Ford: Howie Roseman chips away at Eagles roster

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Eric Rowe didn't get much action early in the 2015 season, but came on strong down the stretch. But with a new Eagles administration and coaching staff, he is now in New England.

When the Eagles announced the trade of cornerback Eric Rowe last week, coach Doug Pederson said the team wanted to give Rowe a chance to play. The obvious implication was that it sure wouldn't happen here for the converted safety taken in the second round of the draft two years ago.

Pederson was a little nicer about it, but what he said wasn't much different from what Buddy Ryan said when bidding farewell to a player.

"We're going to let him get on with his life's work," the coach would say, an indication Ryan didn't necessarily think that included the game of professional football.

Rowe is young and wasn't a bust here yet. He got more than 500 snaps as a rookie, started the last five games of the season, and had what appeared to be a breakout game in a road win over New England. Unfortunately for Rowe, the regime that drafted him is gone now, along with the defensive coordinator who broke him in, and that's a precarious situation for a guy fighting to hang onto the edge of a roster. The new staff brought in two free-agent cornerbacks and drafted another, and that was enough to cost Rowe his spot.

"That's the league. It's part of the business," middle linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "E-Rowe is one of my best friends, but you understand the business. It's tough, but it's what we signed up for. Eric's a great player and he's going to be fine."

Rowe is just the latest to exit in a growing line of players who were brought onto the team by Chip Kelly, or who played significant roles for Kelly. Since Howie Roseman regained control of the roster, the changes have been dramatic. Players who combined to take 25 percent of the offensive snaps in 2015 are gone. Players who combined to take 41 percent of the defensive snaps are gone.

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It might be too strong to call what is taking place a "purge," but it's not way too strong. Wiping away whatever fingerprints were left on the roster by Kelly has removed 15 players who got at least one start last season. When a team trades away its starting quarterback a week before the regular season - leaving only a rookie, albeit a prized one, and a career backup at the position - that's a pretty emphatic move, regardless of the circumstances.

"This was not our blueprint. This was not part of the plan," Roseman said. "But we have to be flexible and we have to be able to take advantage of opportunities that give us an opportunity to get where we want to be. Our organization has had a run of success [previously], but we are trying to get that trophy, and to do that sometimes you've got to do things like this that aren't so easy to do the week before the season starts."

Individually, a reasonable case can be made for each of the deletions, and some would have happened if Kelly had remained. DeMeco Ryans wasn't coming back. Walter Thurmond was going to retire. Riley Cooper's contract made retaining him a long shot. There would hardly have been a groundswell for keeping Mark Sanchez.

Roseman saved money and bought leverage in landing Carson Wentz by getting rid of Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell, but the Eagles are thin at both the linebacker and cornerback positions now. He moved past DeMarco Murray, betting that the running back's one-year downturn wasn't entirely the fault of a Kelly system that badly misused him. Now the Eagles are relying on a back, Ryan Mathews, who has never been reliable.

The others in the exodus are mostly collateral damage, guys such as E.J. Biggers, Ed Reynolds, Dennis Kelly, Taylor Hart, Brandon Bair, and Andrew Gardner. They were good enough to stick around with Kelly, but not good enough to surf the wave of change into this regular season.

Bradford was a different matter, obviously. Roseman said the team's situation - most of which has been caused by the decision to bet the house on Wentz - could require taking a few chances that it might not otherwise. That includes leaving some positions thin, employing some players with spotty personal histories, and remaking the roster in a sweeping manner.

Well, it's been sweeping, and most of what has been swept out belonged to the Chip Kelly era. What remains to be seen is whether the broom swept away more good than bad.

bford@phillynews.com

@bobfordsports