The NFL is not Madden. We hear a similar sentiment all the time; whether it be regarding moving offensive linemen from position to position or trading for a player to improve your team, the league simply isn’t very active. But Howie Roseman doesn’t care for tradition.
That dates back to 2011, when Roseman paid a small fortune for free agent talent. That team was coined a “dream team” that ended up going 8-8, then 4-12 to mark the end of Andy Reid in Philadelphia.
Howie Roseman’s Aggressive Nature Sets Him Apart
It always has. It is what makes him such a polarizing figure. Reid was unable to survive Roseman’s roster building early on. But he’s also a Super Bowl-winning general manager, with a team led by a backup quarterback, no less.
Then, in 2020, Roseman left us all scratching our heads in confoundment. Why would he draft a quarterback in the second round just a season after handing Carson Wentz a four-year, $128 million contract?
And now he looks like a genius for that move.
Before 2021, Roseman hired Nick Sirianni, who was immediately placed in the crosshairs after completely botching his opening press conference. A year later, his team is undefeated with Jalen Hurts at quarterback, and Sirianni has put together an outstanding staff to boot.
Roseman isn’t perfect. The Alshon Jeffery contract was inconceivable. His first-round draft résumé is… underwhelming.
And because of that, many believe he struggles to put a team together with homegrown talent, but that’s not the case.
In September, Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap tweeted the top-10 teams in homegrown talent on the 53-man rosters. The Dallas Cowboys, famous for building through the draft, rank first at 81.7%. Philadelphia, meanwhile, ranks seventh in the NFL at 65%, which doesn’t mesh with the narrative surrounding how Roseman builds a team.
So let’s take a look at some of their homegrown talent.
Drafting and Developing Offensive Linemen
Each of the 10 offensive linemen on the Eagles’ roster were either drafted or signed by Philadelphia. Sure, Andre Dillard has been a bust. However, the history of the 22nd pick in the NFL draft has been a bust about as often as it has been a win.
The Eagles’ offensive line has been the team’s heartbeat for the better part of a decade. Whether good or bad as a whole, the offensive line has largely been a positive. Now it’s one of the best units in football.
The worst attribute in a roster builder is comfortability. Roseman does not rest on his laurels. When it was clear Jason Peters was starting to decline, he drafted a longshot in Jordan Mailata in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Then, in 2019, he drafted Dillard. Mailata was a proverbial Hail Mary that landed. The 2018 seventh-rounder washed away the sin of Dillard’s failure.
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Brandon Brooks was one of the best guards in the NFL when he retired after the 2021 season, leaving a 330-pound hole at right guard. Isaac Seumalo was drafted in Round 3 of the 2016 NFL Draft. He’s been in and out of the starting lineup since and has started all six games for Philadelphia in 2022, allowing just one sack thus far.
Then, there’s Landon Dickerson, a player with first-round talent but who suffered four straight season-ending injuries in college, that Philadelphia took a shot on. Dickerson is currently doing what he did at Alabama, dominating the line of scrimmage in devastating fashion.
And do we even need to discuss Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson? Kelce is a Hall of Fame center, and Johnson might be the best offensive lineman in the NFL right now.
But Jack Driscoll, Cam Jurgens, and Sua Opeta all provide decent depth on the offensive line, and all are homegrown talents. Jurgens gets a season to learn behind Kelce before his likely retirement, another example of Roseman’s foresight.
Aside from A.J. Brown, every starter on offense is a homegrown talent. And while many of the starters on defense come from somewhere else, Philadelphia did draft some decent depth on the defensive side of the ball.
Howie Roseman Taking Advantage of a Conservative Trade Market
Roseman hasn’t always struck gold with trades, but his recent track record has been a cornucopia of wins for Philadelphia. He’s incredibly active, whether making draft day trades for players, moving around to get “his guys” in the draft, or making trades throughout the other 363 days of the year.
Hell, trying to follow the Wentz first-round pick is a nightmare. At one point, Philadelphia had three first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.
First, Roseman deserves a statue for the Wentz trade alone. Manipulating the deal to make a conditional second-round pick become a first through playing time was always a one-sided deal towards Philadelphia.
The Eagles ended up with the 16th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft from Indianapolis. Philadelphia then traded two of their first-round picks to the Saints in a deal that netted them a huge win.
Because future picks are valued less than present picks, the highlights are that the Eagles gave up two present firsts and received two firsts (2022 and 2023) and a second (2024). Right now, that first-round pick sits inside the top 10, as New Orleans sits at 2-5 on the season. All of that started with Roseman fleecing Chris Ballard.
The Eagles needed another receiver before heading into the 2022 season. The draft provided a good, but not great, crop of guys to choose from in Round 1. So instead of sitting and drafting someone who you hope can be a No. 1, why not just trade for someone who already is a bonafide stud that the current team won’t want to pay at the end of the season?
That’s how you end up with A.J. Brown, and the Titans end up with a player whose ceiling is Brown at best. However, that’s a high-profile trade that involved giving up premium assets to acquire. Taking advantage of the market is trading a third-round pick for a starting cornerback in Darius Slay and fifth and sixth-round picks for C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
Slay had been struggling in Detroit, but has re-emerged as one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. Gardner-Johnson doesn’t need to be an All-Pro to know that was an awesome trade. The hit rate on those Day 3 picks are under 25%. You simply hope those players make the roster.
Even if Gardner-Johnson doesn’t remain an Eagle, the trade was still worth it. The Eagles are going for glory in a bad NFC.
Going Big While Paying a QB Pennies
The Eagles needed to get better at wide receiver, cornerback, safety, linebacker, and pass rusher during the offseason. They got markedly better at all of those positions.
Haason Reddick already has 4.5 sacks through six games playing OLB. That was Roseman’s big offseason addition, but there were many more. Kyzir White was an upgrade at linebacker, CJG took over at safety, and Roseman struck gold by signing James Bradberry off the streets, whose been outstanding for Philadelphia thus far.
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Roseman and the Eagles are paying a lot of quality talent good money to pair with a young QB who’s playing very well. A quarterback who many believed Roseman started a QB controversy with at the time of his selection.
The more likely scenario is that he and the rest of the front office saw signs of decay in their return from Wentz and wanted an insurance policy. That insurance policy paid out, and trading Wentz when Roseman did got his money off the books before this season, which let the Eagles add more pieces around an inexpensive passer.
Maybe the Eagles crash and burn spectacularly. Maybe the AFC cannibalizes itself, and Philadelphia is the healthier team in the end and wins a Super Bowl.
If fortune does truly favor the bold, it’s about time Roseman receives another payout for his relentless activity.