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McLane: Eagles made right move going for franchise QB

If the Eagles followed the same template in 1999 as their trade-up for the No. 2 pick in this year's draft, they would have given up Doug Brzezinski, John Welbourne, Corey Simon and Quinton Caver, and passed on David Boston, to move up six spots for Donovan McNabb.

If the Eagles followed the same template in 1999 as their trade-up for the No. 2 pick in this year's draft, they would have given up Doug Brzezinski, John Welbourne, Corey Simon and Quinton Caver, and passed on David Boston, to move up six spots for Donovan McNabb.

It is a deal, hypothetically speaking, that most impartial observers would make without pause. McNabb developed into arguably the franchise's greatest quarterback, while the other four Eagles, despite varying levels of success, came nowhere near to equaling McNabb's impact on the team's longest period of sustained winning.

Boston, chosen by the Cardinals, was a Pro Bowl wide receiver only once in six seasons.

There is no way, of course, to project the players the Browns will select with the four selections the Eagles sent their way for what will be quarterback Carson Wentz. And it was quite the haul: this year's first-, third- and fourth-round picks; a 2017 first-rounder; and a 2018 second-rounder for the Browns' No. 2 pick and a 2017 fourth-rounder.

Those are prospects - essentially three when the math is done - that could go a long way in filling holes on an Eagles roster that is still far from championship-caliber. But for the team's executive vice president of football operations, Howie Roseman, and presumably for new coach Doug Pederson, the risk of getting a championship-caliber quarterback far outweighed what the Eagles gave up to move six spots.

And they were right.

"No one is sitting here thinking that we're a completed picture," Roseman said on Wednesday, shortly after he engineered one of the biggest trades in franchise history. "But, for us, we want to get into a position where in the near future we have an opportunity to compete every year. And that starts at the quarterback position."

But the gamble, whatever the logic, won't matter if the evaluation of Wentz is incorrect. The flip side of trading up in the draft, and sacrificing several early-round picks, is mortgaging the future and wasting developmental time on the wrong quarterback.

The Redskins surrendered three first-round picks and a second-rounder for Robert Griffin III in 2012. The Rams ultimately netted seven players in the exchange - Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Isaiah Pead, Rokevious Watkins, Alec Ogletree, Stedman Bailey, and Zac Stacy - after they turned one first-rounder into three additional picks.

Griffin was rookie of the year as the Redskins won the NFC East, but he steadily regressed and was ultimately released this offseason. To Washington's credit, it endured only two down seasons before returning to the playoffs again. And the Skins did so, in part, because they stockpiled at quarterback and took Kirk Cousins two rounds after Griffin.

But are the Redskins, who could have used a cornerback like Jenkins the last four years, any closer to a title than the Eagles?

Roseman spent the offseason investing heavily in free agency, but Super Bowl winners, for the most part, are built through the draft. After the Eagles select Wentz, they have to wait 77 picks before they're on the clock in the third round. Then they have to wait two rounds before they pick again.

The Eagles have time to recoup the first- and second-rounders they forfeited in 2017 and 2018. But if Wentz is to be the future, as soon as next season, they've hindered their ability to find a tackle to protect the quarterback, assuming Jason Peters has one good year left.

The Rams, like the Eagles, took the risk in trading up to No. 1 to get, conceivably, Jared Goff. But they dealt six picks (a first, two seconds and a third in 2016 and a first and third in 2017) to the Titans for their first, fourth and sixth this year.

Roseman said Los Angeles helped set the bar for the compensation in their trade, but whom was he bidding against? The Cowboys (No. 4) and the 49ers (No. 7) had the wherewithal to move up. There was reportedly only cursory interest after the Browns all but plastered the pick on a billboard.

It's fair to wonder why Cleveland didn't want Wentz. The Browns have been an abysmal franchise for most of their recent existence, but new coach Hue Jackson has had success with a number of quarterbacks.

Pederson's record working with and drafting quarterbacks is essentially a blank slate. Roseman has drafted three quarterbacks during his tenure as general manager - Mike Kafka, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley.

But those were mid-round draft picks. The Eagles, after moving from No. 13 to 8 this offseason, were the closest they've been to getting a top-rated quarterback and Pederson, Roseman noted, felt strongly about following mentor Andy Reid, who used his first selection to take McNabb.

"The model for him was that," Roseman said.

Reid, of course, didn't have to give up three picks for McNabb. And Wentz doesn't have the same pedigree, having played at Division I-AA North Dakota State. But he will likely watch for at least one season with Sam Bradford still the starter.

Roseman said that Wentz, theoretically, would have the "benefit of time."

"We saw that with Doug being here with Donovan," he said. "You saw that in Green Bay [with Aaron Rodgers]. You saw that in San Diego with Philip Rivers. You certainly saw that in New England with Tom Brady. . . . These are young guys and the NFL is a big jump from any level."

How about the jump from Fargo to Philly? There's always pressure at quarterback, but this city is as tough as they come, and Wentz not only has to answer for the No. 2 pick, but also for the trade compensation and the job security of everyone from Roseman and Pederson on down.

McNabb would have been worth the trade up, but he, too, ultimately fell short. The Eagles, though, haven't won a playoff game since he left. Bradford could break that spell this season, but Wentz is the future.

His prospects are as indefinite as the assessment of the trade. There is no looking back.