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November 28, 2016

Re-grading the Eagles' offseason moves

Eagles NFL
112816HowieRoseman Michael Perez/AP

The Eagles got their franchise quarterback this offseason, which is really what matters most.

In case you missed it, Howie Roseman and the Eagles had themselves quite a busy offseason this year. They re-signed a bunch of their own players, traded some Chip Kelly guys, made a power move in the 2016 NFL Draft, and then traded their starting quarterback. Now that the Eagles have played 10 games, let's take a look back at their offseason moves and assign them arbitrary grades.

MORE ON THE EAGLES: Week 12 NFL picks | Eagles vs. Packers: Predictions, betting lines and TV/radio broadcast info | What Eagles fans should hope to see from Wentz in season's final six games | Eagles-Packers injury report, with analysis | Eagles vs. Packers: Five matchups to watch

To note, the only draft pick we'll touch on below will be Carson Wentz, who was a central figure in some of the other personnel decisions the Eagles made. An analysis of the Eagles' draft picks could be its own article. We'll also skip the coaching staff hires until the end of the season. 

Eagles agree to terms with Zach Ertz on a five-year deal

Ertz's five-year deal is worth $42.5 million. At an average of $8.5 million per season, Ertz is the sixth-highest paid tight end in the NFL, behind Jimmy Graham, Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed, Julius Thomas, and Rob Gronkowski. On the season, Ertz has 35 catches for 337 yards and 1 TD. Here is how those numbers compare with the other top-paid tight ends:

 PlayerRec Yards TD $/year 
 Jimmy Graham51 706 $10,000,000 
Travis Kelce 57 675 $9,368,400 
Jordan Reed 59 630 $9,350,000 
 Julius Thomas30 281 $9,200,000 
 Rob Gronkowski25 540 $9,000,000 
 Zach Ertz35 337 $8,500,000 

Ertz has a chance to pick it up down the stretch, beginning tonight against a bad Packers defense. But clearly, the above numbers are not the production the Eagles were hoping for, especially from a tight end whose primary function is to make plays in the passing game, as opposed to also being relied upon as a great blocker in the run game.

Grade: C-

Eagles agree to terms with Brent Celek on a three-year deal

Celek's three-year deal is worth $13 million, with $6 million guaranteed. Before he signed his deal, Celek was originally scheduled to make $5 million in 2016, with no cap penalties if the Eagles cut or traded him. There was no way the Eagles were going to bring him back at $5 million. Instead, Celek took a pay cut (but added more guaranteed money over the long-term) to remain with the team. Celek is a bull in a china shop among a group of skill players who often lack a mean streak.

Grade: B+

Agreed to terms with T Lane Johnson on a six-year contract

The Eagles signed Johnson with the idea that he is their starting left tackle of the future whenever Jason Peters decides to retire. At $11,250,000 per season, Johnson is by far the highest paid right tackle in the NFL, and would be eighth among left tackles.

Johnson's suspension has really hurt the Eagles' offense. His replacement, fifth-round rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai struggled mightily early on (he's gotten somewhat better), and the Eagles have had to give extra help to that side, limiting what they can do from a scheme perspective.

On the bright side from the Eagles' perspective (not so much from Johnson's), the guaranteed portion of Johnson's contract is no longer guaranteed. That means that if Johnson does not play at a level commensurate with his pay, the Eagles can release him without the same penalties they would otherwise.

I'm not going to kill the Eagles here. Johnson was playing outstanding football before he was suspended. As long as he lays off the supplements, that should continue.

Grade: B

Agreed to terms with DE Vinny Curry on a five-year contract

Ten games into his five-year, $46.2 million contract, Curry has 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and no forced fumbles. By comparison, a year earlier, Brandon Graham signed a four-year deal worth $26 million, and he has 31 tackles, 5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.

If there's a position in the NFL where it's not so crazy to pay a reserve big-time money, it's pass rushers, but they better produce when they get their opportunities. So far since he has gotten his new deal, Curry has not yet done that.

Grade: D 

Eagles release Riley Cooper

Sadly, Cooper would be the second-best receiver on this team. Still, GTFOH.

Grade: A

Eagles agree to terms with S Malcolm Jenkins on a five-year contract

When the Eagles lost their starting slot corner for the season, Jenkins seamlessly moved down into the slot to take on that role, while also playing on the back end in the base D. Where would this defense be without him?

Grade: B+

Eagles agree to terms with QB Sam Bradford on a two-year contract

Signing Bradford to the "bridge quarterback" deal they did made a lot of sense for an Eagles team that clearly had their sights set on some other (at the time unknown) long-term option at quarterback. The deal was structured in a way that would allow the Eagles to get out of it without much pain after one season.

In the meantime, Bradford would give the Eagles a competent (although certainly less than awesome) starting quarterback to get them through the 2016 season without embarrassment for the high rental fee of $36 million over two years, $22 million of which is fully guaranteed. As it turns out, the Eagles were able to siphon off first- and fourth-round draft picks from the Vikings for Bradford, which they would not have gotten had they not gotten this deal done with Bradford, obviously. #Analysis.

Grade: B

Eagles sign former Bills CB Leodis McKelvin

After the first seven weeks of the 2014 season under Schwartz, McKelvin had four interceptions, which led the NFL. He was having his best season in the pros that year and was playing at a Pro Bowl level, before suffering a broken ankle. The Eagles hoped they were getting that player again when they signed him this offseason, but McKelvin has battled a hamstring injury all season and has been inconsistent.

It's a good bet that the Eagles will try to upgrade at corner this offseason.

Grade: C

Eagles trade DeMarco Murray and their fourth-round pick to the Titans for their fourth-round pick

Yes, DeMarco Murray is having a surprisingly good season in Tennessee (229-1043-8), which has led some to wonder what he would have been in Doug Pederson's offense. Don't even bother wondering – Murray was a locker room cancer with a bad contract. He had to go.

According to a source (and I'm paraphrasing here), when the Eagles missed out on Patriots safety Devin McCourty in free agency during the 2015 offseason, the Eagles were left with more money on their hands than they anticipated, and Chip Kelly essentially just decided on an impulse, "Screw it, let's sign Murray."  

For losing Murray, the Eagles moved up 13 spots in the fourth round, while saving a nice chunk of change on their cap.

Grade: B

Eagles trade Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso, and the 13th-overall pick for the 8th-overall pick

Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso were both busts in Philly, and somehow Roseman was able to dump Maxwell's bad contract and player Jim Schwartz didn't want for the right to move up from 13 to 8 in the 2016 NFL Draft.

That move was, of course, a precursor to the move from 8 to 2. Maxwell and Alonso have played better in Miami than they did in Philly, which makes the deal more of a win-win for both teams than the absurdly lopsided win it initially seemed for the Eagles. From the Eagles' perspective, who cares how they're playing in Miami? They helped the Eagles acquire their franchise quarterback.

Grade: A

Eagles sign former Rams S Rodney McLeod

At 26, McLeod is an ascending young player at a position of need who has helped give the Eagles some much-needed toughness over the middle, while making some big plays in the process.

Grade: A-

Eagles sign former Texans OG Brandon Brooks

The Eagles were the only team in the NFL not to have drafted an offensive lineman from 2014-2015, and prior to this signing, they hadn't drafted a guard since 2012. They also largely ignored the position in free agency during the entirety of the Chip Kelly era. 

In 2015, the Eagles' lack of quality guard play often stalled their rushing attack and allowed interior pass rushers like Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy to wreck games. Guard was as glaring a hole on the Eagles' roster as you could find last offseason. In Brooks, who has played well, the Eagles filled one of the gaping holes along the offensive line.

Grade: B+

Eagles sign former Bills LB Nigel Bradham

Bradham had his best season under Schwartz in 2014 when he had 104 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, an INT, and 7 pass breakups. This season, he's on pace for 101 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INTs, and 8 pass breakups. In other words, he's the exact player the Eagles hoped they were getting, the "dumb-assery" aside. 

Grade: B+

Eagles sign former Bills CB Ron Brooks

Brooks is an NFL oddity, in that in his first four years in the league, he had no sacks, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, or interceptions. Now at least he has a fumble recovery.

Brooks was lost for the season when he tore a ligament in his quad. The Eagles could look to upgrade at slot corner next offseason. 

Grade: C-

Eagles sign former Chiefs QB Chase Daniel

Daniel's deal is a three-year contract worth $21 million ($12 million guaranteed). That number can escalate to $36 million in incentives based on playing time, wins, and playoff appearances, but he would need to be the starting quarterback to reach those incentives. 

At the time, many were perplexed why the Eagles signed Daniel to that kind of deal after they had just paid Bradford. That confusion only grew after the Eagles traded up for Wentz in the draft.

Personally, I always saw Daniel as the short-term backup to Bradford, and the long-term backup to whatever young quarterback the Eagles were going to develop behind the scenes. Having played for Pederson in Kansas City, Daniel had a leg up on Bradford and that eventual young quarterback acquisition (Wentz) throughout camp, in terms of knowledge of the offense. 

Clearly, however, Daniel did not look very good in the preseason games. Meh.

Is Daniel overpaid for how good of a player he is? Yeah, that's a pretty fair way to put it, I think. However, if Daniel helps Wentz progress in any way, then he has value. It's not the worst thing for Pederson to have his own version of himself and Donovan McNabb.

Grade: B- 

Eagles trade Mark Sanchez to Denver for a conditional draft pick in 2017

Obviously, there was no way the Eagles were going to keep Sanchez around after handing out lucrative deals to both Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. Sanchez was set to count for $5.5 million against the cap in 2016. Had the Eagles released him, they would have saved $3.5 million of that. By trading him, they saved $4.5 million. That alone was incentive enough to trade him, but the Eagles would likely get a late-round pick from the Broncos in the process.

Except... they didn't. Sanchez was released by the Broncos and the Eagles got nada (well, other than the extra $1 million in cap space). Sanchez later signed with the Cowboys.

The Eagles may still see Sanchez. If the Dallas Cowboys have the No. 1 seed wrapped up prior to the Week 17 schedule of games, they may very well opt to keep Dak Prescott and the fragile Tony Romo on the bench in a meaningless game, which would mean Sanchez would start.

Grade: B

Agreed to terms on a one-year contract with CB Nolan Carroll

Solid No. 2 corner for a low cost.

Grade: B

Eagles agree to terms on a one-year contract with WR Rueben Randle and WR Chris Givens

We'll just lump these two players in together. The Eagles signed a bunch of former high- to mid-round picks in Randle, Givens, and T.J. Graham, hoping that maybe one of them would live up to the potential they had when their original teams drafted them.

That did not happen. The prize of that bunch, Rueben Randle, was particularly awful.

None of the three players were able to make a team comprised of arguably the worst wide receiver corps in the NFL. All three are still currently free agents.

The idea was decent enough. The players just stunk.

Grade: F

Eagles sign OG/C Stefen Wisniewski to a one-year deal

Wisniewski has played as a reserve at LG this season, and could also fill in at center if needed. For a team that desperately lacked interior OL depth, Wisniewski made a ton of sense for the Eagles as a guy who could play multiple positions along the interior of the offensive line.

Grade: B

Eagles acquire a first-round pick (No. 2 overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft and a fourth-round pick in 2017 from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a 2016 first-round pick (No. 8 overall), a 2016 third-round pick, a 2016 fourth-round pick, a 2017 first-round pick and a 2018 second-round pick

This, of course, netted the Eagles Carson Wentz.

Grade: A

Eagles agree to terms with DT Fletcher Cox on a six-year contract extension

Cox started the season out on fire after signing a whopping 6 year, $102.6 million extension, as he was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month in September. Since then his production has fallen off some, although he is still making plays that don't show up in the stat sheet.

Still, at $102 million Cox should be expected to have more production than 4 sacks and 1 forced fumble. But clearly, this was a player the Eagles had to retain. 

Grade: B

Eagles acquire WR Dorial Green-Beckham from the Titans in exchange for G/T Dennis Kelly

Green-Beckham has an unacceptable drop rate and often plays much smaller than his impressive 6'5, 240-ish pound frame would suggest. All the Eagles had to give up here was Dennis Kelly, obviously, so it was certainly worth a shot.

Green-Beckham seems to be liked by his teammates, so it's not like he's a bad guy. There's just not much in the way of attitude on the field from a guy who should be dominating smaller corners.

Grade: C

Eagles agree to terms with LB Stephen Tulloch

Meh. He has barely played, but only because the Eagles have stayed healthy at linebacker.

Grade: C

Traded QB Sam Bradford to Minnesota for a first-round pick in 2017 and a fourth-round pick in 2018

The Eagles traded their starting quarterback, upgraded at the position, and got first- and fourth-round picks in return. Is that good?

Grade: A+

Acquired 2018 fourth-round draft pick from New England for CB Eric Rowe

Rowe has talent, and showed enough promise his rookie season that most assumed that he would be a shoe-in at starter in 2016 after the conclusion of the 2015 season. 

However, under Jim Schwartz, throughout OTAs, minicamp, and training camp, Rowe went from playing with the first team offense, to second team, to playing in the fourth quarter against third- and fourth-team offenses in preseason games. While it's been cited that Rowe may not have picked up the defensive scheme under Schwartz, his falling out of favor and eventual trade to the Patriots was most likely a result of Rowe's competitiveness and confidence.

So they moved on. In return, they get a fourth-round pick in 2018 that can become a third-round pick if Rowe plays at least 50 percent of the Patriots' snaps in 2016 (not happening) or 2017 (also probably not happening).

Grade: C+

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