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December 30, 2020

Eagles stay or go: Howie Roseman

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.

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Howie 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.

The draft

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:

  1. QB: Either Wentz or Jalen Hurts
  2. RB: Miles Sanders
  3. WR: Jalen Reagor
  4. TE: Dallas Goedert
  5. LT: Either Andre Dillard or Jordan Mailata
  6. LG: Isaac Seumalo
  7. RDE: Either Derek Barnett or Josh Sweat
  8. S: Jalen Mills, if he returns?
  9. Slot CB(?): Avonte Maddox

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:

  1. The whiffs on Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas in 2017 necessitated the team to burn two more draft picks and a big chunk of cap space to acquire Darius Slay this past offseason.
  2. They selected J.J. Arcega-Whiteside instead of several other far better options, most notably DK Metcalf, who is already a star player.
  3. They selected Jalen Reagor instead of Justin Jefferson, again, who is already a star player. To note, it's not as if there's "benefit of hindsight" at play here. The overwhelming consensus among fans, draft experts, and NFL teams was that Metcalf and Jefferson were better prospects than Arcega-Whiteside and Reagor, respectively.
  4. They traded up for Andre Dillard, an athletic talent who unexpectedly fell in the draft because of mentality concerns that other teams appropriately diagnosed, but the Eagles did not.
  5. And, of course, they used a second-round pick on a quarterback, which didn't make any sense on a whole lot of levels, and probably contributed to the downfall of Wentz's play this season, which was a predictable outcome.
There's no way to sugarcoat the above. The Eagles have been one of the worst drafting teams in the NFL over the last five years.

MORE: WTS: What if Eagles give Pederson more power instead of firing him?

Contract restructures/renegotiations of players already on the team

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:

  1. Jeffery had a bad year as a player on the field in 2019.
  2. He anonymously bashed the quarterback for a second time.
  3. He suffered a Lisfranc injury, had surgery, and did not return until Week 10 of the 2020 season, occupying a roster spot for the entire season along the way.
  4. Upon his return, he took snaps away from younger players.

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:

  1. Fletcher Cox
  2. Malik Jackson
  3. Alshon Jeffery
  4. Lane Johnson
  5. Jason Kelce
  6. Brandon Graham
  7. Zach Ertz
  8. DeSean Jackson
  9. Javon Hargrave
  10. Rodney McLeod
  11. Isaac Seumalo

It's remarkable that the Eagles borrowed as much money from the future as they have, and still fielded one of the worst teams in the NFL this season. And now they have to pay the bill.

Oh, and the one guy they should have kept, Malcolm Jenkins, got released.

MORE: Eagles power ranking roundup, after Week 16 | NFC Hierarchy/Obituary, Week 17: Eagles are dead

Free agent acquisitions

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:

  1. WR Golden Tate (acquired for 8 games for a third-round pick)
  2. WR Mike Wallace
  3. LB Corey Nelson
  4. LB Paul Worrilow
  5. DE Michael Bennett
  6. DT Haloti Ngata
  7. CB Daryl Worley

Notable 2019 acquisitions: 

  1. RB Jordan Howard (trade)
  2. WR DeSean Jackson (trade)
  3. TE Richard Rodgers
  4. DE Genard Avery (acquired for a fourth-round pick, and Avery has played 10% of the team's defensive snaps in 2020)
  5. DE Vinny Curry
  6. DT Malik Jackson
  7. LB L.J. Fort
  8. S Andrew Sendejo

Notable 2020 acquisitions:

  1. WR Marquise Goodwin (trade)
  2. LB Jatavis Brown
  3. DT Javon Hargrave
  4. CB Darius Slay (the team traded third- and fifth-round picks for Slay, and then re-did his deal)
  5. CB Nickell Robey-Coleman

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.

Stay or go

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.

There is no more short-term for this team. It's over. As we detailed above the roster has the trifecta of doomsday issues:

  1. It's bad.
  2. It's old.
  3. It's expensive.

Realistically, it's going to take years of losing before it will be fixed.

The longer the team "kicks the can down the road," the worse it's going to be when they inevitably have to blow it all up. In the interim, the team's old core players will continue to decline. The time to go full-on rebuild mode is now.

Of course, "blowing it up" requires patience. Jeffrey Lurie will have to allow the general manager to formulate a plan to get out from under of a slew of albatross contracts, and then re-build a winner. Seeing as Roseman has had three consecutive bad seasons, as noted above, he does not deserve a multi-year commitment going forward. It's also probably worth pointing out that a multi-year rebuild can only be successfully accomplished if the team substantially increases their hit rate in the draft, which has been Roseman's biggest weakness.

MORE: It's time for the Eagles to blow it up

But what about a role as a just a cap expert?

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.

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