Good morning, Eagles fans. This is a Wednesday edition of Early Birds, with the Eagles beginning practice today for Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos. Doug Pederson has a 10:30 a.m. news conference, and the Eagles' trade for Jay Ajayi will be the big topic. What do you think of the trade?
You never know how a trade will work out until you see the player in his new situation, but I view this as a relatively low-risk price for a potentially big reward. Ajayi can be a difference-making running back, and he's only 24. I've written before that running back is a weak spot on the Eagles' roster even though they've been productive through the first two months. Not anymore. With Ajayi arriving, this is a much-improved backfield. The Eagles are a better team than they were when you received the Tuesday newsletter. That's a good sign for a 7-1 team.
This trade helps a contender in 2017, but it might help them even more in 2018. The long-term outlook at running back was nebulous: LeGarrette Blount is on a one-year deal, Darren Sproles' future is unclear, the Eagles don't have a Day 2 draft pick, and they have money that must be spent elsewhere. So unless they used a first-round pick on a running back or struck gold on Day 3 of the draft, it would either be another Band-Aid or hoping Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, and Donnel Pumphrey could be good enough. Now, barring injury, running back should not be a big concern this offseason. They have a young, Pro Bowl running back on a good contract.
The draft pick compensation shouldn't be a major concern. Yes, there are productive running backs and players at other positions found in the fourth round and later. Yes, those players are on cost-controlled contracts for four years, compared to 1½ years of Ajayi. But it's hard to hit on fourth-round picks. These are the Eagles' fourth-round picks the last 10 years: Mack Hollins, Donnel Pumphrey, Jaylen Watkins, Matt Barkley, Brandon Boykin, Casey Matthews, Alex Henery, Trevard Lindley, Mike McGlynn, Quintin Demps, Jack Ikegwuonu. Give me the 24-year-old Pro Bowler who still has a full year on his rookie contract.
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— Zach Berman
What you need to know about the Eagles
The Eagles were aggressive at the trade deadline by acquiring Jay Ajayi from the Dolphins and further reinforcing their status as a contending team.
How will the locker room respond to the trade? That's a big area to watch. Les Bowen writes about the potential fallout.
What are the Eagles getting in Ajayi? Jeff McLane did a thorough film breakdown.
Mike Sielski looks at the present-and-future ramifications of the deal.
Howie Roseman explained why he made the move.
The Eagles stood pat at offensive tackle, Bowen writes.
Find answers to Ajayi questions and more in the transcript of this week's online chat.
From the mailbag
I'll tackle both of these questions.
First, on Lane Johnson. The Eagles like the way Johnson is playing on the right side, where he's practiced all season and is most comfortable. The difference between left tackle and right tackle is not as pronounced as it used to be; top pass rushers, such as Denver's Von Miller, come from Johnson's side. And by moving Johnson over to the left and playing Halapoulivaati Vaitai on the right side, they'd be disrupting two spots. That's why the Eagles went the direction they did.
As to the second question, I'd take the Jay Ajayi deal over the Kelvin Benjamin deal. This is theoretical because the Eagles don't have a third-round pick, and Benjamin cost Buffalo a third and a seventh. But I viewed running back as a greater need than wide receiver, and Ajayi is more than $8 million cheaper than Benjamin next season. I'd rather have Ajayi on the roster for $705,000 in 2018.