Ford: Will Roseman's risks result in Eagles rewards?

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Howie Roseman (right) and two of his possible risks, Dorial Green-Beckham (top left) and Carson Wentz.

When Howie Roseman emerged from his year in solitary, he could have come blinking back into the light in either of two ways - as a cautious general manager looking for stability in an unstable profession or as a once-burned gambler no longer afraid of fire.

It didn't take very long to determine in which direction Roseman had been bent while he was off in a library corner doing doctoral work on what it takes to win in the NFL. He hit the ground on the move when reinstated and the movement hasn't slowed in eight months.

"It's hard to be great if you don't take some risks," Roseman said, early on in the process. That can serve as his official mantra and, by extension, as the mantra of the entire organization.

The flip side of his philosophy, however, is that it is also hard to be anything but mediocre if the sheer number of risks taken makes it unlikely to break even on all those individual bets. Thin out the roster for a potential franchise player? Go with a first-time head coach? Take on some guys with iffy character backgrounds? Hand out big contracts that shove the team up against the salary cap for several years? Trade away future draft picks?

Any one or two of those might be understandable or acceptable risks, even if they didn't happen to work out. Taking them all together is something else entirely, and it's a testament to Roseman's courage that he's trying to pull it off. The Eagles will rise or fall in the next few seasons based almost entirely on how these risks play out.

Just in the last week, the Eagles looked at their woeful wide receiver situation and decided that trading for Dorial Green-Beckham was a good idea. They gave up reserve offensive lineman Dennis Kelly, which wasn't a high price to pay, but what did they really get in return? Green-Beckham has been a lifetime rockhead - albeit a talented one - and there's little to indicate what will be different about him here.

"There's a reason he's available at this time," Roseman said. "But for us and where we are in our development, it's a risk worth taking."

Where they are at the receiver position can be traced to some poor decisions by Chip Kelly, who drafted underperforming Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff, along with Jordan Matthews, who is fine but might always be just a slot receiver. Kelly also didn't upgrade from Riley Cooper, and those were the receivers he left behind.

Given that situation, Roseman could have made the position a point of emphasis, especially since he re-signed quarterback Sam Bradford to a big contract. None of the team's eight draft picks were receivers, however, and many of the resources that could have bolstered the position were spent on the two-step process that allowed the Eagles to land Carson Wentz.

Many of the risks that Roseman and the Eagles have accepted are linked to that decision like spokes to a hub. It cost a lot to go from the 13th pick to the eighth pick and then to the second pick in order to draft a quarterback who might or might not be a franchise maker.

Along the path of that process, they traded away Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell, and while that made sense in some ways, the Eagles are thin at both linebacker and cornerback now, and those two are both starting for the Dolphins.

Throughout the current roster, there are holes that could have been filled, or wouldn't have been created, without the decision to go after Wentz. Additionally, the Eagles gave up their first-round pick in 2017 and second-round pick in 2018, which means there will be fewer pieces to add to the puzzle.

In a rare public address during his exile, Roseman said that history doesn't reward teams that go all-in on a single pot. A team is better off with more draft choices - "lottery tickets" was his analogy - more opportunities to take a swing, and fewer consequences of a miss. That was his assessment of whether the Eagles should make a play to move up and get Marcus Mariota in the draft. It was a bloodless exercise since Roseman had no say in the matter.

A year later, he plotted a course directly opposite of that advice. It will be fascinating to see which Howie was right. While we wait to find out, the Eagles are under-talented and cash-strapped, led by a neophyte head coach, have some questionable dudes on the roster, and face an odd season in which their starting quarterback, a former No. 1 overall draft pick in the athletic prime of his career, is a contractual lame duck. So, yes, a few risks.

"We knew we had to get a little uncomfortable for this season and next season, really, to build something that hopefully lasts and gives us a chance at being a really good team again for a long period of time," Roseman said.

A little discomfort is one thing, but Roseman has built a tower of risk, with each gamble stacked atop the other. It sways in the breeze now, and the winds of the regular season haven't started yet.

Maybe it all works out. The tall redhead will eventually have a lot to say about that. Right now, though, the odds seem long, even longer than a year in solitary.

bford@phillynews.com

@bobfordsports