Howie Roseman

Through 2020, no team in better shape than Eagles

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Through 2020, no team in better shape than Eagles

The Eagles are in awfully good shape this year, sitting at 10-2 with four games left. Just as importantly, they’re in pretty good for the future, as well. 

In fact, you can make a case that they’re better positioned for the future than any other NFL team.

Thank Howie Roseman for that.

With Alshon Jeffery signing a four-year contract extension last weekend, the Eagles now have 19 players under contract through the 2020 season. That means at least three more years with the current nucleus that's been so impressive so far this year.

No other NFL team has more players signed for the next three years. The Browns and Redskins are close. Both have 18 players signed or with a team option through 2020, but both also have very serious quarterback questions. 

The Browns haven’t been settled at quarterback since the days of Bernie Kosar, and the Redskins still don’t have Kirk Cousins under contract beyond this season. Carson Wentz is under contract through only 2019 under the terms of his four-year rookie deal, but it’s only a matter of time before Roseman has him locked up long-term.

The Eagles also have 32 players signed through 2019 and 44 through next year.

Among those signed through 2020 are the hearts of both lines: Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks on the O-line; and Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Derek Barnett on the D-line.

Also locked up for at least the next three years behind this season are key guys such as Jeffery (2021), Zach Ertz (2021), Malcolm Jenkins (2020), Rodney McLeod (2020), Sidney Jones (2020) and Rasul Douglas (2020).

Since his return from Chip Kelly exile nearly two years ago now, Roseman has done a masterful job of navigating through salary cap challenges to re-sign key players to long-term deals while trading away undervalued assets to clear cap space.

Right now, the only starters due to hit free agency after this season are LeGarrette Blount, Patrick Robinson and Nigel Bradham. Blount and Robinson have both been very good, but both are in their 30s and play positions where the Eagles are very deep, so the Eagles could certainly move on from both. 

Bradham, now in his second year here, most likely will be one of the Eagles' top offseason priorities.

Also up are guys like Trey Burton, Kenjon Barner, Corey Graham, Jaylen Watkins and Beau Allen. That group falls into the category of contributors the Eagles value but who are ultimately replaceable depending on their contract demands.

Kicker Caleb Sturgis, who has been very good since replacing Cody Parkey, is also up but Doug Pederson has already said the team plans to let him go via free agency and retain Jake Elliott.

Darren Sproles, who has spent the last few days with the team in Los Angeles, is also scheduled to become a free agent. That's a complicated situation because as popular and productive as he's been, he's 34, he's currently rehabbing, and he plays a position that's very crowded right now.

The Eagles currently have just over $5 million available under their adjusted 2017 cap figure of $174,933,869, according to Spotrac.com, which tracks NFL salaries, contracts and cap figures.  

They're also already over their projected 2018 and 2019 cap figures, according to Spotrac. So there's no question they'll have some difficult decisions looming over the next couple offseasons.

This is why it's so important to draft well. When you're forced to cut ties with proven veterans because of cap issues, you need younger players to capably replace them.

That all sounds alarming, but Roseman has proven to be adept at juggling contracts, restructuring deals and shuffling the roster to create cap space, and the addition of Joe Douglas to the scouting department seems to have made a difference when it comes to talent evaluation and acquisition.

Here's a look at the Eagles' current roster and how long each player is signed for:
 
Signed through 2017 (14)
Trey Burton
Darren Sproles*
LeGarrette Blount
Kenjon Barner
Chance Warmack
Beau Allen
Nigel Bradham
Najee Goode
Dannell Ellerbe
Nate Gerry
Corey Graham
Patrick Robinson
Jaylen Watkins
Caleb Sturgis*

Signed through 2018 (12)
Nate Sudfeld 
Nelson Agholor
Marcus Johnson
Jay Ajayi
Brent Celek
Brandon Graham
Destiny Vaeao 
Ronald Darby
Rick Lovato
Jake Elliott
Steven Means 
Jordan Hicks*

Signed through through 2019 (13)
Carson Wentz  
Wendell Smallwood
Corey Clement
Jason Peters*
Stefen Wisniewski
Isaac Seumalo
Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Mychal Kendricks
Kamu Grugier-Hill
Joe Walker
Jalen Mills
Donnie Jones
Chris Maragos*

Signed through through 2020 (12)
Mack Hollins
Shelton Gibson
Brandon Brooks
Jason Kelce

Vinny Curry
Elijah Qualls
Malcolm Jenkins
Rodney McLeod
Sidney Jones
Rasul Douglas
Nick Foles (club option in 2019 and 2020)
Donnel Pumphrey*

Signed through through 2021 (6)
Alshon Jeffery
Zach Ertz
Lane Johnson
Tim Jernigan
Chris Long
Derek Barnett (club option in 2021)

Signed through through 2022 (1)
Fletcher Cox

*Injured reserve

Howie Roseman proving to be greatest sequel since The Godfather Part II

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Howie Roseman proving to be greatest sequel since The Godfather Part II

Tim Jernigan, Alshon Jeffery, LeGarrette Blount, Patrick Robinson, Ronald Darby, Jay Ajayi, Chris Long and Jake Elliott.

A look at that list of names reveals players who have been integral pieces in contributing to the Eagles' 9-1 start. The other common denominators each share are they are all in their first season in midnight green and all were acquired through free agency or trades.

It's a pretty impressive list when you consider how each individual has impacted the Birds' season through 10 games. And the man ultimately responsible for all of these moves is The Godfather, Howie Roseman.

It's generally fool's gold when a team relies too heavily on trades and free agency. You only need to go as far back as 2011 to the Eagles' "Dream Team" to make this point. This isn't 2011, though. The 2017 club has plenty of homegrown talent, be it Carson Wentz, Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox or Brandon Graham. But there is no denying what kind of contribution the other newcomers have given the Birds.

The Eagles had some glaring areas of need entering the season. Most notable were wide receiver, cornerback and running back. And while they drafted guys who have contributed at those spots, like Mack Hollins, Rasul Douglas, and Corey Clement (who they snagged as an undrafted free agent), the players brought here through signings and deals have reaped greater rewards this season.

That's not even mentioning the future investments like Sidney Jones, who could pay major dividends at corner in years to come.

Blount and newly acquired Ajayi have formed two-thirds of the Eagles' second-ranked rushing attack. Ajayi could be the gift that keeps giving, as he gains more knowledge of the playbook and reps. The 30-year-old Blount should be fresh down the stretch with the running back by committee approach the Birds employ.

And while Jeffery has not put up monster numbers, he's a big target that appears to be gaining more of a rapport with Wentz as the season has progressed, having been targeted 26 times the last three games while hauling in four touchdowns in that span.

All are essential pieces of this offense.

On the other side of the ball, Jernigan may not have been an obvious need, but has he ever had an impact? He and Cox represent the best duo in the NFL on the inside. He's been rewarded with a rich, new extension and he's a major reason the Eagles are the best team in the league against the run and have had so much success pressuring the passer.

The signing of Robinson went under the radar, for good reason. He played for three teams in the previous three seasons and looked as if he might be on his last legs entering his eighth season. Instead, he's been a find, manning the slot and providing coverage and tackling skills the Eagles' corners desperately needed.

Long has seamlessly incorporated himself into the Birds' defensive end rotation.

While his future with the club is still not a given for the rest of the season, Elliott has won the Eagles games with some big kicks in clutch time.

Combine the offseason moves with his drafts the past two years since regaining his organizational hand, and Roseman revisited is looking like the greatest sequel since The Godfather.

Carson Wentz's durability is his biggest strength

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Carson Wentz's durability is his biggest strength

Forget for a moment all the record-setting touchdown passes, all the dazzling third-down conversions and the highlight-reel red-zone heroics.

One of Carson Wentz's greatest accomplishments these last two years has just been playing football every Sunday. Being out there for his team without fail every week.

That alone puts him in an elite group.

Look around the league. Tyrod Taylor just got benched in Buffalo with the Bills in the playoff hunt. Trevor Siemian was benched just before the Broncos came to Philly. The 49ers benched Brian Hoyer a few weeks before facing the Eagles

Last we checked, the Browns have already benched DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan this fall.

Heck, even one-time Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco was benched by Ravens head coach John Harbaugh during a loss to the Jaguars.

We've been through all of that. That quarterback carousel. It never leads anywhere.

Wentz on Sunday night will start his 26th consecutive game. Every game the Eagles have played since opening day last year. He's one of only 12 quarterbacks who's started all his team's games over the last two years.

Elite quarterback play is huge for any football team, but quarterback stability is just as important. And Wentz is finally giving this franchise something it's lacked for much of the last quarter century.

Think about it.

From 1991 through 2015, a 25-year span, the only years an Eagles quarterback started 16 games were Donovan McNabb in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2008. And McNabb got benched in 2008.

From 2010 through 2015, the six years between McNabb and Wentz, the Eagles used seven different quarterbacks. Not only did the Eagles not win anything during that span, there didn't seem to be much of a future either. 

The Eagles were stuck trying to build a championship team without an elite quarterback. Which is almost impossible to do.

All of which led Howie Roseman to make the franchise-altering decision that the Eagles had to do anything possible, no matter how drastic, no matter how extreme, to get that guy and turn the franchise over to him.

That realization, that organizational decision and the series of trades that landed Wentz in Philadelphia guaranteed that the Eagles would have quarterback stability and a chance for sustained success for the foreseeable future.

Just by starting 25 games in a row, Wentz has done something no Eagles QB had done since McNabb started 31 straight from opening day 2003 through Week 15 of 2004. With the No. 1 seed locked up, he didn't play the last week of the season.

McNabb started 51 straight games from midway through 1999, when he replaced Doug Pederson, through Week 10 of 2002, when he broke his ankle against the Cards (but threw four touchdowns anyway).

And along with those two McNabb streaks and streaks by Ron Jaworski and Randall Cunningham, Wentz's run of 25 starts is already the Eagles' fifth-longest since Norm Van Brocklin started 36 straight from 1958 through 1960.

You've probably already picked up on the fact that the Eagles' greatest periods of success in the NFL's modern era — the 1960 championship and the 1980 and 2004 Super Bowl appearances — just happen to coincide with periods of tremendous quarterback stability.

And maybe very soon we can add another era to that list.

Just by being out there every Sunday, Wentz has separated himself from most quarterbacks in the NFL.

Of the 12 QBs who've started every game since opening day last year, only six have a career winning record. And of those six, only Wentz and Dak Prescott — both 24 — are under 28.

They'll meet for the third time Sunday night in Dallas, and whatever happens, both franchises are in good hands for the foreseeable future.

For the Eagles, these are heady days. Wentz is having an MVP season and Roseman and Joe Douglas have surrounded him with a deep and talented roster.

An entire generation of quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer — will be retiring in the next few years. And most of the young QBs lining up to replace them are unproven. Even guys like Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson will be in their mid-30s in five years.

How many NFL teams know who their quarterback will be in, let's say, 2023? The Texans with Deshaun Watson, the Rams with Jared Goff, Marcus Mariota in Tennessee and probably Jameis Winston in Tampa. And the Eagles and Cowboys. Anybody else?

Most NFL teams are in a constant search for that elite quarterback. Not around here. Not anymore.

The most important question facing almost every NFL team is one the Eagles won't have to even think about for a decade.