The new league year starts next week, but in a sense it starts today, as the 2017 NFL Combine gets underway, putting every front office in the same building, where face to face talks can happen. It’s the NFL’s equivalent of MLB’s winter meetings, where trades get worked out in person. We’ve already seen one trade worked out this offseason, with the Jaguars and Dolphins swapping Julius Thomas and Brandon Albert, along with a swap of 7th round picks (did they really need to swap 7ths?). There might be more worked out in Indianapolis, and then again in Philadelphia during the draft.
It won’t be surprising if the Eagles work out a trade or two to shed Mychal Kendricks, Connor Barwin or Jason Kelce. And it shouldn’t be surprising if the Eagles work out a trade, either this week or in April, to move up in the draft. Yes, up, not down. There’s a few reasons why it could happen.
Howie Roseman is no stranger to it
In his end-of-season press conference, Roseman said "When we look at our team going forward, we've got a 24-year-old quarterback, we've got a 25-year-old highest-paid player. We have got to make sure we surround that talent with people who can be here and build with them."
Those players are Carson Wentz and Fletcher Cox… both of whom Roseman traded up for. He’s 2 for 2 in trade ups, and think back to the 2014 draft. The Eagles were sitting at 22 and watching the players they were targeting go off the board, and then with just Brandin Cooks left, the Saints traded up to 20 and snatched him. It was a turning point in a front office that would then enter a downward spiral and cost people jobs. That’s motivation to not get burned on draft day again. “Build with them” could be a wide receiver for Carson Wentz to pair up with for a decade, or it could be cornerback or defensive end (Brandon Graham will be 29 when the season starts, not old, but not a young building block either) to pair with Cox.
Draft needs aligning with the draft board
It wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Eagles drafted a cornerback or a wide receiver in the 1st round. But it’s a deep draft for CBs, they could take one in the second and walk away with a pretty good prospect. To get a good WR in this draft though, they may need to move up a few spots to land their top choice. This might not be a factor depending on what they do in free agency, but it’s something to keep in mind when the dust settles in March.
It wouldn’t cost as much as you think
Since the new CBA, which significantly changed the value of 1st round draft picks, there have only been a couple of trades to move up within the middle third of the 1st round, historically it would cost about a 4th—which the Eagles have two of—and change.
Last year, the Bears moved from 11th to 9th, and only gave up their 4th. In 2013, the Bills gave up the 16th pick and their 3rd (71st) for the 8th, a 2nd, a 3rd (78th) and a 7th. That’s a complicated trade, but we can break it down to trading 78 to 71, which is within the top half of the 3rd costs a 6th (2011, 2012 and 2015 all had such trades). So that trade was the equivalent of giving up a 2nd, 6th and 7th to move from 16th to 8th.
In 2012, the Eagles moved up from 15th to 12th (to take Cox) and gave up a 4th and a 6th. In 2011 there was an outlier: the Jaguars traded from 16th to 10th and gave up a 2nd rounder—but that was to take a QB (Blaine Gabbert), and QBs always cost more.
From 14th/15th to 11th/12th should cost about 4th and a 6th. Roseman’s given up that before. That’s not a steep price to pay.
It might not even cost anything the Eagles want
A year ago, the Eagles traded up from 13 to 8, and didn’t give up a draft pick, moving 25 year old Kiko Alonso, who wasn’t going to start, and 28 year old Byron Maxwell, clearing his $18.5M in guaranteed salary from the books.
Could 26 year old Mychal Kendricks, who wasn’t a starter, and 30 year old Connor Barwin offer similar value? On one hand, they’re older, but on the other, there is less guaranteed money owed, Kendricks will have just $4.4M that becomes guaranteed on the 11th, Barwin has no guaranteed salary or roster bonuses.
Or perhaps they could flip one or both for picks and then use those in a trade up.
They’ve got the QB in place
A familiar refrain when teams trade up is that they’ve “mortgaged the future.” Which is nonsense when it’s to trade up for a QB, because there is no future in the NFL without a QB. The Eagles bought a house last year with Carson Wentz and then cleared the mortgage with the Sam Bradford trade. Now it might be time to do some fixing up.
None of these mean the Eagles will trade up, or should trade up, but don’t be surprised if they do. The price might be right.