Why Eagles’ GM shouldn’t get so much credit for trading Jalen Reagor, getting star safety

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

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

But let’s not forget the reason why 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 purged himself from those disastrous draft classes.

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

So within about an hour on Wednesday, the Eagles traded Reagor, their 2020 first-round pick, to the Vikings, then waived their third-round pick, linebacker Davion Taylor.

Earlier this summer, the Eagles gave up on 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 survive their first training camp.

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

In fairness, 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 he 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 did not 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, energetic guy,” Gardner-Johnson said. “He’s somebody that I see myself in him at times when I talk to him. He’s very outgoing, very outspoken. 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 in order to move back into the third round while getting an extra pick.

Of course, that is hindsight. But those draft mistakes add up.

Instead of infusing the roster with young players ready to play major roles, Roseman was left to sign veteran free agents, putting the Eagles in salary cap purgatory until Roseman tore it all down after the 2020 season.

The Eagles finished 4-11-1, fired head 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 receiving yards in two years, the most in NFL history for a player in his first two seasons.

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

Reagor has 695 yards receiving in two years. He had fallen to the fourth or fifth receiver in the Eagles’ pecking order, behind Brown, DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins (the Eagles’ sixth-round pick in 2020) and possibly even slot receiver 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 deal worth as much as $100 million.

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 trading Reagor was echoed by several former teammates.

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

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

A quick aside: 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 drafted cornerstone wide receivers for at least five years.

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

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

Gardner-Johnson could’ve 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 corner to safety in 2020. After Mills left as a free agent, Roseman signed Anthony Harris to a one-year deal in 2021.

It doesn’t get more mediocre than that.

Roseman was so unenthusiastic about Harris starting at safety for a second season that he released Harris on Tuesday before getting Gardner-Johnson. Every other NFL team could have signed Harris to their 53-man roster. None did, so Harris came back to the Eagles’ practice squad.

Gardner-Johnson, meanwhile, is left with just 10 days to learn a new defense.

“It’s just football,” Gardner-Johnson said. “I’ve been playing it since I was 6 years old, so just getting in, staying in, putting in a little overtime … Coaches have been A-1. Players have been A-1. They’ve been helpful. First day of practice, I was out there flying around with the guys, so I got some (first-team) reps, got some (second-team) reps.

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

Give Roseman credit for making up for his draft mistakes in 2019 and 2020. But keep in mind that the Eagles might 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 this, too, when he was asked about what it will be like playing safety again.

“You get to see more of me,” he said.

The Eagles could have already seen that.

Sanders returns to practice

Miles Sanders, who strained his hamstring during the Eagles’ first preseason game on Aug. 12, returned to practice Thursday for the first time since. That would indicate that Sanders should be ready for the Eagles’ opener Sept. 11 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 on Delaware News Journal: Before we crown Howie Roseman, remember, he created these problems

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