Hayes: Great move for Eagles, if Carson Wentz is great
HOWIE ROSEMAN and Jeffrey Lurie have often said: This is how you become great. You identify stars, studs, cornerstone players; and then, you get them. If it costs you five picks to get the one you want, so be it, especially if it's a quarterback.
HOWIE ROSEMAN and Jeffrey Lurie have often said: This is how you become great.
You identify stars, studs, cornerstone players; and then, you get them. If it costs you five picks to get the one you want, so be it, especially if it's a quarterback.
In the NFL, super running backs don't win Super Bowls. Super quarterbacks do: Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning.
Maybe, Carson Wentz.
Roseman and Lurie looked at the next few crops of quarterbacks, shuddered, and on Wednesday finalized a megadeal with the Browns. They sent the Eagles' first-round picks from this year and next, along with a third- and fourth-rounder from this year, and a second-round pick in 2018, all for the right to draft Carson Wentz.
The Eagles jumped from No. 8 overall to No. 2, and, for good measure, got a fourth-rounder in 2017.
All of this, for Wentz? The consensus says the Rams traded up to No. 1 to take Jared Goff. So, Wentz.
"It's hard to be great if you don't take some risks," Roseman said.
He sounded a lot like Tom Modrak and Andy Reid after they spurned Heisman Trophy running back Ricky Williams and picked Donovan McNabb with the No. 2 pick in 1999. That was the last time the Eagles selected as high. McNabb became the best quarterback in team history and the key player in its best era.
So, which passer is the next McNabb . . . or better?
Roseman said of Goff and Wentz, "It's like vanilla or chocolate" (thank goodness both are white); or, more evocatively, "It's like pepperoni or sausage." The point: Either is an excellent investment in a league whose rules are written to protect quarterbacks and to feature passing.
Even when you just extended Sam Bradford for two years with $22 million guaranteed.
Even when you just signed Chase Daniel as his backup for three years, with $12 million guaranteed.
Teams have stockpiled quarterbacks for a long time. The Chargers had Drew Brees when they got Philip Rivers high in the 2004 draft. The Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers in the first round of the 2005 draft when Brett Favre had plenty of tread left. The Falcons had quarterbacks when they used the 33rd overall pick in 1991 on Favre, who then went to the Packers for a first-round pick in 1992. The Patriots took Jimmy Garappolo in the second round in 2014, but Brady has never been better.
"We're going to invest in quarterbacks," Roseman said.
Apparently, they're going to invest as no one ever has before . . . in a player who is, at least, a gamble.
Wentz was a three-sport athlete from North Dakota who bloomed so late, he didn't start in high school until his senior season, then spent three seasons, including a redshirt year, watching at North Dakota State. That means he's plenty raw enough to spend two seasons learning the position behind Sam Bradford, who, Roseman declared, will still be the starter this season, and maybe beyond. After all, Wentz played in the second tier, the FCS.
Consider, though, some of the other FCS (formerly I-AA) quarterbacks who went in the first round: Phil Simms, Steve McNair, Doug Williams, Joe Flacco. Three of four won Super Bowls and the fourth, McNair, was the highest pick (third), nearly won a Super Bowl and was co-MVP in 2003 with Peyton Manning.
Wentz will be learning at QB University.
One reason Lurie and Roseman hired Pederson was that Pederson, a former NFL quarterback, wanted Frank Reich, a former NFL quarterback, to be his offensive coordinator. John DeFilippo is the quarterbacks coach, and he helped further the careers of Carson Palmer, Derek Carr and Josh McCown. Daniel, the backup in Kansas City when Pederson revived Alex Smith's career, will be Wentz's big brother.
"We have a unique luxury, in this league, to have those guys," Roseman said, with an eye to them being poached for promotions. "Who knows how long it's going to last?"
Philadelphia will be QB Central as long as it operates under Roseman's purview.
It was odd to see Lurie on the field at the Senior Bowl in January. It was odd to hear that he accompanied Roseman and Co. to Fargo. N.D., to watch Wentz's workout last month, then to dine with the passer.
It was odd that Roseman included Lurie in the list of principals who endorsed the particulars of the trade:
"The head coach, all our scouts, our coaches and our owner."
So Lurie thinks Wentz has a great arm. That's what's important, right?
For better or worse, Lurie clearly is taking a larger role in matters these days, and he doesn't care who knows. He watched the relationship between Roseman and Chip Kelly disintegrate in two years, despite a 20-12 record and a playoff visit.
He watched Kelly, given autonomy, destroy the franchise in 11 months.
He will not watch Roseman, reascended, do the same. Not without oversight.
Assuming Wentz's contract slots into the rookie scale logically, Lurie will have guaranteed a total of about $60 million to the quarterback position this offseason.
Bradford is not logically tradable this season, since his $11 million signing bonus would accelerate against the cap. He is, however, more logically tradable in 2017, when he would be a $5.5 million cap hit, but would save the team $17 million in salary and roster bonus.
So, maybe the Eagles can recoup some of those precious picks.
Maybe they won't want to. Wentz might need more seasoning. Bradford might warrant another extension.
Either way, they will have options.
This might cost them the chance to draft a solid offensive lineman, such as Notre Dame guard/tackle Ronnie Stanley. Roseman said the team's low-level free-agency signings gave them the depth they sought on the offensive line, and Pederson has said left tackle Jason Peters, 34, has several productive seasons left.
They still have six other picks in this year's draft, four in the top 200. That's enough to add depth at linebacker, defensive back and running back, and maybe even steal a receiver.
Regardless, if Roseman and Lurie believe Wentz or Goff is the answer, then they must try to get one of them.
Said Roseman, "We believe they have a shot to be great."
That's all that matters.