Why Eagles GM Shouldn’t Get So Much Credit for Trading Jalen Reagor, Landing Star Safety


Sure, Howie Roseman is famous for his offseason moves that continued until Wednesday, when he traded for wide receiver Jalen Reagor after trading for safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.

That came after Roseman spent the offseason revamping the defense and adding star AJ Brown to the offense.

But let’s not forget the reason Roseman had to do all of this in the first place. And for that, you have to go back to his porous drafts in 2019 and 2020.

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To Roseman’s credit, he has cleared himself of these disastrous troop lessons.

Not to Roseman’s credit, he made those choices.

So in the space of about an hour Wednesday, the Eagles traded Reagor, a 2020 first-round pick, to the Vikings and then gave up their third-round pick, linebacker Davion Taylor.

Earlier this summer, the Eagles waived 2019 second-round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside, sending him to Seattle. Their first-round pick, left tackle Andre Dillard, is a backup. Their fourth- and fifth-round picks that year, defensive end Shareef Miller and quarterback Clayton Thorson, didn’t even make it past their first training camp.

It just so happens that the New Orleans Saints selected Gardner-Johnson in the fourth round, No. 105 overall, in that 2019 draft.

To be fair, the Eagles had the last pick in the fourth round that year, No. 138 overall. Then again, Roseman was very familiar with Gardner-Johnson − and still didn’t draft him.

“Obviously, he went to the right college,” Roseman said Tuesday with a laugh, referring to their alma mater, the University of Florida. “We spent a lot of time with him in the pre-draft process. I think from our perspective, we didn’t feel like he was a fourth-round pick. He kind of fell a little bit in the draft.”

Gardner-Johnson was just as enamored with Roseman and the Eagles.

“Roseman went to Florida, one of my biggest fans, biggest friends, energy guy,” Gardner-Johnson said. “He’s someone I see myself in when I talk to him. He’s very outgoing, very honest. He knows what he wants, and so do we.”

In Roseman’s defense, the Eagles couldn’t draft Gardner-Johnson in the third round because they didn’t have a third-round pick.

But not in Roseman’s defense, the Eagles had two picks late in the second round, which they used on running back Miles Sanders and Arcega-Whiteside. The Eagles could have traded one of those picks to move back into the third round while getting an extra pick.

Of course, this is an afterthought. But these design flaws add up.

Instead of infusing the roster with young players ready to play significant roles, Roseman was left to sign veteran free agents, putting the Eagles on the salary cap until Roseman blew it all after the 2020 season.

The Eagles finished 4-11-1, fired coach Doug Pederson and traded quarterback Carson Wentz. The Eagles replaced them with Nick Sirianni and quarterback Jalen Hurts.

This is where Reagor comes in.

We all know it was a mistake for the Eagles to draft Reagor at No. 21 in 2020 with Justin Jefferson still available. The Vikings took Jefferson with the next pick. Jefferson has 3,016 yards through two years, the most in NFL history for a player in his first two seasons.

Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman speaks during a news conference at the NFL scouting complex in Indianapolis, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Reagor has 695 receiving yards in two years. He had fallen to the fourth or fifth receiver in the Eagles’ lineup, behind Brown, DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins (the Eagles’ sixth-round pick in 2020) and possibly even Zach Pascal.

To Roseman’s credit, he knew after Reagor’s first season that he made a mistake. So he drafted Smith in the first round in 2021, then traded for Brown last spring and signed him to a four-year, $100 million contract.

Sure, the Eagles got two picks in return for Reagor — a seventh-round pick in 2023 and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2024. But it’s hard for the Eagles to feel good about that.

Not when the best thing that could be said about Reagor’s negotiation was echoed by several former teammates.

“I’m happy for him,” Smith said. “A fresh start for him to go out there, and hopefully he’ll do his thing. I feel like some people need a change of scenery.”

Or as head coach Nick Sirianni said when asked why it didn’t work out for Reagor: “We wish him the best. … He’s not on our team anymore. He’s a Minnesota Viking now. I’m not going to go (the reasons). He gave us some good games while he was here. He had a good training camp.”

A quick tip: When asked why Taylor was waived, Sirianni said it was “a numbers thing,” even though the Eagles have a roster spot available.

But not to Roseman’s credit, he could have had a foundation of Jefferson and Smith as draft cornerbacks for at least five years.

The Eagles had it with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, who were drafted in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

The situation is similar to Gardner-Johnson in the 2019 draft.

Gardner-Johnson could have learned as a rookie from Malcolm Jenkins, then played alongside Rodney McLeod in 2020 and 2021 before becoming the leader of the group this season.

Instead, the Eagles tried the grand experiment of converting Jalen Mills from cornerback to safety in 2020. After Mills left in free agency, Roseman signed Anthony Harris to a one-year deal in 2021.

It doesn’t get more average than that.

Roseman wasn’t so enthusiastic about Harris starting at safety for a second season that he released Harris on Tuesday before picking up Gardner-Johnson. Every other NFL team could have signed Harris to their 53-man roster. None did, so Harris returned to the Eagles’ practice squad.

Gardner-Johnson, meanwhile, has only 10 days left to learn a new defense.

“It’s just football,” Gardner-Johnson said. “I’ve been playing it since I was 6 years old, so I just go in, stay in, put in a little overtime… The coaches were A-1. The players were A-1. They were helpful. The first day of practice, I was out there flying with the guys, so I did some reps (first team) and some reps (second team).

“Everything was natural. Everything felt like I was back in middle school or high school again, playing like a kid having fun.”

Give Roseman credit for correcting his draft mistakes in 2019 and 2020. But keep in mind that the Eagles may only have Gardner-Johnson for one year, as he will be eligible for free agency after the season. And safeties get a lot more money in free agency than nickel corners.

Gardner-Johnson certainly knows that, too, when asked about what it will be like to play safety again.

“You can see more of me,” he said.

The Eagles could have already seen this.

Sanders is back in training

Myles Sanders, who strained his hamstring during the Eagles’ first preseason game on Aug. 12, returned to practice Thursday for the first time since then. That would mean Sanders should be ready for the Eagles’ Sept. 11 opener against Detroit.

In other news, the Eagles signed former Jets running back La’Mical Perrine to the practice squad.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared in the Delaware News Journal: Before we crowned Howie Roseman, remember, he created these problems

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