Last night a couple of juicy nuggets were floated out that caused quite a lot of excitement: the Eagles were reportedly interested in trading for Torrey Smith, and possibly for Alshon Jeffery.
On the surface, both rumors make a lot of sense. A legitimate deep threat like Smith would be a much needed improvement to the Eagles offense, not only giving Carson Wentz a good target to air the ball out to, but opening up short and intermediate throws by spacing the defense. A trade for Alshon Jeffery would be even better, even if the Eagles scaled his usage in the playbook to running just three routes he’d greatly improve the offense.
But then the morning came, and with it sobriety. The Eagles aren’t close to a trade, and they shouldn’t be at this time.
Mentioned on @gmfb this morning there's no fire sale in San Fran. Teams are talking to them/checking on prices. Might not be any movement.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) October 25, 2016
A league source said the 49ers are not shopping any players. It’s possible the players, through their agents, obtained permission to seek a trade before next week’s trade deadline.
Alshon Jeffery was floated as a possibility, but there’s been no indication that has any legs. As appealing as Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery are, the Eagles shouldn’t trade for either. As players, they’re slam dunk additions. But acquiring them now wouldn’t do much good.
Jeffery is a free agent to be, playing on the franchise tag this year. That alone should prevent any team from trading for him. He will cost near $20M to tag again, meaning that unless a team with an obscene amount of cap space such as the 49ers, Jaguars or Browns trades for him, he’s hitting free agency. Once he does the Eagles should go after him, and go after him hard, but trading for him won’t give them much of a leg up on contract negotiations. And his impact this season would be limited.
Acquiring a player in-season usually means a team winds up wasting that year. In 2010 Randy Moss changed teams twice, in 12 games he caught 19 passes.
Adding Jeffery would cost the Eagles $8.6M in salary, if they traded for him this week, $7.9M if they added him next week. According to Over The Cap they have $8.7M in cap space, which means they would basically not be able to add anyone as an injury replacement during the rest of the season if they acquired Jeffery. And while he would open some space for the Eagles offense, opposing defenses would know he would be limited, which would negate much of his impact. For a player that would catch maybe 20 passes and have a limited influence on the defense, that’s a huge waste of cap space.
After averaging 53 receptions a year at an outstanding 16.9 yards per catch in Baltimore, Trent Baalke gave Smith the biggest free agent import contract he’s ever given: 5 years, $40M, with $8.75M guaranteed at signing and an additional $7.25M in roster and workout bonus. The 49ers have gotten a horrible return for it. Smith has had just 46 catches in 19 games in San Francisco. His yards per reception has actually increased, as last year he lead the league with 20.1 yards per reception. But this year he has just 13 catches for 15.9 yards per reception. Smith makes top 30 WR money and the 49ers haven’t gotten top top 60 production out of him, so they may be open to moving him.
But the dip in production isn’t why the Eagles should not acquire him, put into a functioning offense, Smith’s production will go up. But not this year, as noted above acquiring a player at this point in the season severely limits their impact. Dorial Green-Beckham was more productive than Smith last year, and it took him nine weeks until the Eagles were comfortable giving him significant playing time. Even though Smith is owed $2.7M in salary for the rest of the season, that and a draft pick is too much to pay for a player who would be one dimensional this year.
What the Eagles should do
In both cases, the Eagles should just wait out the season. They absolutely should make Jeffery a priority in free agency. If that fails and Smith is actually available in trade, then he’s a fine backup plan. Should the Eagles acquire him, they would be scheduled to pay him $8M a season for the rest of his contract: $6.5 in salary, $500k in a roster bonus, and $1M in a workout bonus. Looking at last year’s WR free agent market and this year’s market after Jeffery, that’s actually not a bad deal. In 2017, Smith’s $8M cap hit would be within $1M of Michael Crabtree, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Danny Amendola and Brandon Marshall. Smith in a competent offense would probably get about that much on the open market, but the Eagles wouldn’t be on the hook for any guaranteed money if they traded for him. They might redo his contract to lower his cap hit, but that’s a discussion to have when that bridge is crossed.
For 2016 though, the Eagles should ford the river with the WRs they have.