Players like Carson Wentz “are like fingers on your hand. You can’t even imagine they’re not there,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Monday, the day after the franchise concluded its 4-11-1 season, the team’s worst mark since 2012.
Roseman was responding to a question about an ESPN report alleging that Wentz will ask for a trade this offseason because his relationship with head coach Doug Pederson is beyond repair. Roseman and Pederson insisted the relationship is good and that their focus is “to get him right” after one of the worst regressions by a quarterback in NFL history.
“I’m not gonna speak for Carson, obviously, but I can speak for myself and say that the relationship is good, it’s fine,” Pederson said. “It’s something that we’re going to continue to build upon.
“Listen, I know Carson is disappointed. It’s not the season that he had anticipated, it’s not the season I had anticipated as the head coach. There were a lot of moving parts. [The lack of success] is not about one guy here.”
After Sunday night’s 20-14 season-ending loss to Washington, Pederson said he had not spoken to Wentz or anyone about the trade request report. When Roseman was asked Monday if he had done so, he deflected the question, talked of keeping conversations private.
Wentz declined to speak with reporters Monday, through a team spokesman. Wentz’s representatives have not responded to requests for comment. If the ESPN report was inaccurate, one would think they might want to address that.
Roseman said that trading Wentz “is not anything that we’re talking about right now. We’re talking about a guy that’s immensely talented, that has a great work ethic, and [the focus is] doing whatever we can to put him in the best possible situation to be successful.”
It was striking how little Roseman and Pederson spoke about rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts, who got the final four starts of the season. It is hard to know whether they really will mount an effort to convince Wentz, 28, that he can still be the starter here, or whether they are trying to emphasize their regard for him as a bargaining ploy as they try to work out a trade, which would involve a $34 million dead cap hit, the largest in NFL history.
Defensive end Brandon Graham, asked Monday about Wentz’s alleged desire to leave, said: “It’s a lot of emotions involved right now with people. That’s all Carson’s business on what he wants to do. I don’t know how true [the report might be]. ... I do know that if things can be fixed, [the team is] definitely going to try to do that first, before anything.
“I know that I would be mad, myself, if I was not having a great year and got pulled out ... I would want to figure out, ‘Am I in the plans?’ Or ‘How is this going to work?’ I just think that it’s a bunch of stuff up in the air that hasn’t been addressed yet, but now is the time ... I do believe that Carson could still win over this team again, like he did before. Jalen is a guy that’s definitely going to compete for a position, too, but you gotta enjoy the competition, you gotta enjoy the whole process. ... I think emotions definitely would change, as people start to communicate with each other, and come in the middle somewhere.”
Roseman said he regrets his comment after drafting Hurts in the second round last year, 53rd overall, about wanting the franchise to be a “quarterback factory.”
“In terms of Carson, I don’t think it’s a secret that we moved up [twice in the 2016 draft] for him because of what we thought of him, as a person, as a player. We gave him that [2019 contract] extension because of the same things,” Roseman said.
The session was about much more than Wentz and the future of the quarterback position, though everything else that happens in 2021 might flow from what happens there. Roseman, speaking for the first time since the season started, said the 2020 performance was “disappointing, embarrassing, frustrating,” as the Eagles lost seven of their final eight games and Wentz was benched Dec. 6 during a loss to the Packers, despite the $128 million extension he signed in 2019. Three times, Roseman described his feelings as “raw,” in the immediate wake of the finale.
Roseman said he knew last offseason that he needed to start turning over the roster, moving on to younger players, but “I don’t think we went full-fledged in that.” He referred to “a little voice inside my head” that Roseman said he wished he had not ignored.
“When we thought about how the season would go, I can’t tell you there was any situation where we felt like we’d be where we are today, sitting here,” Roseman said. “We have to come back and look at it with fresh eyes ... we have to do a deep dive on every position.”
Roseman said the sixth overall pick in the coming NFL draft is “something we have to hit on in a huge, huge way.”
The fact that owner Jeffrey Lurie allowed Roseman and Pederson to speak about the organization’s offseason challenges was tacit confirmation of what has been reported, that both men will return in their present positions.
Roseman talked of how the Eagles’ reworking of some contracts over the past year or two, which put them so far over the 2021 cap, was done under the assumption that revenues would rise under the new collective bargaining agreement, especially with anticipated new TV network deals and a potential 17th regular-season game.
The coronavirus pandemic changed the outlook there dramatically. Roseman indicated he adjusted his approach to 2020 free agency in midstream, “maybe being too aggressive in March and then kind of taking the foot off the pedal a little bit.” The Eagles ended up without a credible linebacking group when the season began, and were short on experienced talent at cornerback, offensive line, wide receiver and safety as well.
Eagles fans were upset about many things this season, but right up there was the team’s drafting of wide receiver Jalen Reagor 21st overall, which left Justin Jefferson for the Vikings, picking 22nd. Reagor was injured twice, not including the concussion that took him out of the season finale. He finished with 31 catches for 396 yards and one receiving touchdown, along with one scored on a punt return. Jefferson finished with 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven receiving touchdowns.
“Obviously, [Jefferson] had a phenomenal year,” Roseman said. “It’s not like our heads are in the sand and we don’t see that, [or that] we didn’t spend a lot of time on that guy.” He said Jefferson wouldn’t have gotten as far as the Eagles’ pick if most of the league realized what he would do as a rookie. Roseman noted that Reagor just turned 22, and “sometimes those things, over a period of time, play out,” as they did in 2010, when the Eagles drafted Graham 13th overall, instead of safety Earl Thomas.