In a vacuum, the Eagles’ move on Tuesday to swap third-round picks with the Ravens, moving down 25 spots in the third round of this month’s NFL Draft, in exchange for 24-year-old defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan seems like another shrewd and smart move from wheelin’-and-dealin’ Howie Roseman.
The Eagles surrendered less than one round of value for a proven player who has 13 sacks over the last three seasons rushing from the interior, had Pro Football Focus’s best run-stop percentage in the entire league in 2016, and has room to grow considering he’s still finishing up his rookie contract.
Are there potential hold-ups? Sure. Jernigan isn’t guaranteed to return next season, when he’ll likely want to be paid like a starter if he plays like one this year.
But Roseman and the Eagles’ front office, including Joe Douglas, who was in Baltimore when the Ravens drafted Jernigan, are banking on relationships, just as they did in free agency, and a team-on-the-rise profile being able to keep guys on expiring contracts as the Birds march slowly but (they believe) surely back towards relevance.
Even if Jernigan only provides one season of good interior defensive line play, 25 spots in the middle of the Draft is good enough value. It’s not a perfect move, but it’s fine.
However, where this move — and the Eagles’ signings of Chris Long and Patrick Robinson — really start to come together is the Draft, and, most importantly, the team’s approach to selecting players.
Because there is, of course, an age-old discussion about whether teams should enter a Draft intent on selecting players for need, or simply select the best player available to the team when their time comes.
I’m of the belief, as many are, that selecting for need, when roster holes are so readily filled through free agency, trades, or improvement from developmental players, is a bad way to approach the Draft. Passing on a generational talent because you need a cornerback now is among the most dire sins a general manger can commit.
Which is why Roseman has wisely, if not filled, at least started patching up the Eagles’ most notable holes before they’re on the clock at pick No. 14 later this month.
He went out and reeled in Alshon Jeffery, along with Torrey Smith, to smooth over the team’s wildly undermanned wide receiving corps. He snagged Chance Warmack to bolster the offensive line in front of Carson Wentz. He brought in Patrick Robinson to start filling in the monstrous gap at cornerback. And he signed Chris Long, and now Timmy Jernigan, to make up for a lack of pieces and a lack of attack on the defensive line.
Which means the Eagles enter the Draft with few true woefully under-manned positions. One such position remaining, because Ryan Mathews is still on his way out in the future, is running back. But beyond the backfield, the Eagles are either set at, or have begun to address, each position on the depth chart.
This means if a cornerback the Eagles like falls to them at No. 14, they can select the corner without feeling their wide receivers aren’t up to snuff after passing on Corey Davis, or their pass rush will suffer because they ignored a player like Malik McDowell or Taco Charlton. It also means not selecting a cornerback in the first round isn’t a death knell; it’s not ideal to go too deep into the draft without addressing corner, but with Robinson and Jalen Mills in the chamber, the Eagles can probably afford to forgo CB in Round 1 if they feel a given player (O.J. Howard? Christian McCaffrey?) is a can’t-miss prospect. Remember: not every question mark will be answered this offseason.
What’s important about the way Roseman has approached the Eagles’ offseason is he’s been proactive. It hasn’t seemed, for a minute, that he’s entered either free agency or now the Draft without a plan. While you can question moves like the one-year Jeffery deal (will he stick around?) or the Long signing (a DE probably on the decline?), you can’t really question whether Roseman has an idea of what his team needs to look like in 2017.
And now, of course, he and Joe Douglas will prep for the biggest test of their partnership, a weekend in late April which they absolutely must nail.
If the past month has shown us anything, it’s that Roseman and Douglas, at the very least, already know what they hope to accomplish.