3 scenarios for Eagles' offseason involving the futures of Howie Roseman, Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz
It's easy to want clarity on what the Eagles have to do following a season that will mercifully end Sunday.
But first, the Eagles have to decide on their quarterback, their head coach and their general manager.
Once they do that, they can decide how to fix a season that went horribly wrong in so many ways.
Rest assured, something will change on a team that is 4-10-1 heading into its finale against the Washington Football Team on Sunday night. That began Saturday when a league source confirmed that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz won't return.
It's even likely that Eagles president and CEO Jeffrey Lurie already knows what he wants to do.
For the Eagles, there is not much to play for, other than pride. Or as cornerback Darius Slay put it: "We don’t want anybody celebrating on our field wearing hats and T-shirts and stuff like that. We’re looking forward to going out and to mess up some dream."
The Eagles' dream has already been messed up.
Here is a look at each possible scenario for the Eagles' offseason:
1. Keep the status quo
The easiest solution, of course, is for Lurie to keep general manager Howie Roseman, head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz as the starter.
That way, the Eagles can keep the framework in place in which Wentz remains the franchise quarterback. It will then be up to Roseman to improve the players around him and Pederson to coach them better.
That seems to be the preference of Pederson, who again on Friday expressed confidence that he will return for 2021. He said he will meet with Lurie, as he always does after a season, early next week.
The likelihood of a return reportedly is becoming a formality when ESPN reported later Saturday that Pederson will return for a sixth season. Schwartz's leaving could have been an indication that Pederson is staying.
If that's the case, Pederson said his priority is fixing Wentz, who will finish the season sitting for the last 4 1/2 games while rookie Jalen Hurts took over.
Wentz completed a career-low 57.4% of his passes before he was benched Dec. 6 in favor of rookie Jalen Hurts. He also threw an NFL-high 15 interceptions and has been sacked a league-high 50 times.
It's a big dropoff from his previous four seasons.
"I think these last four games have allowed Carson to just kind of take a step back and just evaluate and just see and work on some things that we’ve helped him with, and things that we continue to help him with as we move forward," Pederson said.
"That’s probably been the biggest thing that’s come out of these last couple of weeks. Listen, I’ve got a ton of confidence in Carson Wentz and always have. Our offseason is going to be geared towards getting things fixed as quarterbacks, and obviously as a team, and that falls on my shoulder."
On the one hand, the Eagles can make the case that much of Wentz's struggles stemmed from the injury-ravaged offensive line in which Jason Kelce was the only starter to make it through the entire season in addition to a wide receiver corps led by rookies and first-year players.
The Eagles will end up using 14 different line combinations in their 16 games, an NFL record. Two starters – left tackle Andre Dillard and right guard Brandon Brooks – missed the entire season. And three others – right tackle Lane Johnson, left guard Isaac Seumalo and left tackle/right guard Jason Peters – missed at least seven games.
Peters, who will turn 39 years old in January, is the only one in that group who's not expected back.
"I look at the injuries and that's something we've got to talk about in the off-season," Pederson said. "We've got to discuss that and see if I need to change up practice or if I need to maybe practice harder or be more physical in training camp."
The quarterback, whether it's Wentz or Hurts, will also have an entire offseason with young receivers in Jalen Reagor, John Hightower and Quez Watkins.
That didn't happen last spring because of the pandemic.
"The more you do things, the more repetition, the more chemistry, is always better," Reagor said. "Getting an offseason, being able to do OTAs, will only make us better because we’ll be around each other more, so it’s kind of self-explanatory."
On the other hand, it's hard to justify the status quo when the Eagles will finish with 10 or 11 losses, their most since 2012.
But if Lurie truly believes in Roseman and Pederson – they did lead the Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl victory just three years ago – he could bring in a senior-type adviser to help with the draft, free agency and other type of decisions.
He could also force Pederson to give up play-calling duties on offense. Pederson has been reluctant to give up play-calling duties in the past, even though he admitted doing just that from time to time during the season.
2. Fire Roseman
Roseman's draft record has been spotty at best since he got full control over personnel decisions in 2016.
To his credit, Roseman hit on all five his 2018 draft picks, most notably with tight end Dallas Goedert and defensive end Josh Sweat, along with running back Miles Sanders in the second round of 2019.
But he also missed badly on several others, most notably with cornerbacks Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas in the second and third rounds, respectively, of the 2017 draft, and wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the second round of 2019.
Those misses are glaringly evident on this team.
The most egregious part about Arcega-Whiteside, who was a healthy scratch in four games this season, is that Seattle took DK Metcalf seven picks after Arcega-Whiteside. Metcalf has 1,282 yards receiving this season. Arcega-Whiteside has 45.
And while Reagor has a chance to be a good NFL wide receiver, Roseman, picking 21st in the first round, took Reagor over Justin Jefferson, who went with the very next pick to the Minnesota Vikings.
Jefferson has 1,267 yards receiving while Reagor, who missed five games to have thumb surgery, has 381.
But Roseman's problems don't stop there.
The Eagles are expected to be as much as $70 million over the salary cap in 2021, meaning that they'll have little flexibility to go after a marquee free agent even after releasing several veterans and/or restructuring contracts.
Wentz's contract, meanwhile, is quickly becoming an albatross. If the Eagles were to release Wentz, he would count $59.2 million in dead money against the salary cap. That would add another $25 million to their estimated $70 million cap deficit.
If they were to trade Wentz, the Eagles would still be on the hook for a $34 million dead money charge for 2021.
The Eagles experienced a similar situation with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery this season. He would have counted $26 million in dead money had he been released last spring. Ideally, that would have happened because Jeffery was already in decline and coming off foot surgery.
Instead, the Eagles kept Jeffery, even as he missed eight games to start the season. He has just 6 catches for 115 yards in seven games. Roseman also traded for DeSean Jackson in the spring of 2019. He will end up playing in only 8 of a possible 33 games.
A new general manager will certainly have quite a mess to clean up.
The Eagles have 12 players who will count at least $10 million against the salary cap next season. That means that many veterans, such as tight end Zach Ertz, Jeffery, Jackson, defensive tackle Malik Jackson, likely won't be returning.
But it could also mean defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, defensive end Brandon Graham, right tackle Lane Johnson and perhaps even right guard Brandon Brooks will have to rework their contracts in order to stay.
Perhaps that new GM is already on staff as the NFL Network reported last week that former Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns GM John Dorsey has been working as a consultant for the past few months.
If there is a change at general manager, whether it's Dorsey or someone else, that will likely mean a new coach is coming, too. Then again, if it's Dorsey, it's possible that Pederson could stay. After all, Pederson was the offensive coordinator under Andy Reid when Dorsey was the general manager in Kansas City.
Still, if there is a new general manager and head coach, it's likely the Eagles might be trying to get high enough in the draft to take a quarterback in either Ohio State's Justin Fields or BYU's Zach Wilson, assuming that Clemson's Trevor Lawrence will go first overall to Jacksonville.
But that also means at least a few years of rebuilding, a luxury that Roseman and Pederson likely won't get even if they do return.
3. Fire Pederson
It's possible that Lurie could decide that a coaching change is necessary, although that appears unlikely after developments on Saturday.
Still, Wentz had by far his worst season, and Pederson either couldn't or wouldn't get him on the move more, where Pederson said earlier in the season that Wentz was "dynamic."
Then there was this from running back Miles Sanders when asked what went wrong this season: "Just not a lot of smart football throughout the whole season through all positions, throughout the team. As far as offensively, not very good execution from everybody, including myself, a lot of turnovers, including myself. I feel like a lot of things went wrong."
That's not a good reflection on Pederson.
Then again, Pederson didn't have a lot to work with, and it's safe to say that no one expected Wentz to regress as much as he did.
If Lurie and/or Roseman were to determine that Hurts is the answer at quarterback, then perhaps Lurie might want to go after Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, who coached Hurts in 2019, one year after he coached Kyler Murray, who's now a rising star with the Arizona Cardinals.
Both are throwing and running type of quarterbacks.
Lurie has always envisioned the Eagles as an innovative, cutting-edge offensive team. It's why he hired Chip Kelly as head coach in 2013 after watching Kelly's fast-paced offense at Oregon.
Before that, it was Andy Reid and his west coast offense that he learned from Mike Holmgren, who was a disciple of Bill Walsh.
Even Pederson fit that bill when he was hired in 2016.
So if Lurie and/or Roseman were to determine that quarterbacks who can throw and run, such as Hurts and Murray, are the wave of the future, then it's quite possible that he would want an innovative young coach to develop Hurts.
If it's not Riley, then it could be Chiefs current offensive coordinator under Reid in Eric Bienemy. After all, they have helped Patrick Mahomes become the top quarterback in the NFL.
But there will be changes, whether it's in players, Pederson's coaching staff, Pederson himself, or the front-office structure.
Even the players know this.
"I would love for everybody to be here, but this is the way this business is," Sanders said. "We’re going to have a whole different team next year and that’s how it is every year.
"Honestly, I wish everybody could stay ... I hope I’m still here."
Sanders' return is one of the few things that's practically guaranteed.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.