Time to give Howie Roseman credit for building this Eagles team

Time to give Howie Roseman credit for building this Eagles team

We've heard and entertained many of the reasons behind the Eagles' 6-1 record. Carson Wentz's becoming a top-10 quarterback before our eyes is one. A superb head-coaching job by Doug Pederson is another. A tough, bend-but-don't-break defense is another still.

The Eagles have arguably the best offensive line in the NFL, maybe even without Jason Peters. Jake Elliott is automatic in the clutch and from practically anywhere on the field. Zach Ertz has emerged as Wentz's most dangerous weapon. The league's No. 1-ranked run defense refuses to give an inch. The veteran leadership in the Eagles' locker room is second to none.

And in the middle of it all is Howie Roseman, executive vice president of football operations for the Eagles — or, in other words, the general manager.

Perhaps it's too early for Roseman to take a victory lap. The Eagles may be on top of the world right now, but there is no trophy presentation, no ring ceremony, no banner raising, no parade for the mid-season champions. The 2017 campaign can still go south, and based on all of the major injuries, it just might.

But let's assume what we've seen the first seven weeks of the season is for real. Let's assume the Eagles are a legitimate Super Bowl contender right now, even without Peters, without Jordan Hicks, without Darren Sproles. That could be viewed as a commentary on the rest of NFL, but it honestly looks like this team has a chance to go that far.

Most observers are so caught by surprise, we're left asking how the Eagles got here. Roseman certainly is one of the primary reasons — and as the architect of this team, possibly the most influential. His missteps are so often picked apart and his football background is unfairly ridiculed, it doesn't seem out of bounds at all to examine some of the ways in which he managed to put this team together.

Wentz trade
First and foremost, who do you think engineered the trade for Wentz in the first place?

Is there anybody besides Cian Fahey who doesn't think this kid is going to win a Super Bowl at some point in his career? Wentz is blossoming at a rapid pace. He's guided the Eagles to a five-game winning streak. He's thrown for 11 touchdowns in the last three weeks alone.

Wentz is one of the two or three hottest quarterbacks in the league right now — and Roseman essentially got him by giving up a second-round draft pick. Once the Eagles traded Sam Bradford to the Vikings for a first and a fourth, the second in 2018 is the only pick that wasn't recouped in some form. We've done the math and it checks out.

Bradford and a mid-round pick or two for a franchise quarterback for the next decade-plus? With that decision alone, Roseman more than likely altered the course of the Eagles' franchise forever.

Free agency/cap management
By far the biggest problem in Wentz's rookie season was the lack of weapons, not the quarterback himself. So Roseman went out and added some offensive talent in free agency, signing wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, as well as running back LeGarrette Blount. For good measure, the Eagles also brought in Nick Foles, Chance Warmack, Chris Long and Patrick Robinson.

The previous year's free agency netted Nigel Bradham, Rodney McLeod, Brandon Brooks and Stefen Wisniewski.

Granted, it doesn't necessarily take a lot of skill to sign a check. But there's a salary cap in the NFL and the Eagles were thought to be up against it the past two offseasons, especially in 2017. Yet, somehow, Roseman found a way to make these deals, and almost all of the added players are contributing, if not starting and performing at a high level.

The remarkable part isn't merely identifying the talent and convincing them to choose the Eagles — though that's no small feat in itself. It's the simple fact that Roseman seemingly never allows the cap to keep the front office from going and getting somebody who would be a good fit. In today's NFL, that's half the battle.

Managing the core
The money the Eagles have spent in free agency hasn't prevented them from taking care of their own.

The previous year's offseason was notable for all of the massive contract extensions the Eagles handed out, most of which appear to have been the correct call almost two years later. Ertz, Brent Celek, Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson and Vinny Curry all received long-term deals in 2016, and out of that bunch, only Curry's is even remotely in question.

But being a GM isn't just about paying ascending talent — that's supposed to be the easy part. Roseman has also done his part in maintaining a harmonious locker room by rewarding veterans with bonuses and extensions that pad their bottom line, most notably to Peters, Brandon Graham and Malcolm Jenkins.

It was smart to pay Peters, Graham and Jenkins because they're great players! However, paying them also removed the possibility for discord, while simultaneously setting an example for anybody else seeking a new deal.

If you're that good, Roseman will take care of you, young or old. That's no small detail.

It's easy to point to the draft as a weakness of Roseman and the Eagles as an organization, though it's not necessarily fair. After all, every front office has its misses. Plus, the roster is getting more from Roseman's drafts than he's typically credited.

Aside from Wentz (a rather big pick, wouldn't you say?) 2016 also produced a starter in Jalen Mills, as well as role players Wendell Smallwood, Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, all of whom are pushing for more playing time. And Roseman's notable solo drafts in 2012 and '13 (prior to Chip Kelly, but after Andy Reid lost his grip on the front office) gave the franchise Johnson, Ertz, Cox, Curry and Mychal Kendricks.

Even looking at this year, Rasul Douglas is a perfectly adequate rookie cornerback, Mack Hollins is contributing at wide receiver and on special teams, and Derek Barnett just recorded two sacks against Washington. Meanwhile, Sidney Jones may or may not play in '17, but he is a top prospect waiting in the wings.

Roseman's drafts aside, the humility to allow a known talent evaluator like Joe Douglas head up the scouting department shows the commitment to winning on the part of the GM. It's not about one man. By all appearances, Roseman has bought into the "collaborative effort" trope and the Eagles can only be better for it.

Timing is everything
Perhaps more than anything else, Roseman seems to have developed a knack for knowing when it's wise not to pull the trigger on a potential deal.

Players such as Jason Kelce, Kendricks and even Jenkins have been the subject of trade rumors for at least the past offseason and in some cases, multiple offseasons. Kelce, Kendricks and even Peters were viewed as potential cap casualties as well.

Kelce is currently playing at a high level — he's one of the best centers in the league by some measures. Kendricks' role is about to increase with a season-ending injury to Jordan Hicks. And before going down, Peters was enjoying arguably the best season of his Hall of Fame career.

Roseman has also known exactly when to move on. Holding on to Bradford until a first-round pick was offered paid off, while dumping the likes of Byron Maxwell onto the Dolphins clearly had no long-term repercussions (he was released this week). Jordan Matthews is a nice receiver, but dealing him to Buffalo returned Ronald Darby and allowed Nelson Agholor to take over in the slot.

OK, so DeMarco Murray is still getting things done — although he insisted on a trade. Regardless, Roseman's swaps are almost always on point, and if recent history is any example, often show his feel for the way the roster is shaping up at certain areas.

It's the little things
Who are we missing here? Let's see. The Eagles acquired Tim Jernigan from the Ravens for a swap of third-round picks. They signed their hero kicker off of the Bengals' practice squad. They changed long snappers for the first time since Jeff Garcia was quarterback and that must've worked out fine because you probably don't even know the new guy's name.

But perhaps the most overlooked aspect of the team Roseman has constructed is an intangible that can at times go overlooked. And it's ironic considering his predecessor-for-a-year, Chip Kelly, always preached culture.

The leadership on this Eagles roster from top to bottom is second to none.

You probably can't pass two stalls in the Eagles' locker room without coming across an accountable, professional veteran. It's ironic, because Roseman — along with coach Doug Pederson — have created the kind of culture Kelly could only dream of in the NFL, and they didn't have to strip down the players' personalities to do it.

There is absolutely a special feeling in the Eagles' locker room, and it's because this team doesn't need a babysitter. You can thank Roseman for assembling that type of roster.

Eagles, Vinny Curry better off going separate ways

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Eagles, Vinny Curry better off going separate ways

There are multiple scenarios that end in Vinny Curry’s departure from the Eagles in 2018, but likely just one where he is retained. The veteran defensive end will need to agree to a pay cut to return, assuming a contract restructuring is offered by the club.

Curry is scheduled to cost the Eagles $11 million under the salary cap next season, a figure most everybody can agree is much too high. Where the two sides go from there is the tricky part.

The Eagles may approach Curry about a pay cut. Then again, they may opt to trade or — more likely — release him outright instead. Even if the Eagles are willing to renegotiate Curry’s contract, he may decline the club’s offer, again prompting a trade or his release.

Any way you slice it, there are a lot more roads leading out of Philadelphia than back in.

Though he hasn’t quite lived up to the $47.5 million contract extension signed in 2016, Curry is coming off of a quality season. His 18 quarterback hits tied for first among Eagles defensive linemen, while his 42 tackles and 10 tackles for loss were second to Brandon Graham. Three sacks is a low number for a 16-game starter, but Curry made a greater impact than that tally suggests.

Now comes the hard part. Will the obviously talented Curry and the cap-strapped Eagles be able to agree on his value? And does such a deal behoove either side?

The Eagles could very well arrive at the difficult decision to move on. The club is over the projected cap for 2018 in the first place, with Graham, Chris Long and Derek Barnett all under contract.

While Curry’s release creates $6 million in dead money against the cap, designating the transaction as a post-June 1 cut splits that cost over the next two seasons. It’s not an attractive option but allows the Eagles to save as much as $8 million in 2018, quite a bit of space.

A trade is less likely, simply because not many teams would be willing to inherit Curry’s remaining contract — more than $28 million over the next three years. That being said, the Eagles are among the most creative front offices in the NFL, so if they’re able to package Curry in any way for draft picks, don’t rule that out.

This is business for the Eagles. Of course, it’s business to Curry as well, and as much as he might want to stay, there are other teams that would jump at the opportunity to pay for his services.

Let’s say the Eagles do request Curry takes a pay cut. Will that amount be more or less than what he might command as a free agent? Put another way, if Curry were a free agent this offseason, would he land a deal for significantly less than the $28 million he’s already owed, or his $9 million in base salary for '18? Probably not.

As simple as it is to say the Eagles can try to restructure Curry’s contract, in this case, that might not be in the player’s best interest. Doesn’t mean he’ll say no, but it’s certainly not something the Eagles should count on.

It’s difficult to envision this situation working out for everybody, given how badly the Eagles need the money and how much Curry stands to gain on the open market.

*Ages as of Sept. 6, 2018

Vinny Curry
Age: 30
2018 cap hit: $11M

To put Curry’s cap number in perspective, he’s currently the 15th-highest paid edge defender in the NFL under contract in '18. Statistics don’t do his performance justice, but that’s undeniably a level his play on the field hasn’t matched. A large portion of Curry's base salary becomes guaranteed in March, so expect a decision soon. The Eagles need not wait to reap the benefits of the so-called June 1 designation.

Brandon Graham
Age: 30
2018 cap hit: $8M

Meanwhile, Graham is in the final year of his contract, and clamoring for a new deal he definitely earned. The magic number for the top defensive ends in the league right now is around $17 million per year, so this could get complicated. Ultimately, the Eagles would be wise pay an All-Pro talent, locker room leader and Super Bowl hero — probably something slightly less than that amount — but negotiations probably drag into the summer. Freeing up some of Curry’s money would help.

Derek Barnett
Age: 22
2018 cap hit: $2.92M

The 14th overall pick a year ago, Barnett is poised for a bigger role in 2018. Finished with 6.0 sacks as a rookie, including playoffs, and could push double digits next season with more playing time.

Chris Long
Age: 33
2018 cap hit: $2.35M

Long seems to have landed in the perfect scheme to extend his career, though it will be difficult to match last season’s production. At this price, the Eagles have nothing to lose.

Steven Means
Age: 27
2018 cap hit: $905,000

If the Eagles get desperate for coin, Means’ salary isn’t guaranteed, and he’s rarely active on game day. Then again, the team really likes the intensity he brings to practice. Given the chance, maybe Means could be effective on Sundays, too.

Bryan Braman
Age: 31
Free agent

Brought back strictly to reprise his role as a specialist, Braman’s job is likely done now that the Eagles have won the Super Bowl. Regardless, he’s not in the mix at defensive end.

The Eagles won the Super Bowl! So how come I'm not happy?

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The Eagles won the Super Bowl! So how come I'm not happy?

It’s now been two weeks since the Eagles finally won their first Super Bowl. In that time, I’ve re-watched the game five times, re-watched the parade 15 times, and purchased six Super Bowl champions t-shirts, four sweatshirts and five hats. And that’s just from the next morning.

We won, like I’ve always wanted. We’re Super Bowl champs. It wasn’t a dream. I was led to believe that once the impossible happened and we reached the promised land, I'd have nothing more to worry about, ever again. 

So how come I’m still not happy?

I’ll tell you why: It’s because of Cris Collinsworth’s bias. And the unfair coverage of our celebrations; the national media won’t tell you this, but once the Super Bowl was over, not a single Eagles fan punched a horse.

There were the ridiculous crowd-size estimates. And Mike Francesa objecting to Jason Kelce’s language and calling for him to be cut. And the oddsmakers putting our Super Bowl odds below the Patriots’.  And Duracell, for that tweet about Philly fans throwing batteries. Disgraceful. From now on, I’m only throwing Energizers. I’ve also yet to hear an apology from Donovan McNabb, Andy Reid or Joe Banner for not winning us a Super Bowl before now.

At the parade, as we all remember, Jason Kelce sang “no one likes us, we don’t care!” But he was wrong. I care.

Maybe I’m not used to the feeling yet. Maybe it’s because I’ve been chasing this my whole life, and at this point, what else is there to chase? Maybe this sort of existential despair is what I’ve been fearing all along.

Nah, who am I kidding. It’s Cris Collinsworth.

Anyway, here’s my solution for the quarterback thing: Play Carson Wentz, AND Nick Foles. At the same time. Defenses won’t know what hit them, and besides, I’ve got a feeling if it comes down to it, Foles would make a hell of a wide receiver.

So don’t trade Foles. But DO trade Nate Sudfeld. I bet Cleveland would give up a 1 and a 4.

Other Philly sports takes:

- I’ll tell you what, Markelle Fultz caught a break. If not for the Eagles making a Super Bowl run and winning, he’d be all we had to talk about for the past month.

- The Michael Carter-Williams trade was three years ago this week, and let me tell you, I’m still mad about that.

- Jason Kelce appeared in Clearwater for the start of the Phillies’ spring training this week. I just wish he’d go through the entire Phils roster and list everyone’s faults and weaknesses.

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