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The Robert Quinn trade is no risk, high reward

Howie Roseman may have done it again

NFL: New York Jets at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Howie Roseman has made yet another in-season trade, adding Robert Quinn for a 4th round draft pick. Since returning to GM duties in 2016, he’s made the following in-season trades:

2016: None

2017: 4th round pick to the Dolphins for Jay Ajayi

2018: 3rd round pick to the Lions for Golden Tate

2019: Jonathan Cyprien and a 7th to the Falcons for Duke Riley and a 6th; 4th round pick to the Browns for Genard Avery

2020: None

2021: Zach Ertz to the Cardinals for Tay Gowan and a 5th round pick; Joe Flacco to the Jets for a 6th round pick; 6th round pick to the Broncos for Kary Vincent

That’s a lot of in-season trades for an NFL team. Unfortunately most of them were at least one of duds, questionable at the time, or moves at the margin.

Except the Ajayi trade. That trade felt different at the time to all the others made since. The Eagles were 7-1, the best record in the NFL. A year after a strong season the year before with 1423 yards from scrimmage, 8 TDs, and a Pro Bowl appearance, he was not producing. Ajayi had 3.4 yards per carry and hadn’t scored a TD. He had major injury concerns (as soon as the Eagles traded for him, they put him on a limited practice schedule to protect his knee), and the word in Miami at the time was that the Dolphins had locker room concerns. He was suddenly undervalued, and the Eagles pounced. Ajayi gave an already potent offense another weapon in the arsenal; and added depth in case of injury. And of course, he helped win the Super Bowl.

The Robert Quinn trade feels a lot like the Jay Ajayi trade did at the time.

This is a classic trade for an undervalued player

If the trade doesn’t work out, oh well, no one gets fired for 4th round draft picks. This is the kind of low risk trade that contending teams should be making. Coming off an 18.5 sack season, if the Rams had traded a 2nd round pick for Quinn in the offseason, Les Snead would have gotten odes from media about how great he is at loading up on talent for a repeat Super Bowl run. If the Bills had traded for him instead of signing Von Miller, they would have gotten the same plaudits they got for signing Miller.

Then the season happened, and Quinn has failed to produce, he has just one sack, two tackles for loss, and three QB hits. Why?

Is it possible that Robert Quinn is washed? It is, he wouldn’t be the first or last player to suddenly lose effectiveness at age 32. Last year was last year, this year is this year.

The Eagles are betting that he isn’t, and they have good reason to. As you may know by now, he was constantly being double teamed this season.

At the mothership Mark Schofield shows that Quinn doesn’t look washed. He’s being schemed against, and he’s not going to have that level of attention with the Eagles. He’ll be playing with at least one of Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, and Jordan Davis on the field with him. Normally it would be unfair to call him a Robin, his 18.5 sacks last year wasn’t even a career high. But he’s done some serious damage along side other big name DL: he has double-digit sack seasons playing with Chris Long, Aaron Donald, and DeMarcus Lawrence. On a team that throws around Batman nicknames, a Robin comparison might work.

Having seen a strong season by Brandon Graham and a bounce back season by Fletcher Cox, both of whom are on reduced playing time, a similar effect may also benefit him. Von Miller has 6 sacks in 6 games for the Bills, he’s played 2/3rds of snaps only twice this season. Quinn has passed that mark in four games. Old guys in rotational roles is the new market inefficiency.

That’s why this feels like the Ajayi trade and not say, the Golden Tate trade. The Eagles are betting that the things that have tanked his value this season are instantly correctable on their team. But since they’re not counting on him being an every down player, so if they’re wrong it won’t be crippling.

Options now, options later

The other parallel to the Ajayi trade is that the Eagles are stacking talent to a unit that has been good but could be better. You can never have enough options and bodies in the NFL. The Eagles offense was outstanding in 2017, but at the time of the trade the running back situation was limited. The lead back was LaGarrette Blount, the #2 duties were split between Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood; all three were over extended in those roles, and an injury would make the depth chart too thin. Adding Ajayi gave the Eagles two backs to hammer defenses with.

This year the Eagles are 12th in sack rate, 11th in Football Outsider’s Adjusted Sack Rate. That’s been good enough so far, but there’s room for improvement. And now Jonathan Gannon, who has been pretty predictable with his defensive line rotations, has some serious options if he chooses to use them. He has four starting caliber pass rushers to constantly throw at offenses.

In addition to boosting the bench, Quinn is injury insurance. It only takes one injury for the Eagles to go from having a nice rotation piece in Brandon Graham to having zero depth. The now departed Tarron Jackson had played just 27 snaps as the 4th DE, Marlon Tuipulotu, the 5th DT, has played over 100 more. Quinn offers versatility, he’s been productive as a hand on the ground 4-3 end and rushing from the linebacker position in a 3-4. If Haason Reddick or Josh Sweat should go down, Quinn can in theory slide into either’s starting role and keep Graham in his current rotational role where he is thriving. Or if they do chose to start Graham, they still have a non-starter who is a starting caliber player.

And he gives them options for next year. The Eagles will—hilariously given they only gave up a 4th round pick—pay Quinn a prorated minimum salary this year, but then he gets expensive. Quinn is under contract for 2023 for $13.9M and 2024 for $12.9M. But he’s never going to see that money, none of it is guaranteed, the Eagles are not going to keep him at that salary. If he’s unproductive they can simply cut him at no cost. If he is productive, they could work out a new contract. Or there is a third option. If Quinn is productive the Eagles can offer him for trade. Remember Michael Bennett? The Eagles traded a 5th and a 7th to the Seahawks for him, and he was, like Quinn, 32. Bennett had 9 sacks and after the season they traded him to the Patriots for a 5th and a 7th.

Worst case scenario the Eagles are out a 4th round pick for a body to put on the field that is no worse than what Tarron Jackson was giving them, which was nothing. They’ve made worse trades. But if he’s even half of the player he was last year, the ceiling on this team just went up a few feet.

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