Forget Vinny Curry’s contract. Forget drafting Marcus Smith, forget drafting Danny Watkins, forget the weekly talk show.
Days like Thursday are why you swallow your reservations and put Howie Roseman in charge.
The Eagles made moves on Thursday; boy, did they make moves.
They began by releasing Connor Barwin before lunch, and signed Torrey Smith a few hours before free agency officially began. But all the while, those felt like appetizers to Roseman’s main course. Probing jabs in the first round of a 10-round fight. Roseman’s never one to miss the opportunity for a big splash, and as the Brandin Cooks rumors faded and ESPN’s Josina Anderson started kicking up dust around Alshon Jeffery, Thursday’s direction shifted into focus: Roseman was going for the biggest ticket item.
Four minutes after free agency began, Jeffery called Anderson, off-screen but on-air during ESPN’s free agency special, to tell her it was a “done deal.” He was coming to Philadelphia on a one-year deal.
By shedding Barwin’s deal, and then adding the team’s three newest pieces, Roseman finished the day with a net gain of $12.76 million in salary commitments, all of which disappear after the 2017 season.
He also added two wide receivers who have the ability to change the way the Eagles play football and put them back in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
The biggest-name free agent of all, Jeffery had been linked to the Eagles, through rumblings and off-hand comments, for months. He was probably leaving Chicago, and boy did the Eagles need wide receiver help. But his cost was going to be the hurdle, the prohibitively-high figure that Roseman, with his team squeezed against the wall because of last season’s spending spree, simply wouldn’t be able to meet.
Then, he did. He paid Jeffery $14 million for one year of service, and this after spending $5 million on Torrey Smith in 2017, with two player options, and $1.51 million on Chance Warmack. Compared to Jeffery’s deal, the other two are bargain-bin deals for solid players, contracts negotiated by a man who saw a bigger picture.
Smith, coming off an injury and notable statistical decline, wasn’t going to receive Kenny Britt-type money. Once the market for Britt was set at $8 million, Smith’s wasn’t far off, and Roseman saw an opportunity for a reasonably priced WR2.
Warmack, too, ended 2016 on injured reserve. After a good-not-great four years in Tennessee, and with the Titans apparently not interested in bringing their former first-round pick back into the fold, Roseman saw a chance to pounce on cheap upside, and did. No matter that he was bringing back Allen Barbre: competition is good, especially when the guys are competing for the chance to protect your franchise quarterback. No scrubs, please.
Roseman’s player evaluation skills have been questioned time and again, and fairly. He’s made his fair share of mistakes, and in 2015 he paid dearly for them. But that’s why you bring in a guy like Joe Douglas to help out on the personnel side of things. Douglas knows how to build a contender, and Roseman has the acumen to land those exact guys.
There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room after the aforementioned splurge from last spring. The Eagles entered Thursday with just over $6 million in cap space, and as I type this they’ll still have to make moves to find the money for their newest players, plus some more for draft picks. It won’t be easy. Mychal Kendricks and Ryan Mathews will be gone, clearing nearly $6 million in room. After that, things get even tighter.
But by eking out one-year deals from three very different players, Roseman managed to put an emphasis on 2017, one year for which he’ll have to figure out a few financial workarounds, without damaging the future, just as he did last offseason by snagging a franchise quarterback and then recouping lost draft picks a week before the season began.
And not just one-year deals with any old players, but players with connections to the team the Eagles have built. Warmack studied under offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland. Jeffery was tutored by new wide receivers coach Mike Groh. And Torrey Smith was a Joe Douglas product during Douglas’ time with the Ravens.
It’d be silly to say those relationships were the leading reasons Roseman bagged the guys he did. Carson Wentz’s upside clearly roped in Smith and Jeffery, as did, you know, millions and millions of dollars. But three connections, and three new players? As Auric Goldfinger would tell you, once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, but the third time there’s a pattern.
Roseman pieced together three team- and player-friendly deals, and he nailed the most important one: Jeffery’s show-me deal is good for both sides.
If the Eagles show they can compete for a division title with a young quarterback on the rise, it would stand to reason Jeffery will come to Eagles leadership before the season is up and tell them he’d like to be around to see this Wentz kid keep growing. And I will expect him to push hard to stay around. And if Jeffery stays healthy and clean next year, plays like the WR1 that he should, and catches somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 passes for 1,300 yards and 9 TDs, he’ll get paid plenty. He will have earned every cent. And I will expect the Eagles to pony up as much as he asks.
Which is great timing. Because next offseason, Jason Peters comes off the books, saving the Eagles $10.25 million. Chase Daniel is gone, saving $7 million against the cap. Brent Celek likely leaves, saving $4 million more. Oh, and the aforementioned Curry contract? That also becomes fungible: the Eagles can save $5 million by cutting Curry outright after 2017.
You add those four up and you get $26.25 million right there.
So, yes, Jeffery will eventually be expensive. But you also have to eventually spend some money if you’d like to take the shiny, fun new quarterback you worked so hard for last year to the playoffs, and then maybe, just maybe, a Super Bowl.
And if things don’t work out next season? If Jeffery doesn’t mesh well with the offense, or he gets hurt again, or he has a diva moment late in an 8-8 season? If Torrey Smith shows, well, he’s just kind of an average wide receiver? If Chance Warmack can’t beat out Allen Barbre and is planted behind a 33-year-old veteran for a season?
None of it matters. You failed, and you go back to the drawing board with your 25-year-old franchise quarterback, and you try again.
Because it all comes off the books, for good, after one stinkin’ season. Which is exactly why you put Howie Roseman in charge.