Howie Roseman

Eagles aim to master late 1st-round picks

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Eagles aim to master late 1st-round picks

The Eagles will be at a disadvantage on April 26, when the first round of the 2018 draft begins in Dallas. Thanks to winning the Super Bowl — remember that? It wasn’t a dream — they have the 32nd and last pick of the first round. 

It’s a disadvantage they hope to have every year. 

“Yeah, that’s the goal,” Eagles VP of player personnel Joe Douglas said on Thursday. “Hopefully we’ll be picking in the late 20s and early 30s [every year].” 

There’s an art to hitting in the second half of the first round and it’s obviously harder to find success there than it is in the top half. The good news for the Eagles is that Douglas learned under Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome, who is one of the best general managers in the NFL. Newsome’s team has often picked late in the first round and he’s often been able to find some great talent in that range. 

Ed Reed was picked at No. 24, Todd Heap at 31, Ben Grubbs at 29. There are more too. 

“Ozzie is patient,” Douglas said. “Ozzie Newsome is a Hall of Famer for the Cleveland Browns and he should be a Hall of Famer for the Baltimore Ravens as a GM. He’s the absolute best. His first two picks (Reed and Terrell Suggs) are first-ballot Hall of Famers. He was able to have great success in the 20s. Those players you specifically named, they were not a move up or move down guys. Those were guys that Ozzie was patient and he let the board come to him. Some of those picks were met with greater fanfare than others.”

They can’t all be hits, of course. In 2013, the Ravens took safety Matt Elam, who played in 41 games for Baltimore in three seasons, but was out of the league by 2017. Many consider him a bust. It happens. But it’s hard to argue with the Ravens’ body of work. 

The Eagles haven’t been nearly as consistent picking in the 20s in recent years. Nelson Agholor was No. 20 in 2015 and finally fulfilled his potential last season. But before then, Marcus Smith was 26 in 2014 and Danny Watkins was 23 in 2011. The last time the Eagles came off a Super Bowl appearance, they picked DT Mike Patterson with the 31st pick in 2005. A decent player, never a star. 

Douglas thought there were a lot of hits late in the first round of last year’s draft, but admitted it “varies year to year.” 

For now, the Eagles own the 32nd pick, but they’re definitely not ruling out a possible trade. On Thursday, de facto GM Howie Roseman said the team is “open for business.” 

There’s also plenty of appeal for other teams who might want a specific position with No. 32 because of a possible fifth-year option in their contracts. A few years ago, the Vikings traded for No. 32 to get Teddy Bridgewater. This week, the groundwork for possible draft day trades will happen, Roseman said. The Eagles will have contact with other teams to gauge their interest in moving up or down around their area of the first round. 

If the Eagles don’t move up or down, they feel comfortable at 32. 

“I guess when you’re picking, any number you’re picking, whether it’s 14 last year or 32, you’ve got to have 32 guys to be excited to take,” Douglas said. “Right now, we have 32 guys we’d be fired up to get. How it plays out, we’ll find out.”

Eagles careful to maintain team culture through NFL draft

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USA Today Images

Eagles careful to maintain team culture through NFL draft

Measuring their speed, strength and verticle jump, that’s the easy part.

The far more difficult aspect for NFL teams preparing for the draft or free agency is finding guys who can fit into what they want to do on the field, but who can also fit into a team’s culture.

And for an Eagles team coming off a Super Bowl championship, it’s one of the big challenges of the offseason.

The Eagles have built a powerful chemistry and culture over the past two years that was pivotal in their drive to the franchise's first championship in 57 years.

It was a remarkably close team, a remarkably unselfish team. And now the Eagles are in the process of trying to add talent without ruining that unique chemistry.

Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said Thursday the Eagles’ scouting department spends a tremendous amount of time and resources not just evaluating players’ physical attributes but trying to determine whether they’re good fits for what the Eagles have built.

“I think that’s one of the conversations that we probably have the most,” Roseman said. “Background’s really important. We’ve had some guys who’ve come here, who’ve maybe had a (bad) reputation and fit really well, and there’s also the flip side of that.

“So you try to balance all of those and really rely on coach (Doug) Pederson and his leadership council and the ownership he gives them.”

Roseman revealed that he, vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas and Pederson actually involve players already on the roster in the decision-making process.

“We talk to our players about a lot of things, and we talk to them about guys that we’re going to potentially bring in,” Roseman said. “We try to pick their brain.”

It’s not a perfect process. Every team has been burned by a Darryl Worley. But the Eagles clearly are doing a better job than most teams getting 53 unique individuals to mesh together.

“I accept responsibility for the mistakes we made, that’s on me,” Roseman said.

“But we try to get a lot of information and then also talk to our players so a lot of these moves that we’ve made the last two years … and that’s probably not the norm in the National Football League, but that’s really from the leadership of coach Pederson and what he wants us to do.”

Roseman mentioned something called the “Co-habitation Matrix,” devised by Douglas and Eagles director of football administration Jake Rosenberg — "and Keanu Reeves," Roseman joked. That’s basically a way to connect anybody in any role within the organization that has had any previous experience at a previous spot with potential new additions.

It’s all a part of minimizing the risk of shattering the franchise’s powerful culture.

“That’s something that we work so hard to build and it could be the hardest thing to build and it could be the easiest thing to lose and that’s something that we have been working hard on, is just pinpointing the guys that can come in and just add to our culture,” Douglas said Thursday.

“Chemistry really isn’t a thing you can quantify. It’s not an objective thing, but you know when you’ve got it and obviously for us to do what we did last year we had it. So now it’s us trying to keep adding to it.”

10 Eagles observations, thoughts from owners meetings

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USA Today Images/Dave Zangaro

10 Eagles observations, thoughts from owners meetings

SEAT 32F — Flying home from the owners meetings at the posh Ritz-Carlton Orlando after a few days around the NFL’s decision-makers. 

Plenty of news this week but there’s more left on my mind.

1. I wrote it earlier in the week, but it was cool to see Doug Pederson be “the man” down there. But the praise wasn’t limited to Pederson. Jeff Lurie, Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas were all treated the same way. They deserve it. A long time ago, Lurie talked about the gold standard. The Eagles finally are. 

2. It was a little surprising the Eagles didn’t make moves this week, despite their cap situation. They have $2.6 million in cap room, according to the NFLPA. At last year’s event, Roseman signed Patrick Robinson and Chris Long. It’s hard to imagine Roseman is finished. Talk about whether the team is better or worse is premature. 

3. The big news this week is the new head shot rule, which makes it illegal for any player — offense or defense — to lead with their helmet. This wasn’t on the schedule, but it was brought up and gained steam quickly, which makes me wonder if they rushed into it. A couple defensive players I’ve talked to are understandably worried about the rule. The league made it with good intentions, but there are a lot of questions left, especially for a rule that could change the game as we know it. 

4. The other big news of the week was the Giants’ willingness to trade Odell Beckham Jr. That would be tremendous news for the Eagles because while OBJ might be a headache for the Giants, he’s incredible. He’s not just one of the best in the league, but could go down as one of the greatest of all time. It seems crazy the Giants can’t make it work. 

5. The Eagles didn’t have a ton of time to enjoy the Super Bowl; playing into February left them behind. The Eagles are really leaning on Douglas and the scouting department to get ready for the draft even more than normal, according to sources. While the coaches were in the playoffs, the personnel department worked ahead. The Eagles have asked their coaches to scout fewer players thanks to time restraints and the fact they are without a second- or third-round pick. 

6. It amazes me every year when I got to this event, the one thing fans want to know is about the kelly green jerseys. Here’s this year’s update. Part of me thinks, “Hey, the Eagles just won a Super Bowl in midnight green … stick with that.” But I get it. It’s the same reason why the championship means so much. The Eagles are important to families from Philadelphia and so many grew up watching the Birds in those jerseys. 

7. Not sure why Roseman seems lukewarm on a possible Brandon Graham extension. Echoing his combine comments, Roseman said Graham deserves to make his money but doesn’t seem willing to give it. I know the Eagles can’t make everyone happy, but losing that guy after this year would hurt. 

8. Talking to people in the organization, it’s clear how much the Eagles think of Nate Sudfeld. He’s a third-stringer who hasn’t played much, but they think they have something. Lurie’s eyes lit up while talking about Sudfeld. If they ever do trade Foles (or after 2018), the Birds think they have their backup. 

9. Lurie wanted no part of a question about whether or not the Eagles would take a team trip to the White House. Answering the question one way or the other would have made headlines, so I get Lurie’s hesitancy. But last year the Patriots went on Apr. 19, so time is ticking. 

10. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with Michael Bennett. But with just the information we have, it seems hard to believe these charges are ever going to stick. It is fair to worry about the league handing down punishment and to wonder how Bennett will fit in the locker room. The Eagles claim they did their homework and felt comfortable because of their strong locker room. But Bennett seems to be followed by unusual situations. There’s the Vegas incident and one I never knew about from Tampa Bay that included his dog. For what it’s worth, folks around the NFL I talked to this week found it hard to believe Bennett committed this crime. But this story isn’t going away anytime soon.