The Eagles’ 2019 season is officially over and executive vice president/general manager Howie Roseman spoke to media on Wednesday for the first time since final cuts in late August. Roseman talked about the way the season ended, how they’re approaching their staff and roster moving forward, looking ahead to the 2020 NFL Draft, and much more.
Opening remarks - More youth needed
Howie opened by saying that they were all disappointed that they weren’t practicing this week to prepare for the Packers, and when the team has a disappointing season, the blame goes beyond the players and coaches, and extends to the front office as well. He also apologized to fans who give the team so much support.
But, despite the disappointment, they also feel a tremendous sense of pride in the coaching staff and players, because of how far the organization and team have come since Doug Pederson was hired as head coach. When they introduced Pederson, they talked about building a team that was able to have sustained success, and they’ve seen that in the years since.
He said that just because they’ve won 42 games, including playoffs, in those four years and have a Super Bowl title, doesn’t mean they’ve accomplished all their goals. He emphasized that there’s a lot of work to be done this offseason.
“When we look at our team from 2017 to 2019 we knew that we had one team. Really a team that we were going to basically stick with. We didn’t have a lot of resources in terms of draft picks — that’s on me. We made trades for some veteran players to go win.”
Howie went on to say that they were happy with those decisions, but now they want to infuse some youth into the team. He anticipates having 10 draft picks this spring, and they’re excited about that. He also said that seeing some of the young players step up down the stretch was a credit to them and the coaching staff, as well as the developmental program they prioritize.
The Eagles’ EVP/GM then spoke about the injuries that have plagued the team over the past 3 years. In 2017, they were able to overcome those injuries, but the past two years they really affected the team. He admitted that some of those are natural and the nature of playing football, but they have to figure out a way to get better.
“Hope is not a strategy when it comes to injuries.”
He said that they can help from a front office standpoint in terms of the players they are bringing in — when they bring in injured players, there’s a stronger likelihood they’ll be injured again. They hired a new chief medical officer (Arsh Dhanota, MD, CAQSM) during the 2019 offseason, someone they are excited to have — he wanted to observe the staff and through the season, and then make recommendations for them to carry out.
On the wide receiver position
He said that the first step is to sit down with the coaching staff and evaluate where they’re at — obviously, their starting three receivers at the beginning of the season weren’t out there in the playoffs.
“In terms of Alshon [Jeffery], we had a conversation with Alshon before the season and he took a pay cut in exchange for guaranteeing [his 2020 salary]. For us, we were trying to create as much flexibility going forward with our roster, to create cap space to improve the football team.
I think we forget some of the contributions to our team that Alshon has had. During our Super Bowl year, the injury he played with, not missing a game and the contributions in that Super Bowl game. Last year he had 11 catches during the playoffs. Even, you look at this year, in his last game he had, I think, 8 catches for over 130 yards in the Miami game.
So, Alshon is a talented player, and he loves being an Eagle, he loves this city. I think about the moment last year after the New Orleans game when he went into that school and put himself out there.”
Howie was asked about drafting JJ Arcega-Whiteside over players like DK Metcalf and others. He went on to say that JJAW is a talented kid and and has tools to be productive, and early in the year they were hearing about his potential for Rookie of the Year. He noted, however, that he’ll need to make a big jump heading into Year 2.
He went on to talk about how they did notice the other rookie receivers who have had success, and are taking a look at how that may affect their evaluation process. For example, there were three rookies who had fewer than 40 catches a season in college who were able to be very productive in the NFL.
On the cornerback position
He said that they have to find ways to improve the team, and he’s not going to stick his head in the sand knowing that there are some focal points for the organization this offseason. Howie noted that they have to get together with the staff and figure out their plan moving forward, and cornerback is an important decision.
The GM said that they are proud of the young CBs who got some experience this season — guys like Sidney Jones, who faced a lot of adversity and battled at the end of the year.
On the roster makeup
Howie mentioned infusing youth into the roster, and was asked how he balances bringing in young players with needing that veteran presence in the locker room — and how he plans to move forward with guys like Jason Peters and Malcolm Jenkins.
“It’s very difficult when you have guys who’ve given their heart and soul to this organization, to this team, who you’ve developed personal relationships to say goodbye. And I’m not about those guys, in general just talking about that decision.
But, at the same time, you need veteran leadership on your football team. You need guys who’ve been through it. I think that you saw that for us at the end of the year — there are guys who have been through the adversity and who were able to overcome it, and be able to take our young players and lead them.”
He then said that they haven’t gotten into any kind of evaluation yet or decided on their plan moving forward.
Howie also talked about their decision to bring back Darren Sproles at the beginning of the season, especially as they were going into tough environments and wanted an experienced returner. But, Sproles also was a big factor in developing Miles Sanders and Boston Scott, and they’ll forever be impacted by working with the veteran running back.
Roseman wouldn’t talk about anyone’s contract specifically, but when asked about Malcolm Jenkins stating he wouldn’t return under his current deal, the GM said that they knew where the veteran was when he reported for training camp.
“What an incredible Eagle, what an incredible player, what an incredible person he is and has been for us. But, after that, we’ll kind of keep those conversations between us.”
He later said that they have open and honest conversations with all their players and so Jenkins’ comments weren’t a surprise. Plus, he understands that players are just trying to get the most and do what they can for their families, and there is a shelf-life in the league, so there’s no hard feelings when it comes to motives.
On mid-season roster moves
Howie explained that the trades made ahead of the deadline the past two seasons were each different and for different reasons. Golden Tate was more a win-now move, and when they acquired Genard Avery, they knew that they’d need an offseason to get the best out of him.
Avery had 2.5 years left on his contract, and he’s someone that had explosive traits. Howie explained that when they talked to Coach Pederson and the defensive coaching staff, they acknowledged that the trade would pay off more in the long run than it would in the 2019 season.
On his personal performance
Howie was quick to admit that he didn’t do a good enough job building the roster this season, and that’s evident since they aren’t still in the playoffs. He said that he needs to, and will, do better.
He went on to explain that because of the resources they’ve had the past couple of seasons, they looked more into the untapped market which typically had some of the older players. Guys that are 26-27 years old are typically at the top of the market, and weren’t attainable with what they had to offer.
Howie also admitted later on that one of his weaknesses is getting too attached to their players, and that’s why they are bringing in some additional front office staff and also have experienced GMs he can turn to.