How the Eagles were built into contenders at warp speed (or 88 mph, at least)
PHILADELPHIA -- At the close of the 2016 season -- a campaign that saw the Philadelphia Eagles finish last in the NFC East with a 7-9 record -- executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman used a question about the team's lack of wide receiver production to highlight a greater point about the hand he had been dealt when he reassumed command the year prior.
"It seems like a long time ago, we were leading the National Football League in 20-plus [yard] plays, and I don't have a DeLorean time machine to go back in time and get some of those guys back," he said.
The not-so-subtle-point: Receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, as well as running back LeSean McCoy, all exited when former head coach Chip Kelly was at the height of his powers. Roseman was removed from the personnel side of the operation in 2015 in favor of Kelly. During that one season, the roster was stripped down and disjointedly rearranged. There was a sizable mess to clean up.
"It was a challenging situation, and it starts with the quarterback position," Roseman said. "We didn't have a starting quarterback under contract. [Sam Bradford] was a free agent. We were picking 13th [in the 2016 draft] with no [second-round pick]."
It was the ability to turn that No. 13 pick into Carson Wentz and the extremely high batting average in the trades and free-agent moves that followed that made for a quick repair and sped the Eagles into the future, leaving a trail of fire in their wake (a la Marty McFly in "Back to the Future"). Here is a look at how Roseman & Co. transformed the Eagles, now 8-1, into serious contenders in just two years:
Acquired the eighth overall pick in the 2016 draft from Miami in exchange for LB Kiko Alonso, CB Byron Maxwell and the 13th overall pick in 2016: The Eagles shed two Kelly players (and Maxwell's large contract) and slid up five slots in the draft, the first of two moves that positioned them to land Wentz.
Acquired a fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft from Tennessee in exchange for RB DeMarco Murray and a fourth-round pick in 2016: Murray and Philly were oil and water from the jump. It was a necessary parting of the ways, with the Eagles moving up 13 slots in the draft in the process.
Agreed to terms with G Brandon Brooks, S Rodney McLeod, LB Nigel Bradham: A primary objective was to build along the offensive and defensive lines. Brooks has played at a Pro Bowl level since he came to Philly from the Texans in free agency. Malcolm Jenkins got a steady and reliable dance partner in McLeod, while Bradham has proved to be a sneaky important signing.
Acquired No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft and a fourth-round pick in 2017 from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the No. 8 overall pick in 2016, a 2016 third-round pick, a 2016 fourth-round pick, a 2017 first-round pick and a 2018 second-round pick: Roseman knew the Rams were selecting Jared Goff with the first overall pick. Confident that they could get Wentz at No. 2, the Eagles pulled the trigger on a blockbuster and selected Wentz eight days later. A legit MVP candidate this season, Wentz is first in TD passes (23) and third in QB rating (104.1) through 10 weeks.
Traded QB Sam Bradford to Minnesota for a first-round pick in 2017 and a fourth-round pick in 2018: Cleared the way for Wentz while recouping resources lost in the deal to move up to No. 2.
Agreed to terms with WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith: Just like that, the wide receiver corps is formidable again. The Eagles had 46 offensive plays of 20-plus yards last season; this season, they're on pace for 69.
Agreed to terms on a two-year deal with DE Chris Long and a one-year deal with CB Patrick Robinson: These are two low-cost signings who have played meaningful roles for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Acquired DT Timmy Jernigan and a 2017 third-round pick (99th overall) from Baltimore in exchange for a 2017 third-round pick (74th overall): Jernigan is the team's co-leader in tackles for loss (eight), with 1.5 sacks and five hurries. The Eagles have been so pleased that they just locked him up to an extension that runs through 2021 and includes $26 million fully guaranteed.
Signed RB LeGarrette Blount to a one-year deal: The reigning rushing touchdown champ has provided the team some big, bullying runs.
Acquired CB Ronald Darby from Buffalo in exchange for WR Jordan Matthews and a 2018 third-round pick: He has been sidelined since the opener with a dislocated ankle, but Darby is expected to return this week against Dallas and could be key down the homestretch.
Agreed to terms with K Jake Elliott and placed K Caleb Sturgis on injured reserve: Elliott hit a 61-yard game-winning field goal against the Giants in his second NFL game and has booted five field goals of 50-plus yards this season.
Acquired RB Jay Ajayi from Miami in exchange for a 2018 fourth-round pick: Ajayi broke off a long TD run just days after being traded to the Eagles. The Pro Bowl back has a chance to make a major impact in the second half of the season -- and beyond.