The New England Patriots acquired CB Eric Rowe from the Philadelphia Eagles prior to opening week of the 2016 regular season for a 2018 4th round pick that could turn into a 3rd round pick if Rowe played 50% or more of the Patriots defensive snaps in 2016 or 2017. The Eagles declined to acquire OG Josh Kline, whom the Patriots released and the Titans signed; Kline was one of the better guards in the NFL this year.
Rowe dealt with an ankle injury over the first half of the season before playing in nine games and starting seven down the stretch. He is the #2 cornerback for the Patriots, behind CB Malcolm Butler and ahead of CB Logan Ryan, and is starting for the #1 defense in the NFL. He’s been a great asset for New England and is under contract for 2017 and 2018 for an average cap hit of $989,529.
The Eagles had problems at cornerback all year, despite having one of the better defenses, after they traded Byron Maxwell to the Miami Dolphins. So how did Eagles general manager Howie Roseman justify the trade at the end of the season?
"When we sat down and discussed the offer, we really started thinking about as we sat at that time, the likelihood that we would sign him to an extension," Roseman said via NJ.com. "We want to build this team with some continuity. We felt at that time that we weren't going to sign him to an extension, and to get that value for him, and to possibly add somebody that would be here for a longer period of time made sense for where we were."
"We did make that determination based off of the defense that we have,” Roseman added, "the scheme that we have and talking about the cornerback position with our coaches, we were concerned about getting the same value if it was the same situation going forward, and you can only do with the information you have at the time."
So, to get this straight, the Eagles spent an early 2nd round pick on Rowe in the 2015 NFL Draft (47th overall), watched him play the equivalent of seven games as a rookie, went through a coaching change, and then decided that Rowe wasn’t a part of the team’s future?
It seems crazy that the Eagles were moving from a player they were high on the year before, but that’s kind of the Patriots modus operandi. Rowe was drafted to fit in with Chip Kelly and his roster. Kelly was fired, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz came in with his defense, and Rowe was no longer a fit. If Rowe wasn’t going to be a fit in the new regime, why shouldn’t the Eagles try to capture as much value for Rowe as possible?
We can laugh at the Eagles for not giving Rowe a fair shake to play in the defense because Rowe is honestly talented enough to play either cornerback or safety in most defensive schemes. We can also laugh at how the Patriots seem to have acquired a long-term starter for the equivalent of a 2016 5th round pick (time value of draft capital!).
But there’s no need to get caught up in sunk costs; Roseman’s explanation makes some sense- and the Patriots are benefiting from his decision.