People who like the Eagles’ Friday trade with Miami emphasize the possibility that the team will have three first-round picks in the 2022 draft.
Given the organization’s recent luck, it’s also quite possible some combination of the following things happens:
1. Carson Wentz gets injured/flops in Indianapolis, making one of those three projected first-rounders a second-rounder.
2. The Dolphins have a very good season, their first-round pick is in the high 20s to 30ish, and Howie Roseman ends up packaging that pick and his own first to move up in attempt to draft … a player with the kind of talent he could have gotten this year had he not moved back from sixth to 12th overall.
The trade told us several things. One was that the Eagles have decided that, for better or worse, they aren’t after a franchise quarterback this year. Another was that they don’t care if they don’t get either of the two transcendent receiving threats expected to be drafted in the top 10, LSU wideout Ja’Marr Chase or Florida tight end-in-name-only Kyle Pitts. Also, that they don’t mind letting division rivals Dallas and the Giants pick right in front of them, possibly taking a player the Eagles had targeted.
But the most important thing they told us was the size of the rebuilding project they are undertaking.
The Eagles still have 11 draft picks this year, four in the first three rounds. The new fourth-rounder gives them five picks among the first 123 selections. Next year they will pick four times in the first two rounds, if they don’t package any of those picks in a trade. They might need all of that and more to offset the disaster that has been their draft record the past five seasons.
The only player the Eagles have drafted since 2016 who has made the Pro Bowl was Wentz. He isn’t here anymore, though his NFL-record dead cap charge of $33.8 million certainly is. Guard Isaac Seumalo and edge rusher Derek Barnett are the only players on the roster from the 2016 and 2017 drafts. The Eagles ended up making 10 picks, total, from 2018 and 2019 combined, partly because of trades they made to win Super Bowl LII, especially the trade-up to draft Wentz. Two of those 10 players so far have been difference-makers, tight end Dallas Goedert and running back Miles Sanders.
As the Eagles retool, they are looking at a core of talent that will melt away from age over the next few seasons. Brandon Brooks will be 32 in August, Fletcher Cox is 30, Brandon Graham turns 33 in April, Jason Kelce is 33, Lane Johnson turns 31 in May, and Rodney McLeod turns 31 in June. Thirty-year-old Zach Ertz almost certainly will be traded or released this spring.
Friday’s trade told us that getting a surefire top-of-the-league Pro Bowl player this year is much, much less important to management than adding an array of pretty good players over the next few years. (Assuming the Eagles draft wisely over the next few years, which, well, you know.) This is one of those things fans might have sensed, in the backs of their minds, but the trade thrust it right in front of their faces, in bold letters. It’s going to be a long haul. Most likely, 2021 is going to look bleak, without the excitement a Jalen Hurts-Chase/Pitts connection might have generated.
On Roseman’s behalf, it’s important to mention that the 2022 draft ought to be really good; quite a few players took advantage of the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted because of the pandemic. There will be less uncertainty in evaluating prospects, if life returns to something close to normal, college seasons go on as planned, there’s a scouting combine next year, and so on.
Roseman didn’t do anything nonsensical, in gaining a 2022 first-round pick and also exchanging his fifth-rounder this year for a fourth-rounder, just to move back six spots in the first. Hey, Cox was a 12th overall pick, in 2012. That year, Dallas took corner Morris Claiborne sixth overall. Cox was a much better choice. Between the two, only ninth-overall pick Luke Kuechly could be said to have equaled or exceeded Cox’s impact. But Kuechly is retired now, and Cox isn’t.
Today, though, the Eagles are at the bottom of a deep, deep hole. A good part of it could be labeled aftershock from the Wentz situation. All those picks they spent to get him, all the plans they made around him, blown to pieces after he regressed horribly in 2020 and decided he didn’t want to be here anymore.
They would have laughed at Indianapolis a year ago, had the Colts suggested that they would take Wentz off the Eagles’ hands for a third-round pick in 2021 and a second in 2022 that can be a first if Wentz prospers.
Again, the Friday trade pretty much eliminates the possibility of acquiring a franchise QB this year. Another thing people who defend the trade posit is that if Hurts doesn’t excel in 2021 – at the helm of a team with mediocre weapons, at best – they can just use some of those 2022 picks to nab a franchise quarterback, and start all over yet again next year.
Won’t that be fun?