When the Eagles won the Super Bowl in the 2017 season, they did it in a most unusual way.
That’s not to take any of the credit away from Howie Roseman for building that championship roster but even he would probably admit he did it in a way that’s not really sustainable.
Think about what the Eagles did before that season. They signed Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Stefen Wisniewski, Chris Long, Patrick Robinson, LeGarrett Blount, Corey Graham and Nick Foles as free agents and then they traded for Timmy Jernigan during the draft and Jay Ajayi halfway through the season. Sure, Chance Warmack was a miss — they can’t all work out — but the rest of that is incredible.
Think about all the hits in there. Think about how many key players Roseman was able to bring in on minor free agent deals that worked out.
And now think about what he’s brought in since then.
Not as good, huh?
In 2017, Roseman was able to cover up all the blemishes in his draft record with a free agent hit rate like we’ll probably never see again. And in the last three years, it’s just gone the complete other direction. The Eagles have draft wounds and no Band-Aids to slap on them.
During the last few years, the Eagles prioritized signing their own guys but most of those players are older. And just about every player they brought in from outside since 2017 hasn’t worked. For this story, we’re not talking about undrafted signings or futures deals. Just NFL players the Eagles brought in before each the last three seasons.
It’s not pretty:
Traded for Michael Bennett: The Eagles didn’t give up much to get Bennett and he was productive for his one season in Philly. But he also wasn’t a perfect fit in the building and they quickly shipped him out after that year when he wanted a raise.
Signed Corey Nelson: The former Bronco had upside and was expected to compete for a starting job. He didn’t even make the team after a terrible training camp.
Signed Haloti Ngata: The Eagles gave the former All-Pro $3 million to play in 13 games and eat space. He was a run-stuffing DT who did that but not much else. He retired after the year.
Signed Mike Wallace: The Eagles brought in the then-31-year-old Wallace, who promptly got hurt in the second game of the season and hasn’t played in the NFL since. He didn’t catch a single pass for the Eagles.
Signed Richard Rodgers: While Rodgers has become a key player in his third stint with the Eagles, this was his first stint. He was placed on IR in early September. He eventually returned and caught one pass for seven yards.
Signed Paul Worrilow: We’ll never know if Worrilow would have worked out. But he tore his ACL on the first day of OTAs and never played for the Eagles. He played four games for the Jets last season and got 74 special teams snaps.
Signed LaRoy Reynolds: A cheap one-year deal and Reynolds played all 16 games in 2018 but just as a special teamer. Actually one of the brightest spots on this resume. And one of the few guys still in the league.
Signed Markus Wheaton: Yes, this really happened. The Eagles tried to find some cheap speed. The former Steeler played one game for the Eagles in 2018 and didn’t make another NFL appearance, retiring in 2019.
Signed Matt Jones: The former Washington running back never played with the Eagles and hasn’t been in the league since.
Signed Kamar Aiken: Just a couple years before the Eagles signed him, Aiken sniffed a 1,000-yard season in Baltimore. With the Eagles in 2018, he caught six passes for 53 yards and hasn’t played in the NFL since.
Signed Malik Jackson: The Eagles gave Jackson a big three-year free agent deal and Jackson promptly got hurt in the opener in Washington. He has returned and played at a higher level in 2020.
Traded for DeSean Jackson: In the two years since bringing back Jackson, he has just 22 catches for 314 yards and 2 touchdowns. When this season is over, he will have played in just seven of 33 possible games.
Signed L.J. Fort: The Eagles liked the upside with Fort but he couldn’t find the field and was released after just four games and exactly zero defensive snaps. He has since latched on in Baltimore and has become a starter for the Ravens.
Signed Andrew Sendejo: The Eagles should have let the lasting memory of Sendejo in Philly be that time Blount steamrolled him in the NFC Championship Game. He lasted just nine games with the Eagles in 2019 before they cut him and his most memorable moment in those nine games is when he nearly severely injured his own teammate.
Traded for Jordan Howard: This one worked out OK, especially because the Eagles didn’t give up much to get Howard and he was running well for half the season. But he did block Miles Sanders before he missed half the year with a stinger, went to Miami, averaged 1.2 yards per carry and is now back on the Eagles’ practice squad.
Signed Zach Brown: The Eagles tried to find a cheap linebacker option again. This one lasted six games before he was cut and he hasn’t played in the NFL since.
Signed Orlando Scandrick: The Eagles signed Scandrick in July and released him at final cuts. But when they needed cornerback depth during the season, they brought him back before cutting him again. He then went on national TV and ripped the entire Eagles organization and is still doing it for anyone who cares to listen.
Signed Johnathan Cyprien: The Eagles signed him to a one-year contract but then traded him to Atlanta for Duke Riley in late September. Riley became a key special teams contributor in the 2019 season.
Traded for Eli Harold: The Eagles tried to find a veteran edge rusher but Harold didn’t make the team and hasn’t played in the NFL since. The Eagles traded an OL named Ryan Bates, who is still a solid backup for the Bills.
Signed Josh McCown: The Eagles lured the veteran out of retirement after Nate Sudfeld broke his wrist and then McCown never gave the No. 2 job back. He fought valiantly in the playoff loss when Carson Wentz got hurt.
Traded for Rudy Ford: This one worked out for the Eagles because they traded Bruce Hector for Ford and then brought Hector back after the Cardinals cut him. So they got a solid special teams contributor (who can’t stay healthy) for nothing. A small win.
Signed Javon Hargrave: The Eagles brought in Hargrave on a big three-year deal the year after signing Jackson to a big deal. There were no OTAs and Hargrave suffered an injury that held him out of training camp. So he’s played better recently but got off to an incredibly slow start in the Eagles’ defense, which is a completely different scheme than he played in Pittsburgh.
Signed Jatavis Brown: The Eagles didn’t do much at linebacker in free agency but they took a chance on Brown, who showed some promise early in his career and was still just 26. Brown abruptly retired in August.
Signed Will Parks: It seemed like Parks was going to have a big role in the Eagles’ defense and getting him on a one-year, $1.5 million deal seemed like it might be a steal. But Parks suffered a hamstring injury in training camp and didn’t have a big role at all in the six games he played. He was released this week.
Signed Nickell Robey-Coleman: The Eagles weren’t even in the market for a nickel corner but they thought they got Robey-Coleman for a steal. It felt like the deal they got with Patrick Robinson back in 2017 but this hasn’t worked out nearly that well. NRC happens to be coming off his best game of the season but otherwise has been a disappointment.
Traded for Darius Slay: The Eagles shipped a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick to Detroit for the 29-year-old, who has had a good first season. They also extended him and paid him a ton so we’ll see how this works out in the long-term.
Traded for Marquise Goodwin: The Eagles didn’t give up much for Goodwin and then they got him to restructure his contract, so at least there wasn’t too much harm when he opted out of the 2020 season for COVID-19 concerns. Still, they could have used him this year.
When you look at what Roseman was able to do in 2017, you realize that every free agent shot hit and he was able to cover up his own inadequacies in the draft.
Because the goal should be to build championship rosters with homegrown talent. It was impressive that Roseman was able to build a championship team with all those free agents in 2017 but we all should’ve known it wasn’t sustainable. We’re seeing proof of that now.
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