MAYBE HOWIE'S getting the hang of this.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman exited the 2016 season fully resurrected and, somehow, almost messianic. By drafting Carson Wentz and convincing owner Jeffrey Lurie that he'd found the next Roethlisberger, Roseman turned a one-year exile from the personnel wing into a long-term lease on NFL life.
Now, with the addition of power back LeGarrette Blount on Wednesday, Roseman clicked the final piece into place. The rebuild isn't done, but it's well underway; this year, responsibly. This offseason there have been no outlandish deals, no unwarranted extensions and no self-congratulatory announcements. He didn't leap into the arms of any startled players.
Roseman moved prudently, strengthening weaknesses and reinforcing strengths. The 2017 Eagles are constructed to succeed modestly this season and they have the foundation to be a contender for the decade beyond. They have salary-cap flexibility and personnel options; youth and talent.
It has been a masterful performance for a guy Lurie should have fired last winter. Oh, well. Maybe, after 18 years in the Eagles' front office, Howie has figured it out. You have to admit, though, just a few months ago there was little evidence that Howie had a clue.
Back in January, little mattered besides Roseman's failures. He had overthrown Chip Kelly, extended the contracts of his own pet players, sold the farm to draft Wentz with the second overall pick. Then he got lucky enough to sell show pony Sam Bradford and recoup some of Wentz's cost. Then, absurdly, he said rookie coach Doug Pederson and his rookie quarterback should reach the playoffs.
The Eagles went 7-9 around Roseman's missteps.
Veteran linebacker Connor Barwin, who flipped sides of the field and switched to defensive end, contributed little. Defensive end Vinny Curry, a Roseman favorite who got a fat extension, contributed even less.
After Roseman traded second-year, second-round cornerback Eric Rowe, the team found itself outclassed at cornerback for the sixth straight season that Roseman has been in power (Kelly botched the 2015 corners). Rowe won the Super Bowl with Blount for New England.
Roseman knew Lane Johnson was facing a 10-game suspension but he did not supply an able backup. In fact, he traded backup Dennis Kelly. As a result, the offensive line was seldom better than average. Often, it was awful.
As for weaponizing Wentz, Roseman simply crossed his fingers and hoped the status quo would somehow grow. It did not. Receiver Nelson Agholor couldn't stay out of his own head. Running back Ryan Mathews couldn't stay out of the trainer's room. Receiver Josh Huff wound up trying to stay out of jail.
This year's moves were much more measured.
Roseman waited for free agency and the draft to pass, which helped determine the true market for Blount, who is 30. This way Roseman got a two-time Super Bowl champion running back on a one-year deal reportedly worth $1.25 million, plus incentives. If 2016 is any measure, those incentives seem like sure money. Blount led the league with 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016.
Blount should be Roseman's surest fortification. That's no small distinction. In this moment, on this paper, Eagles look better across the board.
Roseman added short-termers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to Jordan Matthews and now has a legitimate set of receivers, at least for 2017. The return of Stefen Wisniewski and the addition of Chance Warmack deepened the line, assuming Johnson stays PED-free.
First-round pick Derek Barnett will bookend nicely with Brandon Graham, and Curry should benefit, too. The trade for defensive tackle Tim Jernigan and the signing of end Chris Long provide veteran depth that should offset the loss of free-agent tackle Bennie Logan. Don't ignore the addition of 6-1, 321-pound sixth-round tackle Elijah Qualls. Beau Allen, who is out with a torn pectoral until at least September, was a seventh-round pick in 2014, and Allen has seen playing time in every game since he was drafted.
As for the corners; well, a team with so many holes can't fill them all in one offseason. Still, there's a chance that free agent Patrick Robinson is better than both Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll; a chance that Ron Brooks returns from injury and regains his effectiveness; and a chance that Jalen Mills improves enough to not be targeted every passing play. Either way, they're just placeholders for Roseman's long-game assets.
He selected corners Sidney Jones in the second round and Rasul Douglas in the third knowing full well neither would be expected to produce much for a season or two. Jones is injured. Douglas is a project. They need time. Howie knows he has time.
Even the backup quarterback spot got an upgrade. Goodbye, Chase Daniel. Hello, Nick Foles, our old friend.
Then, finally, Roseman added Blount, whose arrival seems signals the departure of Mathews, enigmatic and fragile.
It's comforting, how a role-specific back such as Blount clarifies and stabilizes the stable of runners. Blount: a short-yardage, red-zone workhorse with a nose for the end zone. Darren Sproles: a dangerous third-down option; fourth-round rookie Donnel Pumphrey, Sproles' understudy. Wendell Smallwood: a well-rounded, fifth-round draft pick in 2016, coming off a knee injury, perhaps the starter of the future.
Howie's Eagles aren't perfect. They lack depth at linebacker, but, to be fair, Jordan Hicks is just in his third year and Nigel Bradham played well after Roseman signed him last season.
The Eagles might not challenge the Cowboys for NFC East supremacy, but, frankly, NFC East relevance would be a welcome first step. The well-designed roster revision, deftly executed by Roseman 2.0, should make them relevant immediately.
It should make them more than relevant in the very near future.