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January 11, 2023

Ranking Howie Roseman's 15 best free agent signings

Howie Roseman's moves brought the Eagles a Super Bowl once before and may do so again this winter.

When Howie Roseman is in slump, the dude is ice cold. When he's hot, he is the core of the sun. Running the show as the Eagles' general manger and top executive for roughly a dozen years, he's had hits and misses. The misses are egregious. Just mention Nnamdi Asomugha or Jalen Reagor to an Eagles fan. The hits though? Some of those are of the "swing of his life" variety. 

With the Eagles on bye ahead of the NFL's Wild Card Weekend and Roseman once again having the Eagles as Super Bowl contenders, it feels apt to look back on his career and discuss his best free agent signings ever.

I'm splitting this up into three tiers: Stars, Super Bowl Heroes and Legends. I value winning over everything. Are some of the guys in the "Stars" tier better than the ones in the "Super Bowl Heroes" tier? Definitely, but those players got to the promised land. Maybe my list looks different in late February, but I'm going with my gut here. 

Banners hang forever.

Let's get after it...

For the record, I am only judging moves made from 2010-2014 and 2016 to the present. Chip Kelly's reign in power in 2015 does not count for this. Additionally, I'm not including players who were undrafted rookie free agents. 


Again, I might be a month away from having a few of these guys leap into the "Super Bowl Heroes" tier. 

15. Javon Hargrave, DT, 2020-present

Hargrave's first season in Philly started slow, but he's responded with a Pro Bowl season in 2021 before recording 11 sacks in 2022. He was robbed of a second-consecutive Pro Bowl nod. Hargrave was an integral part of the Eagles' historic 70-sack campaign

14. Connor Barwin, OLB, 2013-2016

Brought in during the Chip Kelly era, Barwin went Second-Team All-Pro in 2014 with 14.5 sacks. He was a key defensive starter on two 10-win teams. 

Barwin is also, by all accounts, a great dude too, who's done great charity work throughout the city even after his playing days ended.

13. James Bradberry, CB, 2022-present

Bradberry might end up playing just one year in Philadelphia, but it's been a hell of a year. Even with multiple-time Pro Bowler Darius Slay on the team, Bradberry has been the Eagles' best corner. He should be an All-Pro candidate. Opposing quarterbacks have a rating of 51.6 when targeting him in 2022. 

12. Evan Mathis, OG, 2011-2014

An unheralded OL signing in 2011, Mathis had a stint as the best guard in football during his four years as a starter in Philly. He was a Pro Bowler in both 2013 and 2014. Mathis was a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2013 too. 

11. Haason Reddick, OLB, 2022-present

I've laid out the Defensive Player of the Year case for Reddick already. A three-year contract worth just $30 million guaranteed was a steal for Reddick. The Camden native and former Temple walk-on had 16 sacks this season. "From Here" vibes to the max. 

Super Bowl Heroes

These are the dudes who brought the Lombardi Trophy to Philly. 

10. Jake Elliott, K, 2017-present

If Caleb Sturgis doesn't get hurt early in the 2017 season, the Birds don't sign Elliott. If Elliott doesn't hit that game-winning 61-yard field goal against the Giants in Week 3, the Eagles might drop to 1-2, creating a butterfly effect where they never win the Super Bowl.

Elliott has come up clutch time and time again for the Eagles. 

An improbably underrated kick from him: a 46-yard make in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LII to make things 41-33. That's not talked about enough! 

9. Torrey Smith, WR, 2017

What Roseman did so wisely during the 2017 offseason was bringing in guys who had championship experience like Smith, Chris Long and LeGarrette Blount. 

Smith was the deep threat the franchise had been lacking ever since they cut DeSean Jackson. In a familiar theme for the players in this tier, his biggest moments came in the postseason. There was his catch off Keanu Neal's knee to put the Eagles in position to kick an end-of-half field goal against Atlanta in the 2017 Divisional Round. 

That led to an Eagles win and eventually Smith's shining moment in midnight green:

8. Chris Long, DE, 2017-2018

Another vet who had already won a ring, Long was a situational pass rusher on a fierce Eagles defensive line. 

He had five QB hits during the 2017 playoffs, none bigger than the one that caused an errant pass from Vikings QB Case Keenum in the NFC Championship Game, which Patrick Robinson took back to the house. 

Long later delivered an iconic tweet among Eagles fans about that 38-7 beatdown:

7. Patrick Robinson, CB, 2017

Athletes live their whole lives hoping to make a play that goes down in history like this:

In the stands at Lincoln Financial Field, it felt like the stadium was going to crumble into pieces on that pick-6. It was shaking. I've never seen a stadium react that way, neither before nor after. Anybody could've gotten it that night, indeed. 

6. Rodney McLeod, S, 2016-2021

McLeod had 11 picks across six years for the Birds, always a steady vet with a high football IQ. 

McLeod's best Eagles moment? Stuffing Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks to force a fourth down in the Super Bowl:

5. LeGarrette Blount, RB, 2017

Easily one of the coolest Eagles during my lifetime, Blount was a force in the regular season, rushing for 766 punishing yards while also balling out in the playoffs on the way to the third ring of his career. There was Blount steamrolling Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo in the NFC Championship Game and then his 90-yard performance in the Super Bowl itself.

Everything Roseman touched that 2017 offseason turned to gold! 

4. Alshon Jeffery, WR, 2017-2020

The Birds had dealt with lackluster receiver play for a few years after Jeremy Maclin left in free agency following the 2014 season. Jeffery's one-year deal in Philly was made to help Carson Wentz's development. The move turned into so much more than that. Jeffery had a nine-touchdown regular season and was even better when the games really mattered. 

Across the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl, Jeffery had 158 receiving yards and three touchdowns. His TD against the Patriots is the greatest catch I've ever seen an Eagle make:

Did Jeffery live up to the eventual contract extension he received? No, but his initial signing changed everything. As I said, I value winning and championships above all. 

3. Brandon Brooks, OG, 2016-2021

Brooks was a warrior who battled through injuries on the field and became a vocal mental health advocate off it. From 2017 to 2019, Brooks was the NFL's best guard, helping anchor an offense that put up 41 points in the Super Bowl and brought a parade to Broad Street.  

Legends Tier

The next two players exist in another universe in Philly sports lore. 

2. Malcolm Jenkins, S, 2014-2019

Jenkins was the heart and soul of the Eagles' Super Bowl team, leading them out of the tunnel as "Dreams and Nightmares" blasted on that fateful February night in Minnesota. Jenkins was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Birds, almost never came off the field and became a rallying figure when the Eagles went into underdog mode for that playoff run. 

1. Nick Foles, QB, 2017-2018

The prodigal son returns, rides the bench and delivers Philadelphia salvation. Roseman was the team's GM when the Eagles first drafted Foles in 2012. He was pushed aside when Kelly traded Foles in 2015 to the Rams. With Wentz the presumed franchise quarterback, Roseman brought Foles back to Philly to be a backup, not the savior of the region. 

Roseman has always taken a proactive approach to the QB position. That's why the Eagles drafted Foles when they had Michael Vick, signed Foles when they had Wentz and, now putting them on their current path to the Super Bowl, drafted Jalen Hurts when Wentz was still QB1. 

Nick Foles: football's greatest "break glass in case of emergency" sign. 

Did Roseman sign Foles in 2017 with the idea that he would bring the franchise Super Bowl glory? Of course not, but failure to prepare is preparing to fail. A contract with just $7 million guaranteed changed  Philly sports, and Philadelphia as a whole, forever. 

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