As midnight approached on Thursday evening, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni excitedly scampered into the auditorium at the NovaCare Complex. Joined by his two peers, general manager Howie Roseman and vice president of player personnel Andy Weidl, Sirianni led the Eagles representatives up the stairs and onto the podium perched on the auditorium’s stage.
Roseman and Weidl both tried their best to stay relatively tame at the conclusion of a long and busy night, which was headlined by a pair of trades. First, the Eagles moved up two spots on Day 1 of the NFL draft and selected Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis with pick No. 13. Moments later, the team conducted a blockbuster trade and acquired star wide receiver A.J. Brown from the Titans. It was likely the latter move that resulted in a non-stop, full-on grin from Sirianni.
When Sirianni was asked for his initial thoughts on Brown, he was interrupted by Roseman, who insisted on retelling a story. According to Roseman, when the team first expressed interest in trading for Brown, general manager and coach sat together and watched Brown’s highlight tape from last season. It didn’t take long for Sirianni to establish that this was a player he wanted as part of his evolving passing offense.
Roseman went as far as reenacting Sirianni’s reactions from that moment.
“There were conversations about was it a priority for us to get a veteran receiver,” Roseman said. “It was a priority for us to get the right players. This for us was the right player, it was the right fit.”
Said Sirianni: “When you put the tape on, it doesn’t take long to figure out what you got there...He’s a bigger guy with a lot of play strength. This is one of the strongest receivers in the NFL. I was on the opposite sideline twice a year during the 2019-20 seasons (as a Colts assistant coach), so I saw him up close and personal. There’s a lot of different things — his strength, skillset, body quickness. The biggest asset he has is the one that’s so vital to the position — this guy catches everything.
“We can see him on a lot of different routes and how he can fit this offense. That’s where he’s so tough. You want guys that can win one-on-one matchups, and he’s shown he can do that. The way he wins with his play strength and quickness — he’s intimidating getting off that bus.”
Brown provides quarterback Jalen Hurts with another proven weapon in the passing game. The wide receiver room now features DeVonta Smith, Brown, and Quez Watkins — in addition to top tight end Dallas Goedert — with Zach Pascal, Greg Ward, and Jalen Reagor as depth options.
Brown, who agreed to a four-year extension worth $100 million with $57 million in guaranteed salary, has established himself as a top receiver over his first three seasons. He has compiled 185 catches for 2,995 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns.
Roseman said the acquisition of Brown was contingent on the team’s ability to sign the receiver to a long-term extension, and not based on how the top wide receiver prospects fell off the draft board. Leading up to the draft, the Eagles entertained a handful of receivers during top 30 visits, including with Alabama’s Jameson Williams, Georgia’s George Pickens, and Ohio State’s Chris Olave.
Ultimately, the Eagles had their eyes on another outside addition in Brown, who experienced a fallout with his former team due to a stall in contract negotiations.
“[Brown’s extension] was something we were working on throughout the draft,” Roseman said. “We were trying to balance finishing that, while also getting our players. We’re really excited to get him in terms of how Coach can use him, his vision for the offense and how he complements the other guys.”
Eagles trade up, select Davis at No. 13
The Eagles made two of nine total trades in the first round of the draft. By the end of the night, the Eagles had given up six total draft picks to acquire two players in Brown and Davis.
The trade for Brown might’ve stolen some of the spotlight from the Davis selection, but the Eagles are hopeful Davis develops into a star.
Davis, a 6-foot-6, 341-pounder, developed his reputation as one of the best run stoppers in the SEC throughout his college career at Georgia. This past season, he recorded 32 tackles, 5 1/2 tackles for loss, two sacks, and nine quarterback hits. His stats don’t necessarily match the hype attached to him — but Davis had some special moments during his pre-draft process. He most notably ran a 4.78-second 40-yard dash and had a 123-inch broad jump at the scouting combine.
“We spent a lot of time at Georgia this year,” Weidl said. “When you see a guy with that type of size, athleticism, and explosion, he loves to play the game. You saw his lateral quickness, range, ability to get down the line of scrimmage and run down running backs and hawk down quarterbacks. We think he has the explosion in his body.”
While the Eagles expect Brown to be an immediate contributor, Davis will slot into the middle of the defensive line and work alongside fellow interior lineman Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. Second-year defensive lineman Milton Williams is also expected to be in the mix.
Said Roseman: “We want to have one of the best D-lines in the league. The combination we can have with the players we can have on our roster – we can have alignments with Jordan and Fletch and Javon ... it’s exciting.”