Howie Roseman drops mics like Kanye West.
He swings for the seats. He paints his team’s portraits in fluorescent colors with a floor mop and he doesn’t care if you like how it looks.
Roseman on Friday traded Jordan Matthews, plus a third-round pick in next year’s draft, to Buffalo for Ronald Darby. With two career interceptions, Darby instantly became the team’s best cornerback.
Yes, that is faint praise.
This is not: Matthews’ 225 catches in his first three seasons is an Eagles record and ranks sixth in NFL history. He is very good.
To be fair, so is Darby; fast and tenacious and fundamentally sound.
Clearly, Roseman & Co. believe that, in today’s NFL, a very good cornerback has considerably more value than a very good slot receiver. Of course, it’s been years since Roseman & Co. haven’t seen a very good cornerback play for them, so maybe they overestimate the value of such a beast.
“This is a cornerback-deficient league,” Roseman said.
He certainly had a cornerback-deficient roster.
For the purpose of this discussion, though, it doesn’t really matter if the trade was brilliant or foolish. What matters is that the trade was seismic, and that Roseman pulled the trigger. Again.
It’s been 20 months since he overthrew Chip Kelly, but Kelly’s takeover was possible because Howie had been passive. Old, timid Howie is gone forever. The new Roseman whispers through a bullhorn. Howie 2.0 might have a few bugs — remember, he traded Eric Rowe — but it’s much more interesting.
“I don’t think there’s any question,” Roseman said when asked if he’d changed. “With experience, and when you take a step back, you see what works and what doesn’t.”
Roseman’s decisions might not work. Without question, his story has taken a turn. It might end badly but he’s writing it in all-caps.
He has given contract extensions worth about $250 million to Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Jason Peters, Zach Ertz and Vinny Curry, because he believed they’d be worth even more one day soon. He also gave Sam (yawn) Bradford $36 million after a season of essentially being Sam (yawn) Bradford.
Bradford signed for just 2 years, so when he balked at a long-term deal Roseman rolled up his sleeves to fortify the franchise. He traded a truckload of assets to move up in the 2016 draft and take Carson Wentz … to be a third-stringer. Roseman then trumped his own plan to let Wentz sit and learn when he traded Bradford … eight days before the season started.
This offseason Roseman rented fragile Alshon Jeffery for $14 million. He used a second-round pick on blue-chip cornerback Sidney Jones, who is damaged enough to miss the season (the Hinkie crowd was elated). Now, with Jeffery comfortably injured, Roseman traded Matthews.
Roseman was more reclusive and more reserved in his first incarnation as GM, from 2010-14. Sure, he made splashes. He built the Dream Team around cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Michael Vick, whom he gave a $100 million contract extension. He then hired Kelly, who was riding was high atop a gimmicky college offense and his Sports Science Ph.D.
Those moves were major, but they had a different flavor, and they didn’t make you wonder if Roseman was sipping from a hip flask. Asomugha was a top free agent. DRC should have been able to play nickel. Vick seemed viable. Kelly possessed true genius. Besides, those changes did not come in such a rapid succession. These days, Howie wheels and deals. He has more press conferences than a typical President; or, for that matter, an atypical one.
Again, not all of these bold moves will be the right moves. Curry had 2 1/2 sacks in 2016. Johnson, who served a four-game PED suspension in 2014, was suspended for 10 more when he got popped for PEDs again last offseason.
Three years from now, if Matthews has 450 career catches for 38 career touchdowns — that’s his current pace — and if Darby has just three more interceptions (he averages one per season), then this trade will likely be criticized.
The same is true if Jeffery and Torrey Smith, also a free-agent addition, don’t produce. Consider: Matthews has 158 catches and 11 touchdowns in the past two seasons. Jeffery and Smith have combined for 159 catches and 13 touchdowns in the past two seasons.
Still, Matthews, a second-round pick, is a free agent after this season, which diminishes his trade value. He’s also a slot specialist, which diminishes his value in the Eagles’ eyes. Darby, a second-round pick, plays on the outside, and is under contract for two more seasons.
Then again, so does Rowe, who also is a second-round pick that Roseman traded to the Patriots 11 months ago for a conditional pick in 2018. Roseman then watched Rowe win a Super Bowl ring. By the time Rowe hits the market he might have two more.
Oh, well. You’re not going to knock it out of the park every time.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t swing from your heels.