Just when you thought the Philadelphia Eagles might be inactive until the NFL Draft rolls around later this month, the Birds went out and made a trade. In a deal that involves swapping third round picks, the Eagles acquired defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan from the Ravens.
We’ve already written about Jernigan quite a bit. Here’s a look at the immediate reaction to the trade. Here are the positives and negatives of the trade along with an approval poll you can vote in. Most importantly, here’s film of Jernigan destroying people as a pass rusher. But now it’s time for a more in-depth look at the trade from every angle. Here’s what the Jernigan trade means for the Eagles.
The Eagles upgraded their defensive line
Losing Logan in free agency was a significant loss for the Eagles. It would have been nice for the Birds to retain Logan, but it’s understandable why they didn’t want to re-sign him. The 27-year-old Logan, who has 5.5 career sacks, received $8 million from the Chiefs. The Eagles are tight on cap space and didn’t want to pay a non-pass rusher big money like that.
Enter Jernigan. The 2014 second-round pick is still only 24 years old and he has more than double the sacks that Logan has in his career with 13. And he’s no slouch when it comes to defending the run, either. Jernigan graded out as one of PFF’s best run-stopping defensive linemen in 2016.
Jernigan figures to be a nice starter for the Eagles. Pairing him with Fletcher Cox is really fun to think about. The pass rush ability of both players should provide trouble for opposing offensive lines.
Adding Jernigan allows the Eagles to not thrust Beau Allen into a starting role. Allen has proven to be a nice rotational player but I had my doubts about him as a full-time starter. It appears the Eagles did as well. Now Jernigan and Allen can split reps to some degree.
Defensive tackle is still a long-term need
While the good news is the Eagles filled a roster hole in 2017 by adding Jernigan, the bad news is he’s a free agent after this season. So is Allen. Therefore, the Eagles still have a long-term need at the position. Ideally the Eagles will be able to retain Jernigan if he has a strong season. But the Eagles still need to have some kind of backup plan in place. So it’s very possible the team drafts a defensive tackle at some point this year. Check out this quote from Howie Roseman about the Jernigan trade. Bold emphasis is mine.
"We are excited to add Timmy Jernigan to our defensive front," said Eagles Executive Vice President of Football Operations Howie Roseman. "It was hard to move down in the third round but we believe in building along the lines and he is a good fit for our scheme. At 24 years old, his best football is still ahead of him. We still have at least one pick in every round and eight total picks in the draft that will take place in Philadelphia in front of our fans in a few weeks."
There have been rumors that the Eagles plan to draft a defensive lineman in the first round this year. We’ll see how the board shakes out, but never doubt that this Eagles regime is going to prioritize the trenches.
This trade carries some risk
Along with the fact Jernigan will be a free agent after this season, there’s concerns about the player himself. Though obviously talented, Jernigan fell out of favor with Baltimore’s coaching staff last year. He didn’t have a sack in the Ravens’ #LastSevenGames and he only had one tackle in the last four games. Jernigan will have a lot of motivation to bring his A-game given that he’s playing for a new contract and he’s playing to impress his new coaching staff. I would hardly be panicking about these concerns, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Joe Douglas’ influence is apparent
It’s very obvious the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel had a hand in this acquisition. Douglas was still with the Ravens as a national scout when Jernigan was drafted in 2014. I’m working on a longer piece about Douglas, but the short version is that his increasing influence in the Eagles’ organization is becoming more apparent. A lot of Philadelphia’s key offseason moves have ties to Douglas: Jernigan, Torrey Smith, and Alshon Jeffery.
Howie Roseman still loves trades
The Eagles have made nearly 40 trades since Roseman became the Eagles’ general manager in 2010. The next closest teams in that span are at less than half that number.
While Douglas clearly had a role in the Jernigan trade, it’s obvious Roseman was involved as well. For all of Roseman’s faults, he has a nice track record when it comes to getting value in trades. Getting Jernigan without losing a draft pick entirely but only moving down in the third round is pretty strong. That’s not to say moving down is insignificant, but it’s not a gigantic price to pay.
Given the discord in the Eagles’ front office over the years, it’s easy to be skeptical when Jeffrey Lurie says Roseman and Douglas are "unbelievably collaborative." But this trade certainly gives credence to Lurie’s claim.
There’s a longer gap between the Eagles’ Day 2 picks
The wait between the Eagles’ second round pick at No. 43 and third round selection at No. 99 is going to be a big one. It’s easy to imagine Roseman is going to be anxious to move back up in the third. Maybe that’s where a Jason Kelce and/or Mychal Kendricks trade comes into play. The Jernigan trade could set up a blueprint for the Eagles to trade one of those players and No. 99 to move back up 15 to 20 spots or so.
The Jernigan trade logic could explain why the Eagles might trade Jordan Matthews
Speaking of trade blueprints, what the Ravens just did for themselves in the Jernigan trade could end up being what the Eagles ultimately do with Matthews. If Philadelphia doesn’t believe enough in Matthews to extend him, or prioritizes other players before him (such as Alshon Jeffery), then it could be time for the Eagles to get value for him while they can. The Eagles are reportedly open to trade offers for Matthews.
A lot of people think the Eagles would be crazy for trading Matthews since he’s one of the team’s best receivers. But again, it all comes down to the long-term picture. Slot receivers aren’t exactly hard to come by in the NFL. There are a number of worthwhile prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft.
I’m not saying I want the Eagles to trade Matthews; I’d like to see what he can do this year with Jeffery and Smith in the fold. But trading him wouldn’t be nonsensical, and the Jernigan trade is a perfect example of why.
The Eagles might be chasing compensatory pick(s)
Some have surmised the Eagles are hoping to earn compensatory picks. Unlike in years past, the Eagles haven’t been big spenders in free agency. Their cap room situation forced them to be more conservative even if they didn’t want to be.
Here’s who the Eagles have signed in 2017 free agency. Note that Torrey Smith doesn’t count on this list because the 49ers cut him so he doesn’t count when it comes to the compensatory pick formula. Jernigan also doesn’t count because he was acquired in a trade.
EAGLES PLAYERS WHO SIGNED ELSEWHERE
In simple terms, the way compensatory picks work is basically you need to lose more players than you gain. So, looking at this list, will the Eagles be eligible to receive one in 2018? Maybe not, because they signed more than they lost, though Warmack/Long/Robinson weren’t big money signings and that’s a factor.
But even if the Eagles don’t get a comp pick in 2018, they might be poised to get quite a few in 2019. As of right now, the Eagles currently have 19 players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents next offseason. I’ll have a separate post on that later, but the Eagles likely won’t be able to retain everyone. That means they’ll lose players (possibly Jernigan), which means comp picks could be on the way in 2019. That’s obviously too far away to really care about right now but it’s something worth remembering for the future.
Eagles fans are happy
But most importantly, this trade brings joy to Eagles fans.