we’re finally in trustworthy hands with Howie Roseman.