December 30, 2020
The Philadelphia Eagles will play one more meaningless game that they are better off losing, and then their disastrous 2020 season will be over. Decisions will be made over the next few months on the futures of the coaching staff, front office, and some of the team's most important players, in what is shaping up to be one of the most consequential offseasons in franchise history.
Once the season is over, we'll be taking a position-by-position look at who will likely be back with the team in 2020, and who won't. But first, we'll look at Howie Roseman, Doug Pederson, and Jim Schwartz, as their fates are likely to be known quickly after the regular season concludes. We'll start with Roseman.
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. Over the last three offseasons, however, they failed on all three accounts.
Since Roseman reassumed the GM title (or initially EVP or whatever) in 2016, the Eagles have made 36 selections in the draft. Only 1, Carson Wentz in 2017, has made a Pro Bowl. He's no longer the starting quarterback, as you're well aware.
From that group of 36 players, only 9 are likely to be starters in 2021, many of whom will only start because there aren't better options, or because they were high draft picks:
So that's the young core of this team. Compare that group with likely starters from other teams' last five drafts, and it's hard to imagine that you could come up with many that are less inspiring.
But beyond the lack of talent generated from those drafts, there were some spectacular misses along the way:
The most harmful contract restructure, of course, was when the Eagles made the egregious error of guaranteeing Jeffery’s 2020 salary in exchange for a small pay cut just before the start of the 2019 season. It's hard to fathom what the Eagles were thinking, as the benefit was not remotely close to the potential downside.
As it turned out:
That wasn't the only questionable contract restructure. While well-received at the time they were done, the re-worked contracts of Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson were consummated after each player had suffered serious injuries. Both players have missed substantial time with related injuries since.
And then of course there was Wentz's new deal, which was widely praised initially, but has obviously not stood the test of time, as the Eagles are in a terrible spot with his deal going forward.
We should also probably mention the ill-advised decision to pay Nelson Agholor almost $10 million on his fifth-year option, or the new deals for Jake Elliott, Nigel Bradham, and the list goes on.
But beyond the individual bad signings, for years, the Eagles have, in NFL salary cap vernacular, "kicked the can down the road" with contract restructures of their most expensive players by converting salary into signing bonuses, and spreading cap hits into future years, often times beyond the duration of the players' contracts. In fact, the following players all have salary cap hits on years after their contracts have already voided:
We mentioned Roseman's impressive "old guy" 2017 free agency haul, a strategy that he repeated in each of the next three subsequent offseasons. That strategy was a one-hit wonder.
Notable 2018 acquisitions:
Notable 2019 acquisitions:
Notable 2020 acquisitions:
Just before the start of the 2019 season, we analyzed the Eagles' rapidly aging roster, and warned that the team was running the risk of needing to undergo a major rebuild in a few years if they didn't change their strategic pattern of signing and trading for older players for short-term gains, while continually making a low number of draft picks. The 2020 season is partly the result of that strategy, and partly because the team has also missed on such a high rate of players over the last three years.
There's no good argument whatsoever that Roseman should stay in a player-picking capacity, simply based on his draft history over the last five years, and his free agency/trade history over the last three.
But beyond Roseman's recent track record, he probably can't be trusted to do what is in the best long-term interests of the team. Why? Once general managers know they are on the proverbial "hot seat," they often manage their team in a way that helps their short-term survival, eschewing what is best, long-term.
A common solution that has been thrown around is that Roseman should remain in a cap managing role, while another personnel chief is either promoted or brought in from the outside. The reputation that Roseman has gotten as an elite cap expert is puzzling, given that the team is projected to be just under $70 million over the salary cap in 2021 as a result of a series of contract mistakes, as memorialized above.
But also, let's just be real. If a personnel chief is brought in, like Joe Douglas was once upon a time, Roseman is still going to be the captain of the ship, and we shouldn't pretend otherwise.
It's clearly time for the franchise to get a completely new perspective and move on, with Roseman likely landing another GM job elsewhere. However, the belief here is that Lurie will keep Roseman aboard.