February 24, 2022
Over the last month or so, we have taken a comprehensive look at which Philadelphia Eagles players and coaches will likely be back with the team in 2022, and which ones likely won't. Today we'll finish out the series with general manager Howie Roseman.
On the polls below, they are your votes on what you think the Eagles should do, not necessarily what you think they will do. Please think of them more as approval polls.
Previous stay or go articles:
Jonathan Gannon | Nick Sirianni
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Tight end | Safety | Defensive tackle | Cornerback | Guard | Specialists | Quarterback
Roseman took a franchise in free-fall after the firing of Chip Kelly, and in quick work turned it into a Super Bowl winner. In 2017 in particular, Roseman made a series of free agent and trade acquisitions that (almost) all panned out in a big way. Those signings included Nick Foles, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Stefen Wisniewski, Chris Long, Timmy Jernigan, Patrick Robinson, Ronald Darby, Corey Graham, and Jake Elliott, all of whom, to varying degrees, helped the Eagles win their first Super Bowl. The roster that he built was so strong that even the loss of its likely MVP quarterback to a devastating knee injury couldn't stop it from achieving the ultimate goal.
The team appeared to be as well-positioned as any in the NFL to compete for a Super Bowl every year for the foreseeable future. All they really had to do was hit on a reasonable number of draft picks, make judicious decisions on which core players to retain long-term, and not completely blow it in free agency. However, over the next three offseasons, with the exception of the 2018 draft, Roseman largely failed on all three accounts, and the champs steadily declined each year until they hit rock bottom in 2020, when they finished with a 4-11-1 season.
In the aftermath, Doug Pederson lost his job, but Roseman got to keep his. Based on comments from Jeffrey Lurie after the season had concluded, Roseman's job was seemingly never in real jeopardy. Still, Roseman needed a quality 2021 offseason, or his proverbial seat would be on fire, at least publicly.
Let's look at what Roseman did over the last year in free agency, the draft, and contract extensions/restructures.
Following the Eagles' disastrous 2020 season during which he was benched, Wentz wanted out of Philly and the Eagles were willing to oblige him. They found a suitor in Frank Reich and the Indianapolis Colts, who coughed up a third-round pick in 2021, and a second-round pick in 2022 that would eventually become a first-round pick after Wentz hit playing time benchmarks.
By trading Wentz, the Eagles took on an unprecedented dead money hit of $33,820,611 on their 2021 salary cap, which was actually a small savings of $852,925. Still, that became the biggest dead money hit in NFL history by a country mile. The benefit, however, was that the Eagles ripped off the proverbial Band-Aid, as Wentz will not count on the cap at all in 2022 or beyond.
A year later, and the Eagles are the slam dunk winners of that deal, as Wentz may very well be one-and-done in Indy after he choked away the Colts' playoff hopes with losses to the Las Vegas Raiders and the atrocious Jacksonville Jaguars in the Colts' final two games, which were essentially "win and in" matchups.
While the trade of Wentz represented an organizational-wide failure by the team, they wisely knew when to cut their losses, salvage some value in return for a losing player, and make him someone else's problem.
In the past, we have been critical of Roseman and the Eagles for overrating their own players at times, but in this case they knew when to move on.
To begin the 2021 offseason, the Eagles were like eleventy billion dollars over the salary cap and as expected, they restructured the contracts of a slew of aging players, kicking the can down the road into future years, while also jettisoning a bunch of big-name players.
In addition to dealing Wentz, players like Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Malik Jackson were all released, while others like Jalen Mills, Vinny Curry, and Cameron Johnston bolted in free agency. Zach Ertz stuck with the team longer than anticipated, but he was eventually traded, too.
They also converted players' salaries into signing bonuses, which is an easy way to dump cap charges into future years, so much so in fact that when the 2021 concluded, there wasn't a single player on the team with a salary higher than $2 million.
A quick glance at OverTheCap.com will show that the Eagles currently have about $18.5 million in salary cap space, 15th most in the league. Pretty good, right? Nah, not really. Since they have already restructured their veteran players' contracts repeatedly, the Eagles have the least amount of restructure flexibility in the NFL, and their "potential cap space" is not in good shape, relative to most other teams, shown here:
Here's a way to visualize how much effective cap space teams have currently, and how much they can end up with if they complete max restructures on their veteran contracts. This is a better way to evaluate how much money teams have for the offseason than just current cap space pic.twitter.com/lOtEX4sS8g— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) February 17, 2022
To be clear, the Eagles' restructures of their veteran players' contracts were necessary, and generally speaking, the contract nerd community often praises the Eagles (rightfully) for the creative ways that Roseman and Jake Rosenberg execute the Eagles' restructures.
However, the glaring move that Roseman got wrong was when he quietly restructured Fletcher Cox's contract prior to the start of the season, giving the Eagles some added cap space in 2021 while also opening up some other future options. In the process, they also made him basically untradeable during the 2021 season.
Prior to that restructure, we had suggested that the Eagles should explore Cox trade opportunities, on the premise that:
Before the Eagles restructured Cox's contract, it would have been pretty easy to trade him, financially speaking, as we explained at the time.
Cox carries huge cap hits in each of the next two seasons. He'll count for $23,879,939 in 2021, and $23,779,939 in 2022, the last year of his deal. Additionally, as a result of some previous can-kicking down the road, the Eagles are on the hook for almost $6.5 million on the cap after his contract ends.
The Eagles would take a dead money hit spread out over two years of $21,034,757 if they traded him. But, they would be off the hook on his base salaries of $15,000,000 in 2021 and $16,100,000 in 2022, as well as a $1 million roster bonus in 2022. That $32.1 million would be better spent on players who can help the team whenever they are ready to contend for a Super Bowl again.
They also would have very likely gotten a reasonably good return for Cox, who at the time was still thought of as a top 5-10 interior defensive lineman, even if he wasn't the elite player he once was. In July, we suggested a valuation of a late second-round pick, a cost that might seem silly now but was not met with much disagreement at the time.
Because the Eagles were in such bad cap shape, they had to sit on the sidelines during the fun part of free agency. They did eventually add some one-year Band-Aids like Anthony Harris, Eric Wilson, Steven Nelson, Joe Flacco, Anthony Adams, and Ryan Kerrigan, with mixed results.
They were also able to trade for backup quarterback Gardner Minshew just before the start of the season for a very low cost of a sixth-round pick, which could prove to be a steal if Roseman can eventually flip Minshew for a higher return.
In March, as you all recall, the Eagles traded the sixth overall pick to the Miami Dolphins for the 12th overall pick, a 2022 first-round pick, and a move up from the fifth round to the fourth round in the 2021 draft. In chart form:
|Eagles got||Dolphins got|
|12th overall pick||6th overall pick|
|123rd overall pick (4th round) in 2021 draft||156th overall pick (5th round) in 2021 draft|
|Miami's 1st round pick in the 2022 draft|
The risk in moving back was that an elite prospect like Florida TE Kyle Pitts or a great one in LSU WR Ja'Marr Chase might be available at pick No. 6, and the Eagles would have missed out on them by moving back. My feeling at the time was that the difference between Pitts or Chase and a guy like Smith wasn't so great that the Eagles should turn down a 2022 first-round pick, and that they made the right decision either way.
As it turned out, neither Pitts nor Chase were available anyway, as Pitts went fourth overall to the Falcons, while Chase got picked fifth overall by the Bengals. In other words, if the availability of Pitts and/or Chase would have changed the Eagles' minds on the move back, they made the right read that neither were likely to be available at pick No. 6.
As the draft unfolded, it was not going well for the Eagles, as two quarterbacks, Justin Fields and Mac Jones, began to slide, thus taking more non-quarterbacks — or more specifically the best wide receivers and cornerbacks — off of the board prior to the Eagles' pick. Chase and Pitts were gone, as were Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle (to the Dolphins at 6), South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn (to the Panthers at 8), and Patrick Surtain (to the Broncos at 9).
When the Cowboys were on the clock at pick No. 10, the Eagles' chances at landing the remaining wide receivers worthy of a top selection (Smith) were in doubt. The Giants were sitting at pick No. 11 and they were heavily rumored to be interested in Smith.
The Eagles were prepared. With Dallas in desperate need of help at cornerback and the top two corners gone, the Eagles were able to trade up with the Cowboys ahead of the Giants to land their guy. The cost was the second of the Eagles' two third-round picks (84th overall, from the Wentz trade), a reasonable cost to ensure the selection of likely the last slam dunk first round target on their board.
Again, Roseman's read was very likely right that the Giants would have taken Smith, as evidenced by their subsequent trade out of the 11th pick, and eventual selection of another receiver, Florida's Kadarius Toney, at pick No. 20.
Had the Eagles just stayed at the sixth pick and selected Smith, it would have been an acceptable pick, though certainly not a coup. (They likely would have taken either Horn or Surtain, in my opinion.)
Instead, Roseman's maneuvering netted the Eagles significantly added draft capital, in addition to a player who broke the Eagles' rookie season record for receiving yards. A snapshot of what the Eagles gained and lost, from the time they owned the No. 6 pick, until they made their pick:
|The Eagles got...||The Eagles gave up...|
|DeVonta Smith||6th overall pick, which became Waddle, but probably would've been Surtain had the Eagles kept it.|
|Miami's 1st round pick in 2022||84th overall pick (3rd round) in 2021 draft|
|123rd overall pick (4th round) in 2021 draft||156th overall pick (5th round) in 2021 draft|
There may be some quibbling that the Eagles should have selected Micah Parsons with the 10th overall pick instead of Smith. Stop. Unlike when Roseman selected Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson, any suggestions that Parsons should have been the pick over Smith is pure "hindsight 20-20" nonsense. But also, Smith is, you know, really good.
On Day 2, they took a couple of swings on high upside players. Many fans didn't like the selection of Landon Dickerson, and Tom Donahoe didn't like the selection of Milton Williams, lol. However, Dickerson could be an All-Pro if he's able to stay healthy, and Williams' athletic profile was absolutely worth the price of a third-round pick.
We'll see in time if any of their Day 3 picks pan out, but Kenny Gainwell appears to have been a nice value pick in the fifth round.
Overall, Roseman did a nice job with the 2021 draft. They made smart picks, while not trying to be too smart for their own good, if that makes any sense, and Roseman was able to add major future assets with his trade maneuvering.
During the season, the Eagles were able to come to agreements on contract extensions with Dallas Goedert, Jordan Mailata, Josh Sweat, and Avonte Maddox.
The deals for Mailata and Goedert in particular could look like steals in a few years after the salary cap rises substantially.
#JimmyVerdict: Obviously as last offseason proved, if Roseman was able to survive three consecutive bad offseasons, he isn't going anywhere now. So, stay.
He had an excellent 2021 calendar year overall, helping mend a bad, old, expensive, boring roster that, well, you know, he created. We've seen Roseman pull the Eagles out of the gutter in the past, and perhaps he's on his way toward doing that again. He's definitely more of a builder than a sustainer.
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