Howie Roseman's assessment of the Eagles begins with his biggest accomplishment of the year and the basis of any optimism about the franchise: The team found a quarterback. The next step is building around Carson Wentz.
"I was very vocal internally about the need to have a long-term answer at that position, and felt like it was the most important thing we could possibly do," Roseman said. "I sit up here really excited about the future of this franchise, but knowing that there's a lot of work that needs to be done. We didn't have the same amount of resources that we are used to."
That last admission was another part of Roseman's message in his season-ending news conference Wednesday. Roseman acknowledged the quagmire he inherited, offering not-so-subtle references to Chip Kelly's one year in charge of personnel decisions and Roseman's exile.
There were repeated references to instability at quarterback, no second-round pick, and messy contract situations. Roseman even noted how the Eagles used to lead the NFL in 20-plus-yard plays and that he doesn't "have a DeLorean time machine to go back in time and get some of those guys back" - an allusion to a period when DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy wore Eagles uniforms.
"I could say sitting up here last year, it was challenging," Roseman said. "It was a challenging situation and it starts with the quarterback position. We didn't have a starting quarterback under contract; he was a free agent. We were picking 13th with no [second-rounder]. And we sat down and we said if we can come out of this offseason and sit here next season at this time and feel like we had a permanent answer at that position, we're going in the right direction."
So a big part of Roseman's first year was figuring out how to get that quarterback, and another part was undoing what he inherited. That included trades of DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell, and Kiko Alonso to open salary-cap space - not all wins, when looking at their production elsewhere - and reallocating the money to free agents such as Brandon Brooks and Rodney McLeod. The Eagles also gave contract extensions to returning players Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Vinny Curry, Zach Ertz, and Malcolm Jenkins. Cox's contract was the most notable as the largest on the team.
"When we look at our team going forward, we've got a 24-year-old quarterback. We've got a 25-year-old highest-paid player," Roseman said. "We have got to make sure we surround that talent with people who can be here and build with them."
Cox is actually 26, but Roseman's point was understood. The Eagles are looking to add to their core around those players. They re-signed those they felt would be part of that rise. Not all of them played to those standards this season. Curry had only 21/2 sacks. Roseman contended that Curry would "continue to get better."
But the Eagles' hope of building a young core around Wentz and Cox did not align with the September trade of cornerback Eric Rowe. (That could also fall under the category of undoing Kelly's decisions.) Rowe sank on the depth chart, but he was a 2015 second-round pick at a position that lacked young talent. The Eagles traded him to the New England Patriots for a 2018 fourth-round pick (that could become a third-rounder), and Rowe started seven games for a team that went 14-2 with the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense. The Eagles played Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, and Jalen Mills at cornerback.
Roseman said the Eagles had determined that they would not give Rowe a contract extension, even though the cornerback had three more years under contract and wasn't eligible for an extension until 2018.
"We did make that determination based on the defense that we have, the scheme that we have," Roseman said. "And then after talking about our corner position with the coaches, we were concerned about getting the same value, if it was the same situation going forward. And obviously you can only deal with the information that you have at the time."
Roseman admitted that the Eagles have tried to put "Band-Aids" on positions - cornerback among them - to try to get by in the short term. He knows they need to have a team that is at its best during Wentz's prime, which puts the onus on the Eagles to hit on draft picks this spring. By trading Sam Bradford, they obtained a first-round pick and recovered value lost in the deal to acquire Wentz.
A big part of any offseason success in 2017 will need to include Joe Douglas, the vice president of player personnel. Roseman said Douglas would "lead the draft room" and "put the free-agency board together." Roseman retains final say on football decisions.
It also will be another year with coach Doug Pederson. If recent history in Philadelphia is any indication, the relationship between the head coach and the front office is critical. Roseman said that there is a "great dynamic" and that he asks for input from Pederson and funnels information to the coach and his staff. Roseman also gave a strong endorsement of Pederson, even though the Eagles finished 7-9.
"You talk about facing adversity," Roseman said. "Head coach comes in and our right tackle is suspended for 10 games; our starting quarterback is traded eight days before the start of the regular season. And the way the players responded, certainly toward the end of the season, you could see how the players felt about him."
Roseman said he was looking forward to seeing Pederson grow in his second year. It also will be the second year for Wentz and the post-Kelly Eagles. An offseason of building upon what Roseman started one year ago has already begun.
"It's never satisfactory when we are sitting here having a press conference in January," Roseman said. "But the reality is that when we made this decision to trade up for the quarterback, we're going to build around him. When we re-signed Fletch, we knew we had a 25-year-old we were going to build around. And we are going to stick to our plan."