The Philadelphia Eagles unexpectedly made a big move on Friday! They’re now picking No. 12 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft after trading down and acquiring the Miami Dolphins’ 2022 first-round pick in the process.
Wasn’t quite sure how to feel about the deal when I first saw the news. I mean, I had just gotten done with a fantastic sandwich from Middle Child (strongly recommend), so I was a little distracted by how great that was. But now that there’s been some time for digestion, both figuratively and literally (sorry), let’s run through some key takeaways.
1 - There are mixed feelings to be felt
It doesn’t really make for the most compelling sports conversation to be a Fency Fencerton but that’s where I land on this deal. I neither love it nor hate it. Funny enough, I actually already laid out my position on a move like this back on March 14:
“One of the Jaylen Waddle scenarios has the Eagles getting him at No. 12 in a trade down. I really don’t like the idea of moving down from No. 6 since the Eagles desperately need blue-chip talent and can’t afford to get cute. With that said, a trade down where the Eagles pick up a 2022 first-round pick (especially from a team that has reasonable potential to be bad) is where I’m willing to start listening. The Eagles could potentially have three first-round picks next year with such a trade.”
Water gun to my head, I leaned towards wanting the Eagles to stay put. Their roster desperately needs an infusion of young, elite-level talent. A higher pick gave them a better chance to get one of those premium studs. Given Howie Roseman’s uninspiring draft record, it’s hard to feel confident in him when there’s more room for error in terms of a wider range of options like there is at No. 12.
Further, the Eagles haven’t always had the most success when moving down. It was fruitful to an extent in 2018 when Philly ended up getting Dallas Goedert and Avonte Maddox for the No. 32 overall pick that became Lamar Jackson for the Baltimore Ravens. 2014, though? That was the year the Eagles drafted a total bust in Marcus Smith. Prior to Roseman becoming general manager, the Eagles traded down in 2008 and took Trevor Laws. It was Kevin Kolb in 2007.
Of course, past mistakes don’t necessarily beget future errors. And the allure of future picks is intriguing! And encouraging in the sense the team seems to be taking a long-term view as opposed to misguidedly aiming for a short-term fix.
When analyzing the Eagles’ moves, there should typically be an emphasis on evaluating their process and not just their results. But it’s going to be pretty important to see how the picks are used here.
There’s potential for the Eagles to get the ship righted if they can capitalize on them. There’s a scenario where Roseman uses these assets to find a new franchise quarterback and/or build a young, championship-caliber core.
There’s also potential for the idea of the picks to turn out much better than the reality of them. There’s a scenario where the Eagles come up relatively empty-handed while the player that’s picked at No. 6 naturally becomes a future Hall of Famer.
2 - The Eagles might have three first-round picks next year
The Eagles currently possess two first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft between their own and Miami’s. They’ll be able to get a third from the Indianapolis Colts if Carson Wentz either:
1) Plays 75% of Indy’s snaps.
2) Plays 70% of Indy’s snaps AND the Colts make the playoffs.
It’s not a lock that those conditions will be met. Wentz could get hurt. The Colts are incentivized to bench him if he’s mightily struggling like he was last year.
But there’s a pretty decent the Eagles will get that pick. So, let’s assume for now that they will.
From there, the question is: how good will those picks be?
The Eagles have the potential to be bad again this year. Their very young coaching staff is far from proven. Their roster isn’t good and it’s not like they’ve been able to make major upgrades this offseason. There’s a case to be made they’re still the worst team in the NFC East. Let’s pencil Philly in for a top 10 pick.
The Dolphins took a big step forward to a 10-6 record in 2020 after gutting their roster and going 5-11 in 2019. But to what extent is their success sustainable? Brian Flores seems like a pretty good coach but the jury is out on Tua Tagovailoa as a quality starter. The Alabama alumnus had an 87.1 passer rating last year. Tagovailoa finished 33rd out of 42 quarterbacks graded by Pro Football Focus (just one spot ahead of Wentz!), 27th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, and 27th in QBR. The Dolphins could be due for a step back if he doesn’t make significant progress. Let’s pencil them in for an 8-9 season (assuming 17 games) for a top 15 pick.
The Colts have a quality roster and a good head coach you might’ve heard of before named Frank Reich. Can Wentz get back on track, though? Maybe. I don’t think we’re ever going to see the 2017 version of him again. But he could very well be more of the 2018 and 2019 player than the shell of himself we saw last year. The Colts are hardly Super Bowl favorites at that level but they could certainly win the AFC South. Let’s pencil them in for another first-round playoff exit for a top 22 pick.
The Eagles could realistically be looking at three picks in the top 22. That’d be pretty nice! But while the Colts and Dolphins do have downward potential, it’s possible they could both be playoff teams that pick in the mid-20s. Still not bad but hardly as thrilling if the Eagles only receive late first-round picks.
In the event that the Eagles have another disappointing season, at least fans can take interest in rooting hard against the Colts and Dolphins next year. Imagine if both of those teams implode and Philly gets three very high picks?!
3 - The Eagles are showing both more and less commitment to Jalen Hurts
In the short-term, Hurts is clearly QB1.
Barring something unexpected, this trade down prevents him from being supplanted by a rookie drafted this year. This outcome doesn’t come as a surprise given Jeffrey Lurie’s mandate that he needs to be the 2021 starter.
I’d like to see Hurts get a real chance to start in 2021. It’s hard not to love what we’ve heard about his character in terms of leadership and being coachable. If the Eagles are going to fail with him, it’s because he’s simply not talented enough. That’s arguably more stomachable than the Eagles failing with a quarterback like Wentz, who couldn’t get out of his own way.
If the Eagles were closer to being in “win now” mode, I’d probably be more reluctant to see them merely hand the starting job to Hurts. But with the expectation that they’re not seriously competing for a Super Bowl in 2021 anyway, they should give Hurts a look. If he’s anything less than convincing as a full-time starter, they should be able in position to acquire another quarterback next year. If he proves to be the answer, great!
The Eagles couldn’t rely on getting a quarterback at No. 6. It’s now clear that three are going in the top three picks and there could very well be a fourth selected before Philly’s original pick. The Eagles didn’t really have the proper assets to trade up, though reports indicate they did have some level of interest in doing as much.
On that note, the Eagles don’t seem to view Hurts as a sure-fire long-term answer. Nor should they! The 22-year-old has much to prove. He has an opportunity to convince the team he’s the right guy to build around by going out and balling this year. It won’t be easy for him because the roster isn’t good and he won’t be benefiting from the Eagles adding a pass-catching weapon at No. 6.
If Hurts can thrive against the odds, though, then the Eagles will know he’s the chosen one. If not, they’ll have the assets to potentially pivot to a new starter; be that selecting a passer in the 2022 NFL Draft or acquiring a veteran.
4 - Trading for Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson is now more feasible
Before we get started here, we obviously have to note Watson’s pending legal situation. The Houston Texans’ star quarterback is facing 16 lawsuits alleging sexual assault and/or inappropriate conduct. It’s a serious matter and we need to see how the process plays out. In many ways, it remains to be seen what the future holds for Watson.
What we do know is that the Eagles have reportedly had an interest in him. NFL insider Jason La Canfora said the following on March 17:
Do not discount the Philadelphia Eagles as a strong suitor for Deshaun Watson. Too many sources with ties to ownership have whispered that sentiment my way for me to ignore.
Jeff McLane shared the following on March 19:
“Howie will give up everything he has for Watson,” an NFL source familiar with the Eagles’ thinking said.
Aaron Wilson reported on March 22 that the Eagles are among teams that remain interested in Watson despite uncertainty moving forward.
Given what’s going on, a Watson trade hardly appears to be imminent. And, as it currently stands, he controls his destination because he has a no-trade clause. There’s no guarantee he’d even want to come to Philly. At the very least, though, the Eagles can now offer a package that puts them in realistic contention.
The same can be said about Russell Wilson, who seems to want out of Seattle. We all know about how the Eagles had interest in him going back to the 2012 NFL Draft, when they passed on him three times. Maybe Roseman tries to right one of his biggest mistakes by acquiring him. What a move that’d be! Nice to think about Wilson terrorizing Eagles opponents instead of the Eagles themselves for a change.
Be it a veteran or a rookie in the first round of next year’s draft, the Eagles’ trade down does give them optionality when it comes to finding a new quarterback. As a Sam Hinkie acolyte, I can’t help but respect the flexibility. But picking the right one will be paramount.
5 - Howie Roseman definitely isn’t on the hot seat
This much shouldn’t come as a surprise. Despite playing a key part in the Eagles’ downward trajectory since February 2018, Roseman was spared from any criticism in Jeffrey Lurie’s postseason press conference. The Eagles’ much-maligned general manager is in very good standing with the owner.
Today’s trade down only reinforces that perception. It was a move that appears to be made with a long-term focus in mind. It’s a decision that’s going to take some time to fully evaluate. Lurie is trusting Roseman to lead the Eagles through a rebuild and get back on track.
Good news for those who still have faith in Philly’s GM. Bad news for the many who would like to see him gone.
6 - It’s not fun to drop behind the Cowboys and Giants
It’s not going to be fun if/when there’s a very covetable player (or two) and they end up going to Philly’s NFC East rivals instead! It was super annoying when the Cowboys prevented CeeDee Lamb from falling to the Eagles last year. Not looking forward to potentially having to go through something similar again.
7 - You can officially kiss Ja’Marr Chase and Kyle Pitts goodbye
Most Eagles fans would’ve been pretty pumped about the Eagles getting Chase at No. 6. And it was shaping up to be realistic, too! Four quarterbacks going in the top four and the Cincinnati Bengals taking Penei Sewell at No. 5 drops Chase to No. 6. Instead, the LSU star could be headed to Miami instead. Sigh.
Or maybe the more polarizing Pitts was your speed. At least we don’t have to have those debates anymore.
Regardless of your preference, the Eagles likely had a chance at taking the second non-quarterback in this year’s draft. No longer the case now.
8 - There are new favorites to be formed for No. 12
BGN’s Ben Natan wrote about some new options for the Eagles’ first-round pick. The early thought is that the Eagles could take a cornerback with that selection. Doing so would certainly fill one of the team’s biggest needs, though that shouldn’t be the main motivating factor. Just take the most impactful player.
My early preference is for the Eagles to take DeVonta Smith. Truth be told, I would’ve been cool with the Heisman Trophy winner at No. 6. Of course, there’s no guarantee he makes it to No. 12. But it’s not out of the question. Neither is the Eagles drafting Smith’s teammate, Jaylen Waddle.
Some have suggested that the talent drop-off from No. 6 to No. 12 isn’t that big. The Eagles sure seem to feel that way. I don’t know that I fully agree but they can definitely still get a quality talent. Doing so would be a great start to turning things around.
Who’s your top guy?