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The Draft Bag: Nigel Bradham, Jordan Hicks, Mike Gesicki and Jim Schwartz’s development

Answering your questions about the Eagles and other topics.

Denver Broncos v Philadelphia Eagle Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

In the News Cycle

Philadelphia re-signs LB Nigel Bradham

The priority move for Philadelphia this offseason, in my eyes, was the Nigel Bradham re-sign. Unquestionably their weakest defensive position in 2017, the linebacking corps entered a two-year period of flux, as Bradham hit free agency, MLB Jordan Hicks’ rookies contract expires next year, and WLB Mychal Kendricks will finally have a cutable contract in 2019 (if he’s not traded before then).

But despite the need, Bradham and Philly were in a tricky spot after the Timmy Jernigan and Alshon Jeffery extensions mid-season. Almost 30 and of questionable value outside of Schwartz’s system, Bradham’s market was also difficult to predict. Here’s what we predicted back in February:

As such, Roseman’s between a rock and a hard place. You gotta pay a pretty penny for Bradham—but you need LBs badly. So backload his contract, right? But then you’re stuck with him into his early 30s, and if you end up extending Jordan Hicks next season, that’s a lot of cheddar in your LB corps. You could try to frontload his contract and build in a potential out around 2020, to give you time to figure out Hicks/Kendricks, but you don’t have a lot of cap room to pull that off.

My bet? Frontloaded, with a big roster bonus in 2020, 4 years, ~$7M/year, with a decently sized guaranteed number, will be the middle ground.

At first glance, Bradham was able to milk Philly for a little more—5 years, ~$8M/year. But when you get deeper into the contract and the guaranteed money, Philly’s set up rather nicely. Bradham with make only $14M guaranteed across the 5-year deal, $11M of which falls on the cap in the first two seasons of the deal. There is no roster bonus in 2020—roster bonuses can often accompany potential “out” years for the team to cut the player before they acquire the bonus for remaining on the roster—but at that point, Philadelphia will be able to quite easily cut Bradham in any of the three remaining years on his deal.

The contract is front-loaded in guarantees but backloaded in cap, has an out in 2020, and a decently sized guarantee. This looks to be a solid deal for the Birds.

Looking forward, my next move in the linebacking corps concerns Jordan Hicks (I’m still actively shopping Mychal Kendricks, of course). Given the structure of Bradham’s contract, Philadelphia could hold onto him at a pretty high cap number in 2020 and 2021 ($9M apiece) if he continues his high level of play—but if you want to move on from Bradham, you better be sure you have a healthy Jordan Hicks.

I’d sign Jordan Hicks to a two- or three-year extension on the cheap, and I’d do it quickly. After two-season ending injuries, Hicks may put together a strong season in his contract year—not uncommon—and all of a sudden you have to play an oft-injured player starter-level money for only 10-12 games a season. By extending Hicks, you can slow-play your LB situation. Hicks stays healthy and plays well across his extension, you give him a shiny new deal and consider moving on from Bradham in 2020; worst case, Hicks continues struggling with injury and you let him walk once his extension expires, rolling with Bradham as your big-money linebacker into 2021.

Philadelphia brings in other Guice, too

NCAA Football: Auburn at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Goodness, I’m a disappointment.

Philadelphia also tendered DT Haloti Ngata and LB Corey Nelson to one-year deals. Nelson sounds like Najee Goode 2.0, and I imagine he’ll push for starting reps in camp but end up a depth piece and special teamer—ain’t nothing wrong with that. If Mychal Kendricks gets moved, he’s a favorite to win that spot.

Ngata’s gonna make 8 splash plays across 16 games and talking heads will rave about Philadelphia’s shrewd recycling of DL vets like Chris Long, Michael Bennett, and Ngata—but it’ll be the space-eating 20 snaps a game that free up Bradham and Kendricks to fly that really makes the difference.

Those signings are fun, but perhaps lost in the shuffle was a Draft visit: Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com had the scoop, and he’s typically the most plugged-in guy we have during this cycle.

After working out for the Tampa Bay Bucs yesterday, LSU running back Derrius Guice will be meeting the Indianapolis Colts in Baton Rouge before jetting off to see the Philadelphia Eagles for an official visit. I’m told Eagles running back coach Duce Staley is a big supporter of Guice.

Guice is a verifiable animal who never got his moment in the sun. He backed up stud LSU runner Leonard Fournette for most of his career with the Tigers, and an ankle injury hampered the vast majority of his final 2017 campaign. It is unsurprising that Duce Staley—now with a larger voice in the room following his promotion—is a big fan of Guice’s violent running style and hunger for every yard.

Does this make Philadelphia any likelier to draft a RB at 32 (Guice will likely be a Top-30 selection)? I’d say if they fell for Guice, perhaps—but we can’t read too much into visits, even the official ones. Remember, Philadelphia’s first visit was with a consensus Top-75 corner in Donte Jackson (also LSU), despite the fact that the Birds are quite well off at the position.

Official visits (of which a team has 30, mind you) tend to serve as fact-checking endeavors, as “what if?” considerations. If Guice drops to 32—not super likely, but certainly possible—Philadelphia would hate to be caught with their pants around their ankles. They’ll need a new bellcow back within the next two years—assuming they don’t bring Jay Ajayi back after his rookie deal expires this season—and Guice has real talent. What if that pick were a great value, but the Eagles shied from it because they hadn’t done their due diligence?

I profiled Ronald Jones II, RB out of USC, in my last Draft Bag, because RB is an outside possibility in Round 1 for the Birds—made more likely were they to trade back to the top of the second, as many suspect they may. Guice also fits the bill there, and would certainly add a devastating new dimension to Philly’s offense. It would be a luxury pick, yes—but it sure would be a fun one.

Nick Foles Trade: Update

NFL: Super Bowl LII-Philadelphia Eagles vs New England Patriots Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been one of the most vocal proponents of a Nick Foles trade—I think, at least—while remaining relatively sober regarding the compensation necessary for the trade. My goal was at least a pick between 30 and 50, with maybe some conditional sweeteners sprinkled in. I wrote a post on five potential trade locations, and packages, for Foles before FA began.

However, two of those squads have since made big FA moves for QBs. Two more are in perfect position to draft the guy of their future. The last—Miami—seems inexplicably committed to Ryan Tannehill, but reportedly loves Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield as well.

The teams that could possibly move for Foles has thinned considerably, as a strong FA class and a season of peak turnover at the position put someone for everyone out on the market. Maybe Cleveland still wants a bridge QB; maybe Arizona would still move for Foles to have him compete with Bradford for the starting gig. But as of right now, the outlook is bleak.

Some may imagine that Roseman and Co. wanted to slow-play the Foles/Wentz situation. Ride with both into the preseason, Foles sitting in the back pocket should Wentz’s recovery, God forbid, hits a snag. As Wentz’s outlook comes into focus, wait for the inevitable camp injury to a starting QB, and move Foles at a premium to a team in desperate need—that’s the model from which Roseman benefited supremely in Wentz’s rookie season, with the Sam Bradford/Vikings trade.

I still believe that, had the right deal crossed the table before free agency began, Roseman would have snapped it up. They likely did pass up a decent deal—think second-round pick—holding out for something more. It’s a gamble, but you can really drive up the asking price for Foles in the camp injury hypothetical—and having Foles in the building while Wentz recovers hurts nobody.

If Roseman is unable to trade Foles, that will be a disappointment and I’d imagine a failure for this front office. It would have been nice to have that capital for the 2018 draft, but you can always move some 2019 picks in an effort to recoup 2018 selections, then bolster those 2019 picks in the Foles trade. It hinges on the camp injury now—a waiting game, if you will.

But don’t mistake this: teams still view Foles as a worthy body to compete for a starting job. It was a matter of price and availability. Teams will still have his named circled if and when they find themselves in desperate need of a spot starter.

Mock Draft

Using the unparalleled Fanspeak mock draft simulator, I was able to leapfrog the LB need and early and snag a great value pick—and I forewent (?) EDGE depth as well, following the acquisition of Bennett and the persistence of Vinny Curry on the roster.

Mike Gesicki was a fun first-round selection. and I think tight end is a super-sneaky first-round selection for Philadelphia. Both Gesicki and Dallas Goedert, from South Dakota State, would merit a selection at 32. Should Philadelphia go that route, they’ll help solve the TE depth issue while also supplementing a top-heavy receiver corps that moved on from Marcus Johnson and Torrey Smith. To get deeper into Gesicki’s game, check out the scouting report below this mock draft.

Waiting until the fourth round to bring in the developmental OT that Philadelphia needs was tricky, but Will Richardson is a good candidate to make the fall. He’s got some off-field concerns, and likely left NC State a year before he was fully developed and dominant at the collegiate level. He has the athleticism to thrive in Philadelphia’s offense and push Big V for the swing tackle position.

I decided to snag Jack Cichy late in the fourth, though I would have felt comfortable waiting even later on the LB position. Cichy went through the Wisconsin pro day this week with relative success, looking explosive, built, and fluid—a torn ACL ended his 2017 season before it began. Day 2 tape but Day 3 medicals make it tough to predict Cichy’s outlook, but Philadelphia can bring him in and—like Richardson—smooth out the rough edges early.

Tre’Quan Smith was a value selection. A well-built deep threat with excellent tracking and high-pointing skills, Smith quietly had an excellent Combine: explosive jumps, good long speed, great wingspan. Not unlike the Mack Hollins pick of last season, Smith gives you a college big-play threat and plus athlete with the potential to round out the nuances of his game and become a more consistent three-level threat.

Chase Edmonds has seen his name ringing as of late—that’s what an early pro day will do for ya. Teams likely felt their ears perk up at Edmonds’ 6.79 3-cone and 4.07 short shuttle, which numbers illustrate the outstanding short-area quickness Edmonds shows on his tape. At his pro day, Edmonds ran routes out of the backfield and even lined up as a wideout—if Philadelphia isn’t sold on last year’s fourth-round selection Donnel Pumphrey making the leap following a bad camp showing, they may look at Edmonds for a Sproles-replacement.

We brought things home with Jamar Summers, an odd bird from UConn. A converted wideout who played corner for the Huskies, Summers may lack the reactionary quickness to ever prove a good man player. Keep him in a zone as much as possible—hello, free safety—and he can use his range, instincts, and ball skills to do some damage. An investigatory pick.

Scouting Report: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State

Mike Gesicki might be a WR, folks. He’s an unprecedented athlete at the TE position—we at least know that for sure.

Gesicki can’t block worth a lick, and with this physical profile, there’s no way you aren’t getting him out on routes early and often. Philadelphia had another TE of that mold: Trey Burton, now with a shiny new contract in Chicago. Gesicki is a turbocharged Burton, but the usage is the same: both he and Ertz could see the field simultaneously, alternating alignment at slot WR and H-back. They’d have a full route tree as receivers; as blockers, they’d simply need to execute the basic traps and cracks that don’t require talent as much as physicality for a brief moment.

Let’s focus on the pass-catching: that’s where Gesicki shines. The 6’5 freak has a volleyball background—basketball background for TEs is too mainstream (though he did that, too)—which not only informs his excellent jumps at the Combine, but speak to the timing and coordination with which he jumps on the field. It’s one thing to get height; it’s another to consistently synchronize the apex of your jump with the arrival of the football, and to control your body through the accompanying contact.

Concerns about Gesicki’s separation ability to the short and intermediate levels speckle his scouting reports, however—I didn’t see the concern when I did my final evaluation on him. Gesicki has the fluidity and physical profile to separate—not as well as a Travis Kelce or a Zach Ertz might, with change-of-direction quickness and burst. But he can create throwing windows for you, and that’s what will help move the sticks. Super sure hands don’t hurt as well.

Gesicki may be limited in that he can’t block, but you’d draft a receiver with his physical dominance and on-field, red zone skills in Round 1—so why not a tight end? Gesicki represents the new age of NFL tight ends, and a team like Philadelphia—with needs at both WR and TE—can get him on the field often and utilize his skill set perfectly.

From the seam, Gesicki stresses the middle of the defense, his gravitational pull forcing linebackers to drop underneath and safeties to labor over the top. Accordingly, short crossers from Nelson Agholor have plenty of room underneath the linebackers—and sideline go routes to Alshon Jeffery have just a little more space, as the safety has more ground to cover.

Ertz and Gesicki on the field at the same time, running routes and catching passes? Fuhgeddaboudit.

The Draft Bag

To the masses we turn!

I’m tempted to say I’d consider it. I’d need to spend time with Mills in camp, watching him play safety, to know for certain. I know many are bullish on the idea of Mills as a free safety project, but I don’t see range on Mills. I see more closing burst and some short-area quickness. With his man coverage history and willingness to close downhill, a strong safety alignment makes more sense for Mills.

Trading McLeod is an interesting proposition, though. I doubt you’d find a team willing to move even a third for McLeod—he’s been an up-and-down player for Philadelphia, represents $29.5M in cap hits over the remaining 3 years of his contract, and the free agency market for safeties is currently quite strong. If you can get a third for him, that could be excellent value in terms of opening cap and re-acquiring Draft capital.

I’d be trading someone from this secondary. That’s for sure. McLeod is a candidate, but there must be a clear plan at free safety should they investigate the market.

Saquon is amazing, but drafting a RB that high is silly. Saquon is amazing, but that OL is a bunch of pumpkins. Saquon is amazing, but Eli isn’t and every year the Giants deny their inevitable rebuild is a good year for Philly.

I love this question.

I don’t think so much the players did better in their second year with Schwartz—though certainly it doesn’t hurt. I think Schwartz did better in his second year as coordinator.

Schwartz’s name will forever trigger a slew of Wide-9 comments. He helped popularize the fad when it was at its height, and was one of the most effective coaches of the alignment. But the steadfast principles by which he lived and died under the Wide-9—rush only with four, play the same EDGEs, man coverage on the boundary—have waned in the past seasons with Philadelphia.

He blitzes more. He rotates his line. He mixes in zone concepts.

Schwartz is evolving: less strict and more innovative; more borrowing from successful concepts in other schemes. He’s coordinating for his players, not his scheme: Brandon Graham rushing from the inside; Jenkins playing linebacker; Kendricks blitzing and hiding from coverage responsibilities.

I expect the longer a player is with Schwartz, the better ol’ Jim will know how to deploy them.

It’s unlikely. If Connor Williams, Texas OT, starts dropping into the 20s, I’d start making calls.

QB: Under

RB: Over

LB: Under

TE: Over

DB: Over

WR: Under

OL: Under