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Addition of Sproles gives Eagles trade flexibility

Well, if nothing else, the Eagles’ acquisition Thursday of 31-year-old jack-of-all-trades Darren Sproles managed to divert the attention of the talk-show gabbers to something else besides Malcolm Jenkins v. Jairus Byrd.

Well, if nothing else, the Eagles' acquisition Thursday of 31-year-old jack-of-all-trades Darren Sproles managed to divert the attention of the talk-show gabbers to something else besides Malcolm Jenkins v. Jairus Byrd.

But why exactly did they trade a fifth-round pick for the 5-6, 190-pound running back/wide receiver? Is it just another example of Chip Kelly's insatiable appetite for versatile offensive weapons? Or could it be that the Eagles are positioning themselves for a pre-draft trade?

General manager Howie Roseman has made it clear that the Eagles are a build-through-the-draft football team. They want to grow their own talent and then eventually re-sign the best of that talent to second contracts.

They've had two outstanding drafts since ditching Andy Reid's draft-for-need approach that turned the 2010 and 2011 drafts into Greek tragedies.

Roseman has said that he feels the Eagles are just two more good drafts away from being a year-in-and-year-out Super Bowl contender.

Which brings us to the May draft. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has called this year's draft class "the deepest and best I've seen in probably 10 years.''

Roseman hasn't gone quite that far, but has acknowledged that there are certain position groups, including wide receiver, that are "probably stronger than we've seen in the last decade.''

It would be a great draft to have a lot of picks, but at the moment, after trading away the fifth for Sproles, the Eagles have only six, including only two of the first 85 selections, which is their fewest since 2003.

Given the importance of the draft to them, I think it's safe to assume that Roseman and his personnel people are trying to figure out ways to add more picks before the Houston Texans go on the clock on May 8.

The acquisition of Sproles could give them a couple of viable trade pieces.

One is running back Bryce Brown. While Sproles will earn his keep mainly as a pass catcher, he did have 53 carries last season, which is only 22 fewer than Brown.

With Sproles on the roster, it seems unlikely the Eagles will keep both Brown and Chris Polk around, and Kelly seems to have a soft spot in his heart for Pac-12 alum Polk, who had three touchdown runs on just 11 carries last year and is a much better special teams player than Brown.

After a promising rookie season that included a pair of 150-yard rushing performances, Brown wasn't nearly as effective last season, though he still averaged 4.2 yards per carry.

Brown, a 225-pounder with sub-4.4 speed, would be attractive to a lot of teams, including the Colts, whose general manager, ex-Eagle personnel guy Ryan Grigson, again is in the market for a running back after the Trent Richardson trade backfired on him.

But the best the Eagles probably can hope to get for Brown is a fourth-round pick. And even that probably is wishful thinking.

Then there's DeSean Jackson. There has been plenty of speculation this offseason about whether the Eagles would be willing to trade Jackson.

He's coming off a career season that included 82 receptions, 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. Led the Eagles in third-down catches and even did some damage in the red zone.

The downside to Jackson is his size – 5-9 ½ and 175 pounds soaking wet – and his fragile attitude. He sulked the entire 2011 season after not getting a contract extension, and already has said that he thinks the five-year deal he signed in March of 2012 needs to be restructured.

Kelly was reluctant to put Jackson and 5-8 Damaris Johnson on the field at the same time last season because of their size. Would he reluctant to do the same with Jackson and the 5-6 Sproles?

After re-signing Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, and now adding a unique weapon like Sproles, who caught 71 passes last season and had seven touchdown catches in two of the last three seasons, and a draft coming up that includes one of the best and deepest wide-receiving classes in recent history, might the Eagles be willing to trade Jackson for more picks? Believe me when I tell you it's been talked about on the second floor of NovaCare.

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