There has been no shortage of Philadelphia Eagles trade rumors as NFL free agency approaches. We’ve heard that Vinny Curry could be on the move. The Eagles reportedly already received an offer for Nick Foles.
Now NFL insider Chris Mortensen is saying that one of the Eagles’ defensive backs could be move. Here’s what he said in a Tuesday interview with the 97.5 Midday show:
“I’ll be surprised if the Eagles don’t have a third round pick, at least. Listen, we know they’re heavy in defensive backs. With Sidney Jones coming back, that pick’s going to end up paying off big time. And I think one of those defensive backs could be moved for a third-round pick, possibly.”
This topic came up because Mort was talking about how the Eagles don’t have to rely on trading Foles to get picks more in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Now, it’s not like Mort definitively said the Eagles are going to trade one of their DBs. It’s interesting that he brought it up on his own, though. That could suggest he’s heard something. Or maybe it was just speculation. For the sake of this conversation, let’s assume it’s the former.
Which Eagles defensive back could it be? The line about Jones suggest he’s talking about the cornerback situation, so let’s start there. That’s the spot where the Eagles have a logjam of talented youth, anyway.
Let’s rule out the obvious: It’s not Jones. The Eagles didn’t spend a 2017 second-round pick on him to flip him for a third a year later. Patrick Robinson is a free agent, so it’s not him. That realistically leaves Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, and Ronald Darby.
The 23-year-old Mills is coming off a good year and he’s under contract for cheap for two more seasons. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz praises the Green Goblin (unprompted, mind you) very often so I don’t think it’s him.
When everyone was healthy, Douglas was the odd man out in the Eagles’ corner group in 2017. But the 2017 third-round selection was a rookie, so it’s not like expectations were necessarily high. Besides, he showed some starting potential when he did have to play.
That leaves Darby, who seems like the most obvious trade candidate of the group. Yes, the Eagles only acquired him in a deal with the Bills last August, but he’s currently set to play out the last year of his contract. If the Eagles, who will be limited on cap space next offseason as well, don’t feel like they can keep him in the long-term, it’d be good to get a pick for Darby now.
Though the feeling here is that Darby is a good player, one must admit the Eagles were still able to have defensive success when missed eight regular season games in 2017.
It’s not even like moving on from Darby this soon would make the Eagles’ trade for him a failure. He was acquired at a time when Philadelphia’s corners were really struggling in training camp. And he ultimately made some big contributions during the Super Bowl run, including notching a late-game interception against the Raiders to help the Eagles clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Plus, getting a third-round pick for Darby would make it so that all the Eagles really gave up was Jordan Matthews, who wasn’t even needed in 2017 due to Nelson Agholor’s emergence in the slot. JMatt’s going to be a free agent this offseason anyway. And the third-round pick the Eagles would get is likely going to be higher than their own since they’re picking at the bottom of the third round. For cap purposes, trading Darby would save just over $1 million. Saving money this year isn’t a main motivation to move him, but every little bit helps when you’re in the Eagles’ situation.
Darby being gone would likely result in Jones and Mills being the Eagles’ new starters on the outside. If Robinson isn’t retained, perhaps the Eagles would shift Mills to the slot in nickel packages with Douglas replacing him on the outside.
Getting back to what Mort said, his use of “defensive backs” could possibly mean he was talking about an Eagles safety.
We saw Malcolm Jenkins’ name come up in the Brandin Cooks trade rumors last offseason. It’s not financially impossible. A trade would save the Eagles $5.6 million compared to $4.5 million in dead money. Trading Jenkins would be a tough sell in the locker room, however. His versatility to play multiple positions would be missed as well.
Trading Rodney McLeod doesn’t seem likely from a money perspective. That would only save $1.2 million compared to $7.2 million in dead money.
Ultimately, I don’t think Mort was talking about a safety when he said what he said. Not just because of the Jones context, but also because the Eagles just don’t have depth there. Corey Graham, who turns 33 this offseason, is going to be a free agent and he’s not an ideal full-time starter anyway. There’s no other proven option on the roster, unless the Eagles feel good about moving Mills to safety. I’d think the Eagles want to ADD safeties to their roster this offseason, not get rid of them.
So, if anyone’s getting moved, it seems like it could be Darby. That’s another thing to keep an eye on this offseason.