The date was January 3rd, 2016. The Eagles had just wrapped up their 2015 season with a meaningless 35-30 win over the hapless New York Giants to finish with a 7-9 record and lock in a slightly shittier pick in the 2016 draft.
Chip Kelly had been fired just four days earlier after refusing to attend Jeffrey Lurie’s holiday party and alienating every player on the team with the exception of Riley Cooper.
Donald Trump, just months earlier as part of a YOLO dare, announced that he would run for President of the United States, giving the nation a nice little chuckle. And Howie Roseman, fresh off his time as supply closet manager and much to the dismay of almost every Eagles fan, re-gained control of the iron throne at One Novacare Way.
It has been just over two years since that day, and HOLY SHIT have things changed.
The Eagles are playing in the fucking SUPER BOWL and are set up for success for the next decade and change.
There are several players or coaches who have joined the team since that day in January and contributed to the Eagles’ success, but through it all, there has been only one common denominator: Howie Roseman.
In just two years, Roseman turned an underperforming, overpaid, self-serving 7-9 team into a Super Bowl contender. All while working in a very tight salary cap situation.
Fun Fact: Every single point scored, fumble recovered, interception, or sack by the Eagles in the playoffs, with the exception of one, has come at the hands of a player acquired within the last two years. The one exception: a Fletcher Cox sack. Who was responsible for extending Cox prior to the 2016 season? That would be Howie Roseman.
Obviously, Roseman has done an excellent job, but in looking back at every notable transaction over the last two years, it may be even better than we think.
Hiring Doug Pederson
Roseman is primarily responsible for acquiring player talent, but it would be silly not to mention his role in bringing in dopey (whoops) Doug Pederson. Not only has dopey Doug proven that he is not the Clark Griswold many thought he was, but he has gone full Liam Neeson on us, unleashing a particular set of skills nobody knew he had and kicking the shit out of the rest of the league.
2016/2017 Draft & Undrafted Free Agent Classes
2016: Carson Wentz, Wendell Smallwood, Isaac Seumalo, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Blake Countess, Jalen Mills, Alex McCalister, Joe Walker, Marcus Johnson, Destiny Vaeao
2017: Derek Barnett, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Mack Hollins, Donnel Pumphrey, Shelton Gibson, Nate Gerry, Elijah Qualls, Corey Clement
The most obvious win here is Carson Wentz, but remember, it’s not as if Roseman just had the second pick and spent it on Wentz. He had the 13th pick in the draft and pulled off what was perhaps the most creative draft maneuver by anyone not named Kevin Costner. It’s not as if Wentz was the clear cut number one quarterback either. The NFL and draft community was very divisive on the player Wentz would turn out to be. Major credit goes to Howie and the Eagles front office for getting that one right.
Aside from Wentz, the rest of the 2016 class is impressive given the lack of resources Roseman had at his disposal. Big V, Jalen Mills, and Destiny Vaeao are all major contributors to this team and were all selected in the fifth round or later.
The 2017 class has also contributed quite a bit as well. Derek Barnett, obviously, but Rasul Douglas and Mack Hollins have both made several big plays in limited action and Corey Clement has been critical to the Eagles success on third downs in pass protection or catching passes out of the backfield. Both things he rarely ever did in college. Sidney Jones hasn’t even played!
Not all draft picks turn out to be stars, but getting this level of contributions from later round investments has been one of the major differentiators for this team.
Riley Cooper, DeMeco Ryans, Josh Huff, Connor Barwin, Ryan Mathews
Not much to see here. Most of these cuts were expected, but the Eagles haven’t been negatively impacted by any of them. So, that’s good.
Notable Contract Extensions
Sam Bradford, Malcolm Jenkins, Vinny Curry, Lane Johnson, Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, Fletcher Cox, Donnie Jones, Chris Maragos, Trey Burton, Jason Peters, Timmy Jernigan, Alshon Jeffery
The thing to note here is that when getting these extensions done, Roseman has done a particularly good job in accurately predicting the market at each position. Take Jeffery for example; his new contract pays him $6.75 million guaranteed per year, good for fifth in the NFL among receivers. But, when players such as Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Amari Cooper, Brandin Cooks, Jordy Nelson and Golden Tate are up for new contracts in 2019, Jeffery’s $6.75 million per year will look pretty damn good.
Last offseason, there was a lot of criticism over the contract handed out to Curry. To be fair, though, if we think back to the extension, there was not one person in the entire city of Philadelphia that wouldn’t have made that deal. In fact, Curry was often talked about on sports radio airwaves as one of the primary reasons that the Eagles should switch back to the 4-3 defense. Howie is a lot of things, but a soothsayer is not one of them.
Despite this, Curry was able to change that narrative to some degree in 2017. While he may not be the star many thought he would be, his contract looks much better one year later.
Notable Free Agent Signings
This is where it gets juicy.
The Eagles know from experience that the core of a team cannot be built through free agency. That must be done through the draft. But no draft class is perfect and it only takes one underperforming draft class to create holes in a roster.
Free agency is crucial to ensure those holes get filled and, in some cases, like Alshon Jeffery, can even provide an upgrade. One poor investment, however, can really set the team back. Navigating the waters of free agency can be a really difficult task.
Take a look through Roseman’s signings over the last two years. They are quite impressive:
Chase Daniel, Nigel Bradham, Rodney McLeod, Brandon Brooks, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Torrey Smith, Patrick Robinson, Chris Long, Nick Foles, Stefen Wisniewski, Chance Warmack, Alshon Jeffery, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Graham, Jake Elliot, Bryan Braman
This list is pretty incredible. Not only have these players not been disappointing, almost all of them have outplayed the investment Roseman made in them. Even the smaller signings like Grugier-Hill have made an impact. Corey Graham has been critical to this defense in allowing Malcolm Jenkins to come down and play in the box, particularly since Jordan Hicks has been out.
Remember when everyone was upset that the Eagles were paying Nick Foles too much money to be a backup? What about Jake Elliott? Anyone ever heard of that guy? Even Bryan Braman, who was acquired in December, blocked a fucking punt in the divisional round playoff game versus the Falcons!
Almost everything Howie has touched in free agency has turned to gold.
Trades are not very common in the NFL, but that is what makes Roseman so unique.
Market inefficiencies flow through the NFL like the plague. Every year, a handful of new coaches take control of their teams, promise to adapt their scheme to the players they have and then proceed to get rid of any and all players who either don’t fit the scheme or take issue with it.
As a result, players like Jay Ajayi become available for a fourth-round pick. Other players, such as Timmy Jernigan, become cap casualties and teams, desperate to get anything of value for them, give them up in exchange for swapping third-round picks.
The inefficiencies of the market are insane, and Roseman is like a shark smelling blood. Take a look at some of the bigger acquisitions that Roseman has made via trade:
Carson Wentz, Sam Bradford, Timmy Jernigan, Ronald Darby, Jay Ajayi
When the Vikings coughed up a first and a fourth for Bradford, the narrative centered on how lucky Roseman got. While luck did play a role, Howie should be commended for how well he played his hand.
The supposed trade market for Bradford at the time was minimal. Roseman very easily could have jumped on a fourth-round pick in desperation to get some value from him, but he sat tight. Did he know that Teddy Bridgewater would get hurt? Absolutely not. But, in a league with 32 starting quarterbacks, the odds of one of them going down is pretty good. It wasn’t dumb luck, Roseman took those odds and it paid off.
Low Risk Misses
Roseman hasn’t been perfect over the last two years, there have been a few moves that haven’t worked out or don’t currently look promising.
Leodis McKelvin, T.J. Graham, Reuben Randle, Chris Givens, Nolan Carroll, Dorial Green-Beckham, Isaac Seumalo, Donnel Pumphrey
These were all low-risk investments, though. Not one of these players have really set the team back.
Much of the talk this season has been focused on how great this Eagles team is and how great of a coach Doug Pederson has turned out to be. Heading into Super Bowl week, I think it’s time we tip our cap to the non-football guy that this blue collar town never gave a chance.