This offseason, I have already looked at Howie Roseman’s best and worst trades during his time as the Eagles’ general manager. So now it’s time to look at his free agent pickups.
For this exercise, I’m looking at 2010-14 and 2016-now. I’m not counting 2015 when Chip Kelly was in charge.
This was pretty hard to narrow down to the top five and it hurt to leave off some of the smaller but masterful moves from the 2017 season. A few more of those are in the honorable mentions section.
Next week, I’ll rank his five worst signings.
But here’s how I’d rank Roseman’s five best:
5. Connor Barwin - 2013
The Eagles were starting fresh with Chip Kelly in 2013 and were switching to a 3-4 defense under new DC Billy Davis. Barwin came from Houston and signed a six-year, $36 million contract. He was a key piece to a defense that was often strained playing complementary football to Chip’s offense.
But Barwin flourished. He ended up playing and starting in every game for his four seasons in Philadelphia and even stuck around in 2016 to play defensive end in Jim Schwartz’s 4-3. His best season came in 2014 when he piled up 14 1/2 sacks and made his only career Pro Bowl. That’s the 10th best sack season in Eagles history.
As important as his on-field contributions was Barwin’s presence in the locker room and the community. He helped set a precedent many guys have followed since. And since retirement, the Eagles have brought him back as a special assistant to the GM.
4. Evan Mathis - 2011
The brilliance of this move was that when the Eagles signed Mathis, he was just four months shy of his 30th birthday and was considered a journeyman. He entered the league as a third-round pick in 2005 and had played for a few teams but never became a long-term starter. And the Eagles brought him in after the lockout on a one-year deal worth $735K.
Mathis won the left guard job in 2011 and became one of the best guards in the NFL. He got a new contract, made two Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro in 2013. Eventually, he and the Eagles had a falling out over a contract dispute and he was released in 2015. He played just two more NFL seasons after that.
3. Brandon Brooks - 2016
The Eagles saw something special in Brooks, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Texans. A former third-round pick, the Eagles thought Brooks had Pro Bowl potential and they were right. They signed him to a five-year, $40 million deal, which might have seemed expensive at the time; it ended up being a bargain.
Since they signed him, Brooks has played nearly every game for the Eagles and has become one of the best guards in football. He has made the last three Pro Bowls and was robbed by the All-Pro voters in 2019. He and Lane Johnson form the best right side of the line in the NFL. Brooks’ importance has become even more evident in the last two seasons, when the Eagles have had to finish their playoff runs without him.
2. Nick Foles - 2017
This one didn’t look like a big deal at the time but it ended up being one of the most important decisions in franchise history. Foles nearly decided to walk away from football a few years earlier but he luckily didn’t. When the Eagles needed a backup quarterback in 2017, they upgraded from Chase Daniel and gave Foles a two-year deal worth $11 million, hoping he wouldn’t need to play.
You all know how this ended. Foles needed to play. And he played pretty well on his way to a Super Bowl MVP.
1. Malcolm Jenkins - 2014
It was honestly hard putting anyone over Foles but Jenkins belongs here. Remember when everyone wanted the Eagles to sign Jairus Byrd in 2014? Phew. The Eagles got this one right.
Jenkins arrived in Philadelphia after spending his first five years in New Orleans for the Saints, who drafted him in the first round back in 2009. His original deal in Philly was three years, $15.5 million.
In his six years with the Eagles, Jenkins played in every game and damn near played every snap on defense and added a bunch on special teams. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and the unquestioned leader of the Eagles defense. He played safety, corner, nickel and linebacker. It’s almost hard to quantify what he meant to the Eagles during his time in Philadelphia and what he meant to the team as it won its first-ever Super Bowl title.
With Jenkins, it’s sometimes easy to focus on his community work, activism and leadership. But let’s not forget how good of a player he was for the Eagles.
Honorable mentions: Nigel Bradham, Patrick Robinson, Rodney McLeod, LeGarrette Blount, Chris Long, Alshon Jeffery, Donnie Jones
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