After Jeffrey Lurie realized what a horrid mistake it was to give the incompetent Chip Kelly full control over personnel decisions, he returned to his comfort zone and restored Roseman’s position as General Manager.
A year ago, I evaluated all of the horrendous decisions by Chip Kelly.
Now let’s do the same for Howie, and see how he fared this season.
1. Contract Extensions
Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson, Vinny Curry, Fletcher Cox, Malcolm Jenkins, Brent Celek, Sam Bradford
The Good: One of Howie Roseman’s signature techniques throughout his tenure with the Eagles has been to lock up the team’s young talent well before they hit free agency. Roseman made it a priority right away to get whatever young talent Chip Kelly hadn’t thrown away under contract for the long-term. The majority of these resignings were praised at the time they happened, and the move that paid off the most was getting Sam Bradford to sign to a very team-friendly, tradeable contract that set the stage for the Eagles to acquire a first-round pick from the Vikings in August.
The Bad: A lot of these guys underperformed in 2016. Zach Ertz was expected to make his leap to the NFL’s elite at the tight end position, but didn’t show up until December once the team had been eliminated. Lane Johnson is an elite tackle when he plays, but his 10-game suspension really cost the team. Vinny Curry was almost completely invisible on the defensive line, and Fletcher Cox’s output was far from what you’d expect from a defensive tackle worth over $100 million. Malcolm Jenkins was the one big extension that played up to his contract throughout the season.
Verdict: It’s too early to call these moves bad contracts. I think its really important to remember that these guys are still fairly young players. No one is more frustrated by the annual talk of an Ertz breakout than myself, but there’s no denying that the ability is there and could still pan out.
As for the defensive line, production was down across the board, and I blame Jim Schwartz and his scheme for the lack of sack production moreso than the players. No Eagle had more than six sacks this year. Its very hard for me to believe that Cox, Curry, Brandon Graham and Bennie Logan all became mediocre players and forgot how to get to the quarterback overnight.
2. Free Agent Signings
Leodis McKelvin: The McKelvin signing hasn’t been a popular one, but I think a lot of people forget that the intention originally was to have him man the slot while Nolan Carroll and Eric Rowe started on the outside. Unfortunately, Rowe fell out of favor with Jim Schwartz quickly, and forced McKelvin into an outside role from Day 1, where he battled a hamstring injury and performed poorly most of the season.
Brandon Brooks: Brooks has been an excellent addition to the offensive line, solidifying the right guard spot.
Rodney McLeod: McLeod has joined Malcolm Jenkins to give the Birds easily their best safety tandem since Brian Dawkins and Quintin Mikell in 2008. How long has it been since we’ve been able to say that the safeties are a strength of this defense and not a weakness?
Nigel Bradham: A Jim Schwartz guy who was a solid, though unspectacular addition to the starting lineup. Affordable contract, quality production, not much to complain about here.
Ron Brooks: Another Schwartz guy signed to be a fourth corner, pressed into the nickel role once McKelvin was forced to the outside, was mediocre before going down for the season with an injury.
Chase Daniel: Expensive insurance policy at the quarterback position. Looked pretty bad in the preseason, and did not attempt a pass in the regular season. Safe to say that the Eagles’ offense might have looked historically bad if you had an offense featuring Chase Daniel throwing to Nelson Agholor.
Chris Givens/Rueben Randle: This is the part of free agency that Howie really whiffed on. The team needed some kind of effective veteran presence at the wide receiver position, and the two guys he took shots on weren’t even good enough to make the team on a roster starved for help at the position.
Stefan Wisniewski: Solid veteran presence for the offensive line. Was able to come in whenever called upon and perform at an acceptable level. I’m disappointed that Doug Pederson didn’t give Wisniewski more of an opportunity to compete for a starting position in training camp; I think he’s better than starter Alan Barbre.
Nolan Carroll: Carroll tested free agency and returned to the Eagles on a one-year deal. He really had a rough season, and may not be back in 2017.
Stephen Tulloch: Veteran insurance at the linebacker position rarely saw the field.
Verdict: I think Howie did a nice job with his 2016 free agency class. His two big-money signings, Brooks and McLeod, lived up to their contracts and were welcome additions to the team. Bradham and Wisniewski were solid, low-risk signings that brought something to the table as well.
No General Manager is going to hit on every signing or every draft pick. McKelvin didn’t help much in 2017, but again its important to keep in perspective that the team never expected him to be more than a stopgap.
The one aspect where I certainly think criticism in warranted is the failure to bring in a productive veteran receiver. There were good guys available on the market. Mike Wallace has been a great pickup for the Ravens, and would have given the Eagles an explosive vertical threat that they just didn’t have.
But anytime you can look at a free agency class and successfully come away with multiple starters for the long-term, you’ve done a pretty good job.
Especially when you compare it to Byron Maxwell, DeMarco Murray trainwreck orchestrated by Chip just a year prior.
The Trade Up To #2: Howie made his biggest priority to find a long-term answer at the quarterback position. He accomplished this with multiple trades that not only paved the pay for the Eagles to take Carson Wentz, but also jettisoned some of the albatross contracts and big mistakes made by Kelly in 2015.
Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso were shipped to Miami in the move up from pick 13 to pick 8. DeMarco Murray was banished to Tennessee in a swap of fourth rounders that would later be used to complete the deal with the Browns.
Roseman also made his deal to get up to #2 without crippling the team’s draft assets in future years by spreading out the cost over multiple seasons. The team gave up their first rounder next season, and a second rounder in 2018, putting them in a workable situation for years to come.
Mark Sanchez To Denver for Cap Relief: The Eagles mercifully wanted to move on from Mark Sanchez. They could have released him for a cap savings worth over $3 million, but a trade would grant them an additional million on top of that. Roseman found a taker in the Denver Broncos, shipping the turnover-prone quarterback out west for a conditional seventh rounder. Sanchez was released, and the Broncos no longer owed the Eagles a pick, but this was a nice move just to pick up additional cap flexibility.
Dorial Green-Beckham for Dennis Kelly: I know DGB isn’t a very popular guy in town after the 2016 season, but this trade was worth a role of the dice no matter how it ended up. Dennis Kelly was a completely replaceable spare part that the Eagles no longer needed thanks to the other additions they had made to the line through free agency and the draft. Green-Beckham was just a year removed from being a second-round pick, and offered considerable upside to a lacking group of receivers. Personally, I’m not ready to give up on DGB, but at worst the Eagles gave up practically nothing to take a shot on him.
Sam Bradford for 1st and 4th Round Picks: This move may not only be the crowning achievement of Roseman’s 2016, but also his entire career as a General Manager. When the Eagles brought back Bradford and then made the move to get Wentz, the hope was that Bradford would play well enough for the team to squeeze a third, maybe even a second-round pick out of him. Instead, Roseman picked up a top-15 selection for the disappointing failure of a quarterback, and an additional 2018 fourth rounder for good measure. The move greatly offset the cost of trading up for Wentz, and put the Eagles in prime position to speed up their rebuild. Oh, and it also allowed Wentz to get a full 16 games under his belt rather than waiting until 2017 to begin his career.
Eric Rowe for a 4th Round Pick: This is the move that a lot of people are going to criticize and question, and rightly so. The Eagles certainly may have jumped the gun on giving up on Rowe. He’s become a solid contributor for the Patriots, and the Eagles are still looking for long-term answers at both corners. I can’t fault anyone that’s upset by this deal, but I would argue that it was still the right move to make. I don’t think Rowe was going to succeed in Philadelphia. He had already fallen out of favor, and was only going to be buried on the depth chart here. The Eagles had an opportunity to recoup a pretty decent draft pick for a guy that wasn’t in their long-term plans, and they now have three picks in the fourth round in 2018 to use as ammo to either improve to the team or make other deals.
Verdict: Once again, solid to great moves across the board. To acquire a top quarterback prospect, while also collecting an excellent haul for the lame-duck starter that wasn’t part of the future earns this year’s group of trades an A-mark on their own. Seeing Rowe succeed in New England is tough, but its not as though the team received no value for him in return.
4. Draft Day
Carson Wentz (1st round): Ah, a legitimate franchise quarterback prospect. After watching the Eagles take shortsighted approaches year after year of the post-McNabb era, attempting to revive the careers of failed former first-round picks Michael Vick, Vince Young, Mark Sanchez, and Sam Bradford, to trying to get away with developing middling prospects like Kevin Kolb, Nick Foles, and Matt Barkley, it was refreshing to see them finally return to the top of the draft and commit to a guy for the long-term.
Issac Seumalo (3rd round): I initially didn’t like the Seumalo pick on draft day, but he performed well when called upon. He could potentially be a long-term starter at either guard or center, giving his selection considerable value.
Wendell Smallwood (5th round): Smallwood, at minimum, looks like he has a place in the league as a kick returner or a change-of-pace option in the running game. Not a feature back, but a solid reserve.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai (5th round): Pressed into action after the Johnson suspension went into effect, and held his own after a rough showing in his first start against Washington. Probably needs more development time, but there is clearly some upside here.
Blake Countess (6th round): Failed to make the team.
Jalen Mills (7th round): Probably the rookie who contributed the most after Wentz. Held his own despite being put into difficult situations all season. Should be very much in the mix for a starting role moving forward.
Alex McAlister/Joe Walker (7th round): Injured reserve.
Verdict: The long-term success or failure of Wentz is ultimately what will define this class, but things look good here after the initial season. The Eagles didn’t have a lot of picks to work with, but through the additions of Seumalo, Smallwood, Vaitai, and Mills, Roseman was able to come away with a handful of players that were able to contribute this year, and also may have the upside to do more in the future.
When you look at Howie Roseman’s 2016, you really have to admire the work that he was able to do.
The Eagles were run into the ground by Chip Kelly. This was always going to be a multi-year fix, but I think Howie really sped up the process the Wentz and Bradford trades alone. In addition to identifying the franchise quarterback, he picked up a starting safety, guard, and linebacker, while also improving the team’s depth on the offensive line.
Much work remains, and questions still linger about Howie’s ability to hit on key picks at the top of the draft, but for the first time in quite awhile, the franchise’s arrow is legitimately pointing up.
Follow Denny Basens on Twitter, @DennyBasens