Roseman brings a win-win approach to Eagles' contract negotiations

Posted: June 11, 2012

For years, Joe Banner's unyielding negotiating style defined the Eagles' front office.

But even before Banner resigned as team president Thursday, general manager Howie Roseman had brought a softer, more personal touch to making deals, according to players and agents.

"He is a relationship guy," said agent Jerrold Colton, who represents former Eagles kicker David Akers. "That matters to him a lot."

Roseman, who had already taken over the Eagles' salary-cap management and contract talks, often speaks about finding ways to make deals work so that all sides feel satisfied. His approach stands in stark contrast to Banner's ironfisted tactics, which left some players feeling bitter.

Banner once said he intentionally kept his distance from players, knowing he would have to make hard business decisions about them. Roseman places a premium on personal connections.

"He's got a great relationship with players," Eagles tight end Brent Celek said. "I knew Howie before he was GM, was always friendly with him. He knows how to communicate with the guys, connect with the guys, and I think you need to be that as a GM. You need to know how to talk to your guys and just generally run the team a little bit, like he does."

Since Roseman assumed a larger role, joined by coach Andy Reid, who has also had a stronger hand in negotiations, the Eagles have rewarded dedicated veterans Todd Herremans and Trent Cole with new contracts, even though they each had time left on their old deals, and have agreed to extensions and big raises for young stars DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy with little fuss.

"It seems to me they are much more concerned with the atmosphere in their locker room than in the past," Colton said.

On the day Jackson signed his contract extension and met with reporters, many believed he had taken a below-market deal. Before the receiver faced pointed questions, though, Roseman pulled Jackson aside for a few words of advice. Rather than taking a victory lap for his negotiating prowess, Roseman wanted Jackson to enjoy his day in the limelight.

Banner was known for smartly identifying talented young players and signing them to long-term deals early, at team-friendly prices. But as the players developed they often felt undervalued.

No one who interacted with Banner doubted his intelligence or commitment. They respected his business acumen. But as Banner pushed for cap-friendly contracts, some players saw him as cold and imperious.

"So much of the Eagles' sustained level of success is due to [Banner] and the way the Eagles managed the cap," Colton said. "There were some things they could have done better . . . and those were on the personal side."

Former safety Brian Dawkins, a revered Eagle who had an ugly departure, said on 97.5 FM the Fanatic last week that in talks with Banner, players had to make the vast majority of concessions.

"It's one thing to do business, but there's a way to do business without ruining relationships," former Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said in an interview.

To be fair, it was Banner's job as president to make hard decisions, and he was willing to be the bad guy while Reid maintained close ties to his players. With a hard salary cap in place, overpaying players, particularly aging veterans, can damage a team's competitiveness. The Patriots, one of the NFL's most successful teams, are also known as one of the most cold-blooded when it comes to personnel decisions.

The Eagles have been able to make big free-agent signings and retain rising stars in large part because they have had cap flexibility.

Banner acknowledged some missteps in negotiations, citing Dawkins' case in particular, and conceded that at times he sought total victory ahead of compromise.

"When I first started negotiating, the idea of winning was playing too big a role," he said. "I think that's a long time ago."

Banner said he aimed to be "tough but fair," and argued that criticisms of his style were overblown. Many free agents agreed to come play for the Eagles, he noted, and most of the team's top players signed multiple contracts to remain with the team.

And not everyone sees him the same way. Wide receiver Jason Avant said he knew Banner "to be a nice guy," and agent J.R. Rickert said, "I've never had a bad interaction with Joe."

Even Trotter said "I can't blame Joe for doing his job."

So far, Roseman has not had to make a difficult, unpopular decision about a beloved player. It remains to be seen if the good vibes continue when that times comes.

"You make decisions that you feel are right, and they're going to be unpopular at times," Roseman said, "but you're trying to do the best things in the best interest of your team."


Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214 or jtamari@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @JonathanTamari.

Staff writer Jeff McLane contributed to this article.

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