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Eagles are counting on Howie Roseman to fix two positions he’s struggled to get right in the past

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What’s your confidence level in Philadelphia’s GM?

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles’ two biggest positional needs heading into the 2020 offseason are pretty obvious: wide receiver and cornerback. You can debate the order (receiver is the clear priority to me) but they’re undoubtedly the top two.

Carson Wentz arguably had to play with the league’s worst receiving corps last season. That can’t happen again; he needs more support.

Defensively, the Eagles were getting shredded by opposing receivers on a weekly basis.

And so it’s up to Eagles executive vice president/general manager Howie Roseman to fix these spots. The question is: can he?

Looking back at Roseman’s track record since he originally came to power 10 years ago, the results don’t inspire the utmost confidence.

WIDE RECEIVER

DRAFT PICKS SINCE 2010

Riley Cooper
Marvin McNutt
Jordan Matthews
Josh Huff
Nelson Agholor*
Mack Hollins
Shelton Gibson
JJ Arcega-Whiteside

FREE AGENTS SINCE 2010

Johnnie Lee Higgins
Steve Smith (formerly of the New York Giants)
Miles Austin*
Seyi Ajirotutu*
Chris Givens
Rueben Randle
Torrey Smith
Alshon Jeffery
Mike Wallace
Markus Wheaton
Kamar Aiken

TRADE ACQUISITIONS SINCE 2010

Arrelious Benn
Dorial Green-Beckham
DeSean Jackson

*Chip Kelly was in charge of player personnel in 2015

ANALYSIS

  • Cooper, who was infamously caught on camera using a racial slur, is the only receiver drafted by Roseman to ever receive a contract extension with the Eagles. Yikes. The inability to draft a long-term answer at receiver has been a problem.
  • JMatt was productive early in his career, although his volume numbers were inflated. Roseman did well to not give Matthews an extension.
  • Day 3 picks McNutt, Hollins, and Gibson combined for 48 career receptions for 410 yards (8.5 average) and one touchdown. No late-round gems there.
  • Roseman didn’t draft Agholor but he did pick up the 2015 first-round pick’s fifth-year option, making him the 26th highest paid wide receiver last season. Not the best evaluation there.
  • JJAW was the sixth receiver selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. 28 rookies — including 17 wide receivers — had more yards than him last season. It’s far too early to close the book on him but he’s not off to a very encouraging start.
  • Greg Ward appears to be at least a decent find from undrafted free agency, though it’s hard to give the front office a ton of credit there. Ward only got his opportunity when the Eagles were desperate; it took longer than it should have.
  • Givens and Randle were free agent flops when the team really needed receiver help in 2016. Weren’t even able to make the 53-man roster.
  • Jeffery is the most successful receiver acquisition by Roseman. He obviously helped the Eagles win Super Bowl LII. Of course, Jeffery’s legacy has since become more complicated. He struggled on the field in 2019 and there are questions about his standing in the locker room after being linked to anonymous criticism of Carson Wentz. Now the Eagles might have to move on from Jeffery and be responsible for a lot of dead money after Roseman inexplicably and unnecessarily guaranteed his 2020 salary prior to the 2019 campaign.
  • Smith wasn’t very productive in the regular season but he did come up big in the 2018 playoffs. That signing was one of Roseman’s many hits from the 2017 offseason.
  • The Eagles were counting on a 32-year-old Wallace to be their deep threat in 2018 but he didn’t log a single reception after suffering a season-ending injury in Week 2.
  • Wheaton and Aiken failed to contribute despite the Eagles being thin at receiver in 2018. Basically like the Givens and Randle signings all over again. The Eagles keeping Wheaton on their Week 1 roster and guaranteeing his vested veteran salary for the season just so he could play two snaps before being cut was weird.
  • The Eagles clearly lost the DGB trade. Dennis Kelly has been a good swing tackle for the Tennessee Titans ... and even has just as many receiving touchdowns (two) as DGB did with the Eagles. Fortunately, Roseman has been good when it comes to acquiring offensive line talent so it’s not like the Eagles have missed Kelly.
  • Re-acquiring Jackson at a low cost was a good process by Roseman. But counting on the 32-year-old as their only legitimate deep threat was not.

CORNERBACK

DRAFT PICKS SINCE 2010

Trevard Lindley
Curtis Marsh
Brandon Boykin
Jordan Poyer
Jaylen Watkins
JaCorey Shepherd*
Randall Evans*
Blake Countess
Jalen Mills
Sidney Jones
Rasul Douglas
Avonte Maddox

FREE AGENTS SINCE 2010

Nnamdi Asomugha
Cary Williams
Bradley Fletcher
Nolan Carroll
Byron Maxwell*
Walter Thurmond*
Leodis McKelvin
Ron Brooks
Patrick Robinson
Cre’Von LeBlanc (in-season waiver claim)

TRADE ACQUISITIONS SINCE 2010

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Ronald Darby
Dexter McDougle
Daryl Worley

*Chip Kelly was in charge of player personnel in 2015

ANALYSIS

  • Lindley and Marsh, the first two corners ever drafted by Roseman, combined for one career start.
  • Boykin was looking like a great pick by Roseman after he finished tied for second in interceptions in 2013. That season was his peak, though, and he then fell off.
  • On a larger point, Roseman has been better when it comes to evaluating nickel cornerbacks. The Eagles have gotten some quality production out of Boykin, Robinson, Maddox, and LeBlanc.
  • Mills was a good find for a seventh-round pick. He’s the closest thing the Eagles have found to a long-term answer at the corner position. He’ll be a free agent this offseason and the team might re-sign him given how much Jim Schwartz loves him. Is Mills an above average starting corner, though?
  • Jones is the highest draft pick (No. 43 overall) that Roseman has ever invested at corner. The payoff hasn’t been so great as Jones has struggled through injury and inconsistency. Jones was a healthy scratch for multiple games during 2019 and essentially was for the Eagles’ playoff matchup (just four special teams snaps played) as well. Jones did come up with a couple big plays down the stretch in the regular season so maybe there’s still hope for him? Even so, the Eagles can’t merely rely on him working out.
  • Douglas, the Eagles’ 2017 third-round pick, is in a similar boat as Jones. He’s had opportunities to prove himself as a long-term starter but he hasn’t proven that he’s such an answer.
  • The list of free agent corners signed by Roseman is rough. The only player from that group to pan out was Robinson and that was just for one year. A magical year, at that. And, again, another case of the Eagles being better at identifying slot corner than outside guys.
  • Trading JMatt and a third-round pick for Darby was a worthwhile trade for Roseman since it helped give the Eagles enough in the secondary to win a championship. Darby did not prove out to be a long-term answer, though.

So, yeah, not the most confidence-boosting stuff.

This isn’t to suggest that Roseman can’t get these positions right. Perhaps he’ll find a way to ace the 2020 offseason just like he did back in 2017. His efforts back then won him NFL Executive of the Year in addition to a Super Bowl ring.

But since then Roseman’s output hasn’t been nearly as strong and he’s even admitted as much. The Eagles need him to help the team out more than he has over the past two offseasons.

The next time that Roseman finds real, lasting answers at wide receiver and cornerback will be the first time he’s ever really done as much.

It’s time for him to get it right.