Howie Roseman

Howie Roseman’s 5 worst free-agent signings as Eagles GM

Howie Roseman’s 5 worst free-agent signings as Eagles GM

Last week, I took a look at Howie Roseman’s five best free-agent signings.

But they haven’t all been hits. 

No general manager is perfect and for all of Roseman’s great free-agent signings, there have been plenty of misses too. 

For this exercise, I’m looking at 2010-14 and 2016-now. I’m not counting 2015 when Chip Kelly was in charge. (So no Byron Maxwell or DeMarco Murray on this list.) 

Here’s how I’d rank Roseman’s five worst signings: 

5. Patrick Chung 

The former New England Patriots safety seemed like an ascending player when the Eagles signed him to a three-year, $10 million contract, with $4 million guaranteed in 2013. The deal reunited him with his college coach Chip Kelly and expectations were high. 

Well, Chung lasted just one year and was cut the following March. In that 2013 season, Chung dealt with some injuries and played in just 12 games with 10 starts. According to ProFootballFocus, that was the worst season in Chung’s now 11-year NFL career, ranking him 69th out of 88 qualifying safeties. 

The most frustrating thing about Chung is that after the Eagles cut him, he went back to New England and continued his very solid career for the Patriots. Since the Eagles cut him, Chung has played in 91 games, started 82 and has been a part of three Super Bowl winners. 

4. James Casey 

In 2012, Casey caught 34 passes for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns for the Houston Texans, so the Eagles thought they were getting a player on the rise that offseason. That rise never happened. 

Casey signed a three-year, $12 million contract with just over $4 million guaranteed. He lasted just two years and made $8 million. In those two seasons, Casey caught six passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns. So Casey, who was also a special teams contributor, made over $1.3 million per catch in an Eagles uniform. 

After the Eagles cut him, Casey went to Denver, where he played just three games for the Broncos in 2015. He hasn’t played in the NFL since. 

3. Steve Smith 

As the Eagles were putting together the Dream Team in 2011, they signed Steve Smith, the wrong Steve Smith, to a 1-year deal worth $2 million. The problem was that Smith had microfracture surgery the previous December and he was a shell of the guy who was a Pro Bowler in 2009. 

In 2009, Smith was incredible. He caught 107 passes for 1,220 yards and 7 touchdowns. And a couple years earlier, he became a Super Bowl champion with the Giants and caught five passes in the big win over the Patriots. But by the time he got to the Eagles? He was cooked. It was a shame to see a guy who was once so talented to just not be able to play anymore. 

Smith ended up catching 11 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown that season. He spent one more year in the league, with the Rams in 2012, and his career was over after six seasons of unfulfilled potential. 

2. Demetress Bell 

The Eagles signed Demetrius Bell from the Bills to replace Jason Peters and they ended up with Demetress Bell. Aside from the name change (his real name apparently was Demetress) Bell wasn’t the player the Eagles thought they were getting from Buffalo. In his three season in Buffalo, Bell had been an adequate tackle, playing 31 games with 30 starts. Heck, he had actually replaced Peters once before when Peters was traded to the Eagles. 

With the Eagles, Bell signed a five-year contract worth up to $34.5 million and was a disaster. He played in nine games with five starts in 2012 and was awful. He gave up 3 sacks, 9 QB hits, 21 hurries and 33 pressures and was called for 9 penalties that season. The Eagles cut him after that season. 

Bell spent the summer of 2013 with the Cowboys but never played in the NFL again. Peters came back in 2013 and made the next four Pro Bowls. 

1. Nnamdi Asomugha 

At the time, everyone thought the Eagles nailed it. They just signed the best cover corner in the NFL. Oops. 

When the Eagles signed Asomugha to a five-year, $60 million contract in 2011, he was coming off three straight Pro Bowl seasons and was considered by many to be the best corner in the league. He had just three picks in the last four years because teams didn’t even bother to throw his way; that’s how good he was. 

It was a different story in Philly. He just wasn’t the same player he once was. Asomugha spent two seasons in Philly, playing in all 32 games. He wasn’t quite as bad as you probably remember him, but he was far from the best corner in the league. The expectations and contract definitely didn’t match his level of play. 

Asomugha was released after 2012. He signed with the 49ers and played three games with them before he was cut and his NFL career was over. 

Honorable mentions: Leodis McKelvin, Bradley Fletcher, Ronnie Brown, Mike Wallace, L.J. Fort, Andrew Sendejo, Rueben Randle

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NFL rumors: Eagles could make a run at Patriots' All-Pro guard after Brooks injury

NFL rumors: Eagles could make a run at Patriots' All-Pro guard after Brooks injury

The loss of Brandon Brooks to an Achilles injury has the potential to damage the Eagles' long-term prospects in 2020 - unless they can plug the hole at right guard in time.

And while Doug Pederson said the team will look first at internal options, like third-year lineman Matt Pryor and second-year lineman Nate Herbig, it seems they also might have interest in options elsewhere.

That's according to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, who dropped this noteworthy nugget Wednesday in a mailbag column:

I don’t think if [the Eagles] get through a couple weeks of camp, and Pryor, Herbig and [rookie Jack] Driscoll aren’t where they should be, that Roseman will hesitate to pick up the phone.

Would they take a big swing on someone like New England’s franchise-tagged All-Pro guard, Joe Thuney? Based on what I know ... I think they’d at least explore it.

Breer is fairly well-sourced in the Boston area, so his commenting on a potential Thuney move carries some weight.

Who is Thuney? The 27-year-old went in the third round in 2016 and has started all 64 games for the Pats in his four years in the league, earning an All-Rookie spot in 2016 and a second-team All-Pro nod from the Associated Press in 2019.

He's spent his time in New England almost entirely at left guard, but could easily move to right guard between Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson.

Thuney would not, however, be inexpensive: the Patriots placed the franchise tag on him this offseason instead of giving him what would've been a pricey deal, so he's set to make $14,781,000 this year. Of course, he then comes off the books entirely, a perfect situation with a player who might just be a one-year rental. The Eagles have $24.7 million in cap space heading into the 2020 season.

Is it feasible? The Patriots placing the franchise tag makes it seem Bill Belichick values Thuney's talents, and doesn't want him playing elsewhere. But if the Eagles make a workable offer, he could be swayed.

If Thuney isn't the answer, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Reuben Frank examined 10 more options to replace Brooks - including a familiar face.

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Howie Roseman’s 5 best free agent signings as Eagles GM

Howie Roseman’s 5 best free agent signings as Eagles GM

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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