There is nothing Howie Roseman loves more than swinging a trade, at least as it pertains to running the Eagles' personnel department.
A tinkerer by nature, Roseman has spoken in the past of drafts in which he had to excuse himself from the war room as if to refrain from needlessly swapping picks with other teams. But when players are involved, the reason for his fondness for big deals is simple: He's generally been successful at it.
On Tuesday, Roseman pulled off another whopper of a deal when he acquired Jay Ajayi from the Dolphins for a 2018 fourth-round choice. It's a lopsided exchange on paper: Getting a 24-year-old running back with two years left on a fifth-round rookie contract for just a third-day draft pick could almost be labeled as too good to be true.
But was it necessary or was it another "Howie Wowie" — moves Roseman has made that are seemingly exhibitionistic?
While it is too early to answer the question definitively, questioning the motives of the Eagles executive is never out of order. But what Roseman's recent track record has afforded him is a greater benefit of the doubt.
The Eagles, despite their impressive start this season, have won nothing yet, and Roseman, despite a striking turnaround since regaining power, has not yet won executive of the year. But a 7-1 record at the halfway pole, coupled with his signature acquisition of Carson Wentz, should have even the most skeptical acknowledging Roseman's role in the Eagles' start.
"We've got a long way to go in this season," he said Tuesday after the Ajayi trade. "We're just trying to do whatever we can from our perspective to improve the football team."
Ajayi should upgrade the running back position. It may even be a significant improvement once he's completely immersed in the offense. He's a downhill power back with lateral burst and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
But Ajayi comes with baggage. Reports out of Miami labeled him as a divisive force in the locker room, a characterization that Roseman didn't counter. Just a day earlier, Eagles coach Doug Pederson cautioned against a trade deadline deal done simply for the sake of doing it.
"It would have to be a dynamic fit," he said, "and it would have to be such a fit that you don't disrupt the locker room."
The Eagles were clearly sensitive to the other running backs, particularly LeGarrette Blount. Roseman said that Blount would remain the starter, although he later backtracked and said that would be a coaching decision. Pederson said that Blount's role wouldn't change.
But someone's going to be affected, whether it's Blount, Wendell Smallwood, or Corey Clement. And it will be Pederson's job to maintain a harmonious balance. He said that most of that work had already been done after a year and a half of culture building.
The Ronald Darby trade, for instance, was deemed a possible locker room disruption because popular wide receiver Jordan Matthews was packaged with a third-round pick to the Bills. But there has been no evidence that his departure affected team chemistry.
Darby, who suffered a dislocated ankle in the opener, has played only 19 snaps. But like Ajayi, the 23-year-old cornerback was added to help the Eagles immediately but also with an eye toward the future.
If there's a fair criticism of Roseman's trades – no matter how fruitful — it's that they often wouldn't have been necessary had his evaluations in the draft and free agency been more accurate.
But with Darby, Ajayi, and the Tim Jernigan trade in April, that hasn't been as much the case. The cornerbacks have performed well without Darby, although most would agree that it is likely unsustainable over the long haul. The running backs were productive before Ajayi arrived, although none of them is projected to be the lead back beyond this year.
And Jernigan was an astute trade for a defensive tackle whom the Eagles correctly identified would thrive in a scheme change. Roseman's other trades this offseason were minor in comparison, but dealing offensive linemen Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin for late-round picks could haunt the Eagles if Halapoulivaati Vaitai continues to struggle in place of Jason Peters, or if there are more injuries to that unit.
The draft and free agency are also difficult to grade. Receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith have underperformed, but the position needed to be addressed and their presence alone has benefited tight end Zach Ertz and slot receiver Nelson Agholor.
It will take years to assess the draft — the first with vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas crafting the board — especially since second-round cornerback Sidney Jones is unlikely to contribute this season. But first-round defensive end Derek Barnett, third-round cornerback Rasul Douglas, and fourth-round receiver Mack Hollins have gotten off to solid, if not spectacular, starts.
Moving up for fourth-round running back Donnell Pumphrey, who was inactive to open to season before being placed on injured reserve, in a draft ripe with talent was one of the negatives that led to acquiring Ajayi.
Roseman has made a total of 62 trades since being named general manager in 2010 — more than any other NFL executive over the same span. Of that number, 42 have involved players. Sending Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso to the Dolphins to move up five picks in the first round of last year's draft was shrewd.
But the most pivotal transactions were trading up into the No. 2 pick for Wentz and shipping Sam Bradford to the Vikings just before last season.
Several Roseman decisions from 2016 could be quibbled with — the Vinny Curry contract; signing free agents Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Chris Givens, and Rueben Randle' trading for Dorial Green-Beckham; drafting Isaac Seumalo in the third round – but having a franchise quarterback can mask all kinds of personnel mistakes.
Roseman 2.0 may be a lot like the earlier version, but since returning from a one-year Chip Kelly-induced exile, the executive has done a better job moving on from his mistakes and of delegating responsibility to lieutenants such as Douglas.