Eagles general manager Howie Roseman smirked inside Xcel Energy Center on Monday night when asked about trading Sam Bradford to the Vikings in September 2016. Why not? He has plenty of reasons to be happy about the deal.
The Eagles are vying for the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy on Sunday against the Patriots. While they won’t take the field with the franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz, for whom Bradford’s exit cleared the way, these Eagles will still benefit from the Vikings’ misfortunes of Teddy Bridgewater’s injury while playing at U.S. Bank Stadium.
A week before the 2016 regular season, Roseman shipped Bradford — then his starting quarterback — to Minnesota in exchange for resources that helped vault Philadelphia to the NFC’s No. 1 seed this season.
It was a “franchise-changing decision,” Roseman said.
“You’re staring at the ceiling, because it’s not just you making a move,” Roseman recalled. “You’re taking responsibility for a lot of people on the field and off the field when you make those kind of franchise-changing decisions. They can go one of two ways. You don’t take that lightly, but at the same time someone has to pull the trigger. And you’ve got to follow all your instincts and your gut and your research and then just kind of live with it.”
The Eagles have thrived with Roseman’s decision to jump at the deal Vikings general manager Rick Spielman aggressively offered: a first-round pick, a fourth-round pick and precious cap space by trading a quarterback, Bradford, whom they viewed was already on borrowed time ahead of Wentz.
“I think it really goes back to when we sat down and said to [Eagles owner] Jeffery [Lurie] we want to move up and trade a bunch of picks for a quarterback,” Roseman said of moving up in the 2016 NFL Draft for Wentz. “He could see the vision. He could see one day he’d look out on the field and have a young quarterback who he could look at and know he can compete for championships. So I think [the Bradford trade] started there. Because by the time we got to the Sam part, we knew what we had in Carson and we knew he had to play.”
The Eagles gained the 14th-overall pick last year, which they used to bolster an already-deep defensive line on end Derek Barnett, and a fourth-round pick in the upcoming draft. This season, Philadelphia shipped one of its 2018 fourth-round picks to Miami for running back Jay Ajayi, who reinforced a backfield that lost Darren Sproles to injured reserve.
Roseman pointed out another way the Eagles benefited from the Vikings taking Bradford: cap space, which Roseman said was effectively used for ex-Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery.
The Vikings pursued Jeffery in free agency last offseason, a league source told the Star Tribune at the time, but Jeffery chose the Eagles over a lucrative deal in Minnesota.
The Eagles might not have been in play for Jeffery, according to Roseman, had they not shipped Bradford out of town. Philadelphia had already paid Bradford an $11 million signing bonus, but the remaining $11 million guaranteed on his two-year deal moved to the Vikings’ books with the trade.
“We had a chance to not only get the resources in terms of draft picks back, but get the money back we were going to pay Sam,” Roseman said. “That allowed us to sign Alshon. We were able to get a first and a fourth and $11 million, really when you look at it, that allowed us to improve our team around Carson.”
Jeffery caught five passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ 38-7 win over the Vikings in the NFC title game. Barnett had the sack and forced fumble on Case Keenum and Ajayi accounted for 99 yards from scrimmage against the Vikings.