Howie Roseman's Eagles drafts: hits, misses, and lots of deals
In the first of a seven-part series, Jeff McLane looks at the transition the Eagles were undergoing. Donovan McNabb departed and the team tried to restock Andy Reid's lineup with draft picks.
First of seven parts
The Eagles had just traded their franchise quarterback and handed the reins of the team to his young backup. They had cleared tens of millions in salary cap space by releasing several veterans - a few were prominent former Pro Bowlers. But the Eagles didn't spend extravagantly in free agency. Instead, their new baby-faced general manager engineered a series of trades that were, if anything, ostentatious.
The year was 2010 and Howie Roseman had just been given the keys to the Eagles' personnel department. Head coach Andy Reid still reigned supreme, and Joe Banner still had great clout over the direction of the franchise. But the then 34-year-old Roseman entered that year's draft with something to prove.
Three months earlier, he had replaced the departed Tom Heckert. Not only was Roseman the youngest general manager in the NFL - the youngest in 30 years - but he had also taken an unconventional path to the senior scout job. The law school graduate got his NFL start working on the business side of operations, dealing with salary cap and contracts while most his GM peers were on the road as low level area scouts.
Roseman eventually hit the road, but he had spent far less time paying the dues that evaluators typically pay before getting one of the precious few GM posts around the league. And that rubbed some "football guys," partly out of jealously, the wrong way.
Banner was the chief architect behind the Donovan McNabb trade to the Redskins, so it's not exactly clear why an anonymous GM would have said the following to Yahoo.com, but it spoke of the resentment that Roseman and Banner, who had also become a decision maker without a traditional football background, often faced.
"Quite a few teams are quickly realizing that they don't want to do business with Philly. With McNabb, I think [Roseman's] trying to be too smart for his own good," the anonymous GM said. "Instead of trying to put a feather in his cap by walking away with a lopsided trade, which you rarely get in this league, he should try to get a legitimate deal done. In the long run, you don't want to be known as the guy who wants to bamboozle people."
The Eagles would eventually receive a 2010 second-round pick and a 2011 fourth-rounder in exchange for McNabb. It was the most notable move from that offseason, but there were many other deals, the majority of them spearheaded by Roseman.
"We made eight trades in the draft. We made five player trades," Roseman said then in response to the anonymous GM's charge.
Seven years later, Roseman stills loves to wheel and deal. That long-ago statement by the anonymous GM didn't hold water then, and it still doesn't. Smart personnel executives never refuse to partner with a particular team on a swap. While Roseman's record is mixed, the greatest triumphs during his tenure have come in trades.
Many wouldn't have been necessary if the Eagles had more hits in the drafts since he became GM. The 2010 version is full of woulda, coulda, shoulda moments. Every team is subject to harsh second-guessing in retrospect - all 32 passed on Tom Brady several times before the Patriots finally selected him in the sixth round of the 2000 draft.
How would you grade Howie Roseman's 2010 draft? Vote here.
But Roseman has yet to have an unqualified success. That could change with last year's draft. If quarterback Carson Wentz proves to be a legitimate franchise quarterback, and can lead the Eagles to a championship, then much of the now-executive vice president of football operation's past will be forgotten.
There is more to roster building, of course, and this year's draft, which will be held in Philadelphia April 27-29, offers Roseman the opportunity to shape the team around Wentz. There are some similarities to 2010, at least in that the Eagles are turning the page toward another quarterback.
Kevin Kolb had signed only a one-year extension through 2011 after the McNabb trade, but the Eagles were clearly attempting to reboot the roster. They released or traded six players over or near the age of 30 - Brian Westbrook, Kevin Curtis, Darren Howard, Wil Witherspoon, Sheldon Brown and McNabb - and were armed with 10 draft picks.
But it wasn't a complete rebuild. Reid was entering his 12th season and the clock was ticking. The Eagles were coming off a 10-6 season that ended with a first-round playoff loss to the Cowboys. So there were also "Band-Aid" moves like trading for Daryl Tapp and Ernie Sims and signing free agents Mike Bell and Marlin Jackson.
"[10-6] isn't good enough to get home-field advantage; to compete for a championship," Roseman said this past January. "It's a huge edge to have that bye. So we have to build the team with that in mind. I think some of the things that we've done over the past few years have been to get to 10-6 and that's not good enough."
Reid still had final say over personnel and led the draft, but Roseman and Banner offered input as well. It was the young GM's job, however, to filter down the class and bring prospective Eagles to the coach's attention. Reid, for instance, didn't attend that year's Senior Bowl workouts.
It was in Mobile, Ala., that Roseman became even more enamored with Brandon Graham, a defensive end from Michigan, who would be named MVP of the game. Since 2010, only the Ravens (27) have drafted more Senior Bowl players than the Eagles (26).
"When I first came here there was such a big pool to look at, and you try to see everything," Roseman said this past January when asked for lessons he's taken from his visits to Mobile. "And now it's focusing on specific things, so you can have some takeaways as opposed to coming out of there and saying, 'I just saw a lot, but I don't really have any takeaways to come out with.' "
The Eagles had the 24th overall selection in the first round, but with two second-round picks and two third-rounders, they were equipped to trade up. They packaged the third-rounders with their first-rounder and moved up 11 spots to nab Graham.
Reid equated the 6-foot-2, 270-pound Graham to former Eagles end Hugh Douglas.
"Howie thought the world of this kid," Reid said then. "I went and looked at every game that he played, as I did with the other defensive ends and many of the other players. We just came to the conclusion jointly that this was the guy. We felt very good about him."
Graham had a slow start to his NFL career, but he has been one of the Eagles' most consistent players over the last four years and had his best season in 2016. But the Eagles passed on Pro Bowlers Earl Thomas and Jason Pierre-Paul, who were selected immediately after Graham.
A round later, with the pick obtained in the McNabb trade, the Eagles chose safety Nate Allen. In a draft that would produce some of the best safeties in the league's next era - Eric Berry, Devin McCourtey, T.J. Ward, Kam Chancellor, Kendrick Lewis, Reshad Jones, and Thomas - it was a suspect choice.
Roseman then went ballistic in accumulating draft picks for that year and next. He dealt the Eagles' other second round pick - which the Cowboys used to draft Sean Lee - for a later second and a fourth. He then traded that later second for a third and a fifth. And then he swapped that third for a later third and a fourth.
There were five more draft-day trades. The Eagles ended up selecting 13 players, most of them forgettable.
"I think I'll be a little more aggressive than [Heckert] just in terms of my style," Roseman predicted before the draft. "Tom is a very calm, very composed guy, and I want to do something right now. That's just my personality."
With the later third-rounder, the Eagles selected defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. The pick was deemed a stretch by many evaluators. Te'o-Nesheim, who lasted only one season with the Eagles and four in the NFL, wasn't even watching the broadcast when he received the call.
"I was just lying down," Te'o-Nesheim said minutes after his selection, "and looking at the ceiling."
How would you grade Howie Roseman's 2010 draft? Vote here.