It is the thick of mock draft season and ESPN’s Bill Barnwell has an interesting one that he does every year: a mock draft where every pick is traded. They’re all traded in a vacuum (and he doesn’t even actually make picks) so this is completely unrealistic. But it’s also pretty fun.
Two involve the Eagles. Neither is going to happen, but they’re a good start.
Bills get: 1-32; QB Nick Foles
Eagles get: 1-12; QB AJ McCarron
What happens if the Bills don’t find a way to trade up and subsequently miss out on the quarterbacks they wanted to take before they’re on the clock at 12? There has to be a fallback plan, right? Unless they plan on signing Jay Cutler or Colin Kaepernick, the most plausible trade candidate is Foles. The Eagles haven’t been desperate to trade the Super Bowl MVP given the state of Carson Wentz’s knee, but this would represent a significant return, with the pick swap equivalent to the 31st pick of a typical draft. The Eagles would get McCarron as a low-cost backup; they would be on the hook for only $900,000 in 2018 and a non-guaranteed $3.1 million next year. A trade up would give Philly a shot at some of the draft’s top cornerbacks, or a possible replacement left tackle for Jason Peters.
Barnwell is right that Foles should be a backup plan for the Bills. But for the Eagles, this isn’t enough in return. A month ago Foles got a $3 million roster bonus, which means the Eagles only save $1.6 million rather than $4.6 million if he had been traded just after the start of the new league year.
The difference between the 12th and 32nd pick is way more than a cheap backup QB. Last year the Texans gave up a 2018 1st to move from 25th to 12th, the Chiefs gave up a 2018 1st and a 3rd to move from 27th to 10th. Both those trades were for QBs, so the teams had to pay a premium. And this would be a trade for a QB, so the price should be in line with that. Buffalo also has the 22nd pick in this draft, and they also have two picks in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. They’ve got all kinds of draft capital this year to give up, or to help offset giving up picks in 2019. Perhaps an additional 1st is too much for a 29 year old who will need a new contract upon arriving, but just a swap of 1sts and a backup QB isn’t enough. And McCarron doesn’t fit the profile for what the Eagles want in their QBs: Carson Wentz, Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld are all big and strong armed. While McCarron isn’t small or noodle armed, he also doesn’t fit that prototype. The Eagles would rather just have a pick instead.
Further, while the idea of an NBA-esque sign and trade is cool on paper, in reality it’s hard to see how trading McCarron weeks after signing him would help the Bills. The sign and trade works in the NBA because it allows the player to make more money than if he simply signed with the team he is traded to. In the NFL it just jettisons a player from a destination he chose because the team changed its mind before they even finished filling out their roster. Players understand that it’s all a business, but not all business is good business.
The other trade Barnwell has the Eagles doing is inviting, but also needs more.
Eagles get: 3-97; 2019 first-round pick
Cardinals get: 1-32
Finally, let’s wrap this with a challenge trade. The Eagles have one of the deepest rosters in football and are returning virtually every one of their key contributors, so if any team can afford to wait a year and speculate on what might end up as a high draft pick, it’s Philly. If the Cardinals address one of their other weaknesses and don’t draft a quarterback at 15, this could be where they trade up and grab Jackson at the bottom of the first round.
They would be giving up a third-round comp pick and run the risk of a Texans situation, where the organization grossly overestimates its own chances of competing and ends up trading away a top-five pick in the next draft. Houston probably doesn’t regret what it did given what the Texans have seen from Watson, but it’s a huge risk to take given the chances Jackson doesn’t work out. Then again, turning over your passing duties to Bradford and Mike Glennon is a risk in itself.
I like the thinking here. While the Eagles certainly have draft needs, there’s only a handful of spots where a 1st rounder can make an impact in 2018 (without someone getting hurt). This trade also has a touch of the NBA, it’s like trading a non-lottery pick for a lottery pick next year. It’s nearly impossible to see how the Cardinals pick would be 32nd next year and very easy to see this being a top 15 pick, or better. That’s a very intriguing offer.
But this trade would mean that the Eagles wouldn’t make a selection in the draft until 97th overall. That’s a huge wait. It also doesn’t feel like it’s the best value the Eagles could extract from a team that in this scenario is suddenly desperate for a QB. 97th is the Cardinals second 3rd rounder, they also have 79th, and 9 picks in total. The Eagles have two 4ths, two 5ths and a 6th. Moving up a round with one or two of them would make the wait more palatable, with the bonus of opening up more trade possibilities later in the draft for the Eagles.
Both of these trades start from a good spot. Giving up Nick Foles to move into the top half of the draft would be huge and in line with the 2016 trade from 13th overall to 8th. And swapping the 32nd in 2018 for what looks to be a top 10 pick warrants serious consideration. But both are big moves for a team that just won the Super Bowl with what is universally considered the deepest roster in the league. While that does mean that the risk is minimized, it also means that the need to take such a risk is minimal as well. Something extra to these deals would be both justified and more appealing to the Eagles. The Eagles don’t need anything to “push them to the edge” or “go to the next level” or whatever cliche you want to use. They’re already there.