The Mack Hollins of NFL trade deadline days ended with neither the Eagles nor anyone else pulling the trigger on a significant deal by 4 p.m.
General manager Howie Roseman did not meet with reporters, who were left to conclude that Roseman felt his 4-4 team was more than a deadline acquisition or two away from another Super Bowl. Or, it’s possible Roseman really felt that once a few more injuries heal, the Eagles will match up with the Saints, 49ers, Vikings, Packers (again), and whoever else ends up near the top of the NFC heap by January. (This seems less likely, though it might be what you hear from Doug Pederson’s scheduled presser Wednesday.)
Roseman also might have learned from last season, when he acquired receiver Golden Tate for a third-round pick on deadline day, pretty much just to be doing something. Tate didn’t give the team anything it didn’t already have, and he left for the Giants in free agency.
When Pederson was asked about the deadline on Monday, and the coach chose to emphasize injured players returning, while also underscoring the importance of culture fit in trades, reporters figured he might just be trying to rein in expectations. Nope, seems like Pederson knew not much was coming, beyond Genard Avery, the situational edge rusher Roseman acquired Monday evening from the Browns, reportedly in exchange for a 2021 fourth-round pick.
Revisiting that Hollins metaphor: In October, the wide receiver was on the field for 143 Eagles offensive snaps and caught no passes. Apparently there was no pass-catcher available on the trade market at a reasonable price who could offer more production, to an Eagles passing game that remains painfully limited without DeSean Jackson.
The focus there now is on Jackson’s possible return from a Week 2 abdominal injury for Sunday’s game against the Bears, with Jackson scheduled to try to practice Wednesday for the first time since Sept. 13.
Pederson indicated Monday that Jackson’s pending return would mean less of Hollins and of zero production from one wide-receiving spot, but Pederson also extolled all the things Hollins provides the offense other than catching footballs – mostly blocking, one assumes.
You could make a case that if Jackson indeed returns this week and is productive, the trade deadline need at wide receiver wasn’t make-or-break. Though Pederson acknowledged recently that Jackson, who opted against surgery when the injury was diagnosed, won’t be 100 percent this season.
Even so, can you make the same case for the viability of the Eagles’ defense, which currently lacks an elite edge rush, defensive tackle depth, top-quality linebacking, and is relying on the continued health of Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills to avoid complete dysfunction at corner?
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was asked Tuesday if he feels he has a championship-caliber group. Schwartz spoke before the deadline passed.
“We're a week-to-week team. We're not looking at anything other than this week, so we'll see what we got this week and figure out a way to try to come out with a win,” Schwartz said. “Doug is very consistent on that message, try to go 1-0 this week and let's not look further on down the line than that.”
Asked about the current mix of seven defensive ends, including Avery, and three defensive tackles, two of whom made their NFL debuts at Buffalo, Schwartz said: “Yeah, I mean, it's just the way numbers work out sometimes. Just is what it is.”
There was buzz about the Eagles possibly decreasing that defensive end surplus by trading Vinny Curry, but that didn’t happen.
In Roseman’s defense, he wasn’t the only GM trying to get something done Tuesday who came up empty. The Rams’ trade to Miami of corner Aqib Talib, who is on injured reserve and turns 34 in February, was the highlight of the day. Observers said struggling teams were overvaluing talent; in Denver, a report said the Eagles inquired about corner Chris Harris, but that they never actually made an offer, that only the Lions did so, and they weren’t offering as much as a third-round pick.
The Jets and former Eagles player personnel vice president Joe Douglas were said to want a second-round draft pick for former Temple wide receiver Robby Anderson, who has 176 catches in 53 NFL games. Douglas apparently listened to offers on just about everyone except quarterback Sam Darnold, but no Jets were traded.
Sometimes a trade-deadline deal gives a team a big boost; getting running back Jay Ajayi for a fourth-round pick certainly did that in 2017. But Tate last year did not have the same effect. We don’t know how Eagles players really felt, if they were expecting help. Center Jason Kelce told reporters Tuesday he didn’t know it was trade deadline day.
After ending up with only five picks in each of the 2018 and 2019 drafts, the Eagles chose not to expend significant draft capital earlier this season on edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney or corner Jalen Ramsey. Even the price for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders -- a third and a fourth, for Sanders and a fifth -- apparently was more than they were willing to pay.
They have seven 2020 picks -- no seventh-rounder but a pair of fifths -- in addition to what ought to be three compensatory picks after free-agency gains and losses from 2019 are tallied. Clearly, there is a huge organizational focus on this coming draft.
The rhetoric entering the season was that the Eagles were all-in for 2019, within reason, while remaining mindful of long-term viability. They were projected as top Super Bowl contenders. With corner Avonte Maddox scheduled to return from a concussion and a neck injury this week, the Jacksons -- DeSean and defensive tackle Malik -- are the only remaining injured Week 1 starters. The Super Bowl probably was never an accurate projection for this group, which started the season as the NFL’s second-oldest.
Had Roseman spoken Tuesday, he might have been asked if this coming offseason could launch a rebuild, for a team that declared in February 2018 that winning the Super Bowl was going to be “the new normal.”