It was a weird draft for the Eagles. There's something fitting about that. These are weird times for the team and have been for quite a while. Weird became the new normal at the NovaCare Complex back when Howie Roseman was moving his desk across the building.
The Eagles started the draft by trading up to get Carson Wentz with the second overall pick. After that, they sat around for a good stretch and watched other teams draft. That's how it goes when the old boss traded your second-round pick for a quarterback who openly loathes your organization, and the new boss (who's also the old old boss; again, weird times) offloaded a host of other selections to secure the would-be franchise player. Toward the back end of the draft, the Eagles got busy again. They had six picks in the last three rounds. They made some interesting choices.
Chip Kelly talked a lot about character trumping scheme, which is amusing in retrospect considering how toxic the NovaCare Complex environment was at times during his reign. Unsurprisingly, Roseman - who has proven to be the anti-Chip in personality and methodology - employed a decidedly different roster building approach over the weekend. Three of his last six picks were what teams colloquially refer to as "red flag players."
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The Eagles took Wendell Smallwood in the fifth round. The West Virginia running back was previously arrested on witness tampering charges in a murder case. He also authored some regrettable tweets that have since been deleted, along with his account. In the seventh round, the Eagles selected LSU safety Jalen Mills and Florida defensive end Alex McCalister. Mills was arrested in 2014 for second-degree battery of a woman (the charges were later dropped). McCalister was kicked off the team for violating team rules.
When Roseman was asked whether those picks signaled a shift in organizational philosophy, he referenced Michael Vick and Terrell Owens and DeSean Jackson as guys who had "character concerns" before landing with the Eagles. He conceded that some of the newest draft picks made bad decisions, but he added "they're not bad people."
"I'd say we did give guys second chances," Roseman said.
There was obvious irony in the statement. No one has gotten a more unlikely second chance with the Eagles than Roseman, and as risk goes, he might be the biggest of all.
Everything Roseman has done in his front office reincarnation has been by his design, but there's a high degree of difficulty to what he's put in motion. The Wentz move was a calculated gamble, and he was right to make it. But there are attendant complications with that kind of strategy - among them, the lingering drama with Sam Bradford and the price the Eagles had to pay in terms of draft picks. There were ripple effects. Would Roseman have picked and planted those red flags if he had more selections earlier in the draft and was able to add more talent with fewer questions? It's an interesting thought experiment.
"When you make questionable decisions in your life, it's affecting you going forward, and it's costing these guys a lot of money," Roseman said. "What we hope is that the players are good people and that they just made mistakes like we all do, and we develop them, and going forward this is just part of their history and something they learn from."
Again, the irony was obvious. Roseman's previously questionable decisions didn't lead to run-ins with the law. And they didn't cost him money. On the contrary, the initial fight for control over the organization that he lost with Kelly led to a raise. But he lost agency and face in that political power struggle. He made bad choices and they nearly ruined his career. Now he's been granted a do-over, and his choices have been fascinating. You have to wonder how much of his approach is informed by previous errors. How much of Howie 2.0 is an attempt to rewrite the code that malfunctioned in Howie 1.0?
"I haven't thought about what is in the past," Roseman said. "We're going forward here and we're trying to make good decisions."
It's hard to imagine that he hasn't thought about the past and what transpired and what led him to this new opportunity. After all, he spent the last few months undoing the Eagles' recent history and trying to scrub away Kelly's imprint on the organization. The past matters. The past - that ugly shared history with Kelly - is why all of this is happening now, and why Roseman is even allowed to move forward. There aren't any second chances without the past - not for the players he just drafted, and certainly not for him.