Good morning and Happy Halloween. It's already a busy bye week for the Eagles after they acquired wide receiver Golden Tate from the Detroit Lions for a 2019 third-round pick. Tate arrived in Philadelphia last night and has a 3 p.m. news conference today.
Also, I have a book out this week. UNDERDOGS: The Philadelphia Eagles' Emotional Road to Super Bowl Victory is available now in bookstores and wherever you purchase books online. The book chronicles the unforgettable 2017 season, detailing how it all came together and going deep into the characters and moments that made the team special. Merrill Reese wrote a fantastic foreword for the book, too. I hope you'll read it and enjoy it.
— Zach Berman
If you had any question whether the Eagles still viewed themselves as contenders despite a 4-4 start to the season, that should be answered now. The Eagles surrendered a third-round pick for a 30-year-old wide receiver who is in the last year of his contract. That's the definition of a "win-now" move, to the point that it's an "all-in" move. Yes, the Eagles can mitigate it by receiving a compensatory pick in 2020 if Golden Tate leaves in free agency. Even though that factored into the equation, the Eagles didn't make this move because of 2020. They made it because of the next eight weeks – and perhaps even more.
"There is no doubt," Howie Roseman said about the Eagles viewing themselves as contenders. "We have a lot of confidence in our players and in our coaching staff. Has everything gone exactly the way we thought this year? No, I don't think any season does. But we think we have a really good football team and we are adding a really good player. Again, we are going to keep our foot on the gas and that's our message. That's our message to our fans and that's our message to our organization. We are not going to sit on our hands."
That last sentence is important, because the Eagles could have done that. They could have punted at the deadline, said they feel comfortable with their roster and they're counting on injured players returning, and just see what this can team do in the final half of the season. But Roseman pushed his chips in the middle of the table. It's not as if he mortgaged the future, but a third-round pick is a hefty price.
Time will tell whether it was a good trade. If the Eagles fail to make the playoffs, it won't look so good. But if they can improve their offense and move up a class to the heavyweight division of the NFC this year, then Roseman will deserve credit.
From a pure football perspective, this is an impressive addition for the Eagles. The offense is scoring more than six fewer points per game than last season and needed to improve in the second half. In Tate, they get a productive, durable, tough wide receiver who gives Carson Wentz another weapon. With Tate, Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Nelson Agholor – not to mention other targets such as Dallas Goedert, Jordan Matthews, and maybe Mike Wallace – the Eagles can spread the ball around and use different packages to take advantage of the opposing defense. I'm curious if Agholor gets more work on the outside with Tate in the slot. The Agholor-Tate combination will be interesting because Tate could be used the way the Eagles have used Agholor so far this season, with short passes and jet sweeps to try to capitalize on the run-after-catch abilities. Since 2016, Tate leads the NFL in yards after catch. Perhaps Tate can open up Agholor downfield. My guess is both move around in the offense.
If you want the Eagles to run more, I don't know if you'll love this trade. I can see the Eagles turn to the short passing game instead of runs sometimes, especially on early downs to try to create short second downs. I don't think this is a bad thing, either. The Eagles will run when they need to run, but when you have Wentz and these options in the passing game, wouldn't you trust them more than the Eagles' running backs?
You might ask, why wide receiver and not another position? It's a fair question. I could argue secondary and defensive tackle were bigger holes. No defensive tackles were moved on Tuesday, although defensive end Donte Fowler was traded to the Rams. Washington acquired safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix. But if you remove yourself from looking at the depth chart and just look at the team's production, offensive firepower has been the biggest problem this year. The defense has played better than their reputation in this city might suggest. Tate also has the production and personality that makes one think he can make a quick transition. Time will tell if it's the right move, but if they were to make a trade, I'm not surprised it was to help Wentz.
"There is no question about the efforts we made here in the last couple of weeks," Roseman said. "We just try to find the best player that fits our system and our culture. When we looked around – it's a supply and demand market and you have to deal what the supply is on the market and then whether you're willing to pay the price. For us, this is a player who's a playmaker."
Will the Eagles receive a compensatory pick if/when [Golden Tate] walks in the offseason? – Mike C.
The likely answer is yes, but there's no way of knowing that for sure until after free agency. It first depends on what kind of contract Golden Tate signs, if he does in fact sign elsewhere. Assuming he stays healthy with the Eagles, I believe he'll be a popular free agent and sign a lucrative deal elsewhere. That will help the Eagles' compensatory pick formula for 2020. The other factor to consider is whether the Eagles spend big in free agency. I don't believe that will happen, either. My guess is the Eagles use their cap space to try to re-sign some young core players, which helps their formula, too. The Eagles have analyzed and embraced the compensatory pick strategy during the past two years.
"I think last offseason was the first time we spent time and effort on the compensatory system.," Roseman said. "Going forward, that is something we are going to have to look at and we are looking at it as we evaluate our roster and think about our picks going forward. We anticipate we are going to get some good ones this year. We do have a bunch of free agents after this year. When we sit down in the offseason that is going to be part of our calculation and formula and certainly part of our analysis whenever we acquire anyone or think about signing or extending players at this point and in March when we get to the free- agent market."