The Eagles acquired Detroit Lions Pro Bowl receiver Roy Williams yesterday in exchange for cornerback Lito Sheppard, and head coach Andy Reid declared that he now has the team to beat in the entire NFL.
It was so much easier to pull off a good April Fools joke before the Internet age.
In reality, all the Eagles did at the NFL owners' meetings yesterday was pick up three compensatory picks for the 2008 draft. When asked about Sheppard's situation, Reid gave the kind of answer one would expect from the head coach.
"Lito's on our team," Reid said. "He's on our football team. "
Chances remain that by the end of this month, Sheppard will no longer be on Reid's football team, and there was at least some indication as to what the Eagles might be looking for in return for their two-time Pro Bowl cornerback.
A league source said yesterday that the Eagles have asked at least one team for a first-round draft choice in exchange for Sheppard, a hefty price tag for a player who has missed 14 games in the last three seasons because of injuries. The same source, however, said he would rather have Sheppard than DeAngelo Hall, the former Atlanta Falcons cornerback who was traded to the Oakland Raiders last week for a second-round draft pick this year and a fifth-rounder next year.
An Eagles source said that second- and fifth-round picks would be the least the team should expect in return for Sheppard. Another team source has consistently said that the offers the Eagles have received for Sheppard have been good enough that it remains likely the team will trade the cornerback.
Hall and Sheppard make for an interesting comparison. Both were first-round picks, with Hall being taken by the Falcons in 2004 and Sheppard by the Eagles in 2002. Hall will turn 25 in November; Sheppard will turn 27 a week from today. Each player has been to two Pro Bowls. Hall has 15 interceptions in the last three seasons and has missed just one game. Sheppard has 17 interceptions in the last five seasons despite missing those 14 games.
Despite his immense talent, Hall is considered a potential character problem after several incendiary incidents in his final season with the Falcons. Sheppard, on the other hand, has never been considered a character problem, but it's no secret that he is unhappy about his contract. A source close to the situation said Sheppard spent much of the 2007 season letting people know how unhappy he was, and it affected his play.
Perhaps the X factor in the Eagles' efforts to move Sheppard is his contract situation. Hall, who was going to be entering the final year of his contract after being dealt to the Raiders, received a seven-year, $66 million contract from Oakland, which included $24.55 million in guaranteed money. That's comparable to the five-year, $57.14 million deal the Eagles gave free-agent cornerback Asante Samuel.
Sheppard is signed through 2011, so there is no urgency for a team to negotiate a new contract with him.
As for the Eagles' compensatory picks, they received one fourth-round selection and two sixth-round selections in this month's draft. Those picks were awarded based on a formula that takes into consideration the free-agent losses and signings a team had from the year before. The Eagles lost quarterback Jeff Garcia, safety Michael Lewis, linebacker Shawn Barber, cornerback Rod Hood and wide receiver Donté Stallworth, and they signed wide receiver Kevin Curtis and defensive tackle Ian Scott.
The three additional picks give the Eagles a total of 11 in the draft. They have one pick in each of the first three rounds (19, 49 and 80 overall), two in the fourth round (115 and 131), one in the fifth round (154), four in the sixth round (184, 191, 200 and 203), and one in the seventh round (230).
It's the third time the Eagles have had that many picks since the draft was shortened to seven rounds in 1994. They also had 11 picks in 1997 and 2005.