On Howie Roseman, General Manager of the Philadelphia Eagles

On Howie Roseman, General Manager of the Philadelphia Eagles

“I'm a football coach. I'm not a
general manager. I'm not a salary cap guy. I coach football. I need people that
can go out there and say, 'Hey, this is what you want.' It's going to be a
collaboration. I have no delusions of saying I want all these different titles.
I just want to coach football.”

And with those words spoken by newly installed head coach
Chip Kelly, the hierarchy of the Philadelphia Eagles became crystal clear for
perhaps the first time in over a decade, before executive vice president of
football operations was added to Andy Reid’s title.

Just who was pulling the levers has always been of great
interest to fans. You had Reid, who coached of course, but always claimed to
have final say over all player personnel matters. Until recently there was Joe
Banner, Reid’s boss and keeper of the checkbook, which would seem to denote the
true ultimate decision maker. And there was always a general manager that
mainly served to scout and “run the draft” as it was often put, which is
strange terminology because that last part sounds like a player personnel
matter – anyway, we all know that’s been Howie Roseman for the past three
years.

There was a time when everybody appeared to be working in
concert, but those alliances disintegrated. The day Reid was fired, owner
Jeffrey Lurie absolved Roseman of the largely inadequate draft classes of 2010
and ’11, so obviously there was some change in final say – at least during the
month of April. And Banner departed amid the nonsensical narrative that he lost
a power struggle to Andy.

I describe it as nonsensical because how would Lurie’s
right-hand man of close to 20 years lose a power struggle to a head coach that was
on the brink of getting fired? It didn’t make any sense then, and it makes even
less sense now that both of them are gone. Yet given the fact that Banner can’t
pass on a single opportunity to hurl criticisms of the Eagles’ organization
while hiding behind the pseudonyms of “a league source” or “league executive,”
one can venture a guess that his exit was not on the most pleasant of terms.

It seems if anybody pushed Banner out the door, it was Roseman,
because he is suddenly a general manager cloaked in immense power. Chip doesn’t
have final say. Don Smolenski, the man who assumed Banner’s role as team
president, isn’t even involved in football operations, while Lurie more or less
seems content to rely on people who know better, outside of choosing the head
coach.

We are left to presume that Roseman has the checkbook.
Roseman runs the draft. Roseman signs the free agents. Roseman makes the cuts. Roseman
hands out the extensions. Roseman negotiates the deals. Roseman trades. Roseman
presides over practically any roster decision big or small.

Not bad for a kid who started as an “accountant,” as some
folks chide.

Why am I telling this long-winded tale? Well for one thing, you
might as well get used to the lay of the land for the immediate future, because
Howie isn’t going anywhere for awhile. Roseman has been a part of the Eagles’
organization since 2000. He outlasted Banner, he outlasted Reid, he outlasted
former GM Tom Heckert, he outlasted Brian Dawkins and Donovan McNabb, and where
every last one of them has been discarded and replaced, Roseman keeps on
climbing the ladder. In other words, you can stop asking me when he will get
fired.

Here is the larger point though. I don’t know how to judge Roseman,
because I’m not entirely sure what he did to reach this level. Allegedly he has
one draft to his name, and it’s too early to call it, but 2012’s class doesn’t
look too shabby so far. Most of his wheeling and dealing has sent capable
players such as Asante Samuel and Winston Justice (barely capable in this case,
but I digress) packing in exchange for peanuts, but shipping Kevin Kolb to
Arizona and prying DeMeco Ryans away from Houston look like steals. And not one
of the big-money contracts the Eagles have handed out in recent years will
hamstring the franchise, even if some of the choices look poor in retrospect.

If I absolutely had to give Roseman a grade, I would give
him an incomplete – not because his moves merit that, mostly because I can’t
tell for which moves he was actually in charge. Thankfully someone else can.

“I keep voluminous notes on talent
evaluation on not just who we draft, but who is valued in each draft by each
person that is in the organization that’s working here. I came to the
conclusion that the person that was providing by far the best talent evaluation
in the building was Howie Roseman.”

That’s Lurie a few weeks ago, and he’s either delirious, or
Howie is doing a good job. It may be hard to believe, because he’s the youngest
GM in the NFL at only 37 years old, and has no “football background” – as if
working for the Eagles for over a decade, much of that at the foot of Banner no
less, was completely worthless experience.

Look around. There is no more Banner or Reid. This
organization has been in the process of systematically dissolving every remaining
link to the last great period in franchise history for the past four years,
except Roseman. There must be some reason for that, no?

I can’t pretend to be able to explain why that is. I can
only tell you Howie Roseman is definitely the captain of this ship from this
point on, and he should be evaluated not based on the past few seasons for
which we haven’t a clue as to his level of involvement, but instead for whatever
he does going forward.

That is now that we finally know where everything stands.

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Browns WR Josh Gordon reinstated by NFL after missing all of 2015

Browns WR Josh Gordon reinstated by NFL after missing all of 2015

CLEVELAND — Josh Gordon's curious and complicated career has taken a new turn.

He's getting yet another chance.

The talented but troubled wide receiver has been reinstated on a conditional basis by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who met face to face with Gordon last week and said he believes the 25-year-old can "make the right choices" going forward.

Gordon has been banned since February 2015 for multiple violations of the league's drug policies. He will be suspended for the first four games of the 2016-17, but he's allowed to join the team in its upcoming training camp and can participate in meetings and conditioning work. The league said once Gordon meets clinical requirements, he can take part in preseason activities, including practices and games.

It's a fresh start for Gordon, who emerged as one of the league's rising stars in 2013 before several missteps led to his banishment.

As long as he stays clean, Gordon, who met with Goodell in New York on July 19, is eligible to return to the team on Oct. 3. During his four-game suspension, Gordon may participate in team meetings and other activities but can't practice or play in games.

Gordon was suspended 10 games in 2014 and the entire 2015 season for substance violations, a pattern that began during his college career at Baylor and Utah. He was denied reinstatement in April after failing a drug test because of samples that also tested positive for marijuana.

In a letter to Gordon, Goodell made it clear the onus is on the 25-year-old former Pro Bowler to stay clean.

"As we discussed at our (July 19) meeting, as Commissioner, I want nothing more than to see you turn your circumstances around and succeed," Goodell said. "Countless others including your agent, teammates and coaches, (owner) Jimmy Haslam and the leadership of the organization, the Program professionals and Jim Brown also have pledged to provide you with every resource at their disposal. But as you acknowledged, ultimately, your future is your responsibility. I have every belief that you can make the right choices, but it will be up to you to do so."

The Browns open training camp on Friday under first-year coach Hue Jackson, who has mostly steered clear of discussing Gordon or his future.

The team has not yet commented on Gordon's conditional reinstatement.

Gordon broke out in 2013, when he led the league with 1,646 yards receiving, scored nine touchdowns and averaged 117.6 yards per game.

With his future unclear, the Browns selected Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman in the first round of this year's draft.

Ron Hextall sees benefit in Brayden Schenn's 'market deal'

Ron Hextall sees benefit in Brayden Schenn's 'market deal'

Expensive at the start, cheaper at the finish.
 
That’s how Flyers general manager Ron Hextall views the four-year, $20.5 million contract he gave Brayden Schenn on Monday morning to avoid salary arbitration (see story).
 
Hextall admitted the club is overpaying up front on the deal, but believes it got a “fair” number for the final two years when Schenn would have become an unrestricted free agent.
 
“We took a higher cap hit for the first two years and essentially a lower hit than we would have taken in years three and four if we piece meal it together,” Hextall said.
 
Hextall said he was walking into the 9 a.m. Toronto hearing with agent Don Meehan already deep in a conversation on a deal but prepared to go through with arbitration.
 
Both parties asked arbitrator Elizabeth Neumeier for additional time and completed the contract by 9:45 a.m.
 
Schenn, a restricted free agent, turned down the Flyers’ two-year offer of $4.25 million for this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18. That averaged to $4.30 million.
 
His new contract averages $5.125 million.
 
“The benefit for us is our cap number stays flat for four years rather than having have a cap at a lower number then taking a run at him for two years, if in fact he’d sign for two years at a higher cap number,” Hextall said.
 
Hextall denied he was concerned he might get whacked in arbitration. Yet Schenn has had just one very good season in five years as a Flyer. That was last season with 26 goals and 59 points.
 
Hextall described Schenn as a player who has been “average” in his development, yet has improved in the subtle “intricacies” of the game such as finding open spots, avoiding shot blocks and coming cleanly across the blue line without turning the puck over.
 
Schenn’s true market value is closer to what New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed earlier this month: a five-year deal worth $23.25 with an AAV of $4.65 million.
 
Then again, St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz signed a five-year, $26.5 million deal with a $5.35 million AAV. That’s above market value.
 
Meehan originally sought an AAV of $5.5 million for Schenn. In arbitration, it’s likely the Flyers would have received a two-year award in the middle of both numbers.
 
“Nothing really concerned me [about arbitration],” Hextall said. “We had a range and in the end our range was close to what Brayden’s camp felt the range was. Both sides had a range on a two-year deal.

“It’s a market deal … Brayden has been a good player. Top six forwards are hard to find and there’s a premium to pay. There’s no question we paid a premium for a top six forward whose 24-years-old and essentially coming into his prime.”
 
While Hextall labeled Schenn as a top six forward, he tap-danced around whether he sees him as a “core” player for the Flyers, even though this makes him the third highest-paid forward behind Claude Giroux ($8.275 million) and Jakub Voracek ($8.25 million).
 
“What is a core [player]?” Hextall asked. “That’s arguable … What we do know is Brayden is a very good young player who is getting better and we hope he continues to get better.”
 
This signing leaves the Flyers with just $1.38 million in salary cap space, but with 14 forwards, the club will lose at least one by the end of training camp.
 
Thinking ahead, Jordan Weal could be sent to the Phantoms, shaving $650,000 off the cap. That’s the most likely option for the Flyers, but not their only option.
 
Scott Laughton, whose role was diminished by a strong presence from Nick Cousins, is a lesser possibility. His cap hit is $863,333.
 
Losing either of those two salaries would provide the Flyers over $2 million in cap space.
 
Schenn’s contract lacks a no-trade/no-movement clause that he would have been eligible for starting in 2018-19. He turns 25 in August.
 
The Flyers have one more arbitration to settle: defenseman Brandon Manning on Aug. 2.

Cubs acquire closer Aroldis Chapman from Yankees

Cubs acquire closer Aroldis Chapman from Yankees

CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs acquired hard-throwing reliever Aroldis Chapman in a trade with the New York Yankees on Monday, giving the NL Central leaders a boost as they try for their first World Series title in more than a century.

The Cubs paid a steep price, parting with top shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres and versatile pitcher Adam Warren in the four-player package going to the Yankees. Chapman faced a domestic violence allegation in the offseason that cost him a 29-game suspension, and the left-hander is eligible for free agency after this year.

But there is no doubting the talent of the 28-year-old Chapman, who went 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA and 20 saves in 31 games with New York. He threw a 105.1 mph fastball to Baltimore's J.J. Hardy last Monday night, matching the fastest since Major League Baseball began tracking speeds in 2008.

With lefty-batting sluggers Bryce Harper of Washington and Brandon Belt of San Francisco possibly looming in the playoffs, the addition of Chapman gives manager Joe Maddon one of the majors' top assets when in need of a late strikeout.

New York had won six of eight heading into Monday night's game at Houston, but it still faces long odds of getting to the playoffs. All-Stars Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances are still at the back of the bullpen, allowing the Yankees to trade Chapman now and still consider trying for the postseason depending on how they fare ahead of the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline.

The Yankees made the decision to trade Chapman after his agents said he would not agree to a new contract that would start in 2017, a person familiar with the talks said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no public statement on those talks was authorized.

If New York slips back any further, it could engage in a rare sell-off for the franchise. Miller, who is signed through 2018, also could be traded. Outfielder Carlos Beltran, first baseman Mark Teixeira and pitcher Ivan Nova are eligible for free agency after the season and could be sought by contenders.

Chapman quickly turned into one of baseball's most dominant relievers when he broke into the majors in 2010 with Cincinnati. He threw the 62 fastest pitches in the major leagues last season, ranging from 103.92 to 102.36 mph.

Chapman saved 146 games with a 2.17 ERA in six years with the Reds before he was traded to New York last December after a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers fell through when it was learned Florida police investigated an accusation of domestic violence involving the Cuban pitcher.

Prosecutors declined to file charges, citing conflicting accounts, and Chapman was suspended for the first 29 games of the season, losing $1,856,557 of his $11,325,000 salary. He was the first player penalized a finite number of games under Major League Baseball's domestic violence policy.

"I regret that I did not exercise better judgment and for that I am truly sorry," Chapman said in a team statement Monday. "Looking back, I feel I have learned from this matter and have grown as a person. My girlfriend and I have worked hard to strengthen our relationship, to raise our daughter together, and would appreciate the opportunity to move forward without revisiting an event we consider part of our past."

Chapman and Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo also got into a heated argument in the ninth inning of a July 2014 game, but Rizzo said last month he was fine with the idea of acquiring the reliever.

The Yankees also received minor league outfielders Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford in the trade for Chapman. McKinney, a first-round pick in the 2013 draft, was acquired along with All-Star shortstop Addison Russell in the 2014 deal that sent pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland.

Warren was drafted by New York and made his major league debut with the Yankees in 2012. He was traded to Chicago in the December deal that moved infielder Starlin Castro from the Cubs to the Yankees.