It is correct, in a sense, to say that with their decision Tuesday to trade a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions for wide receiver Golden Tate, the Eagles are "all-in" this season in their attempt to win a second consecutive Super Bowl.
There's a connotation with that phrase, though, that doesn't quite capture what the Eagles have done here. Saying that a team is going "all-in" implies exactly what the term means in poker: that a player has pushed every last one of his chips to the center of the table – and that if the wrong card is dealt on the river, he's gone for good. A third-round pick is indeed a steep price for a player whose contract will expire at the end of this season – even for a player, such as Tate, who seems a perfect fit for the Eagles' offense and addresses an obvious need for skill-position talent. But it's wrong to suggest or believe that, with this trade, the Eagles are taking a one-and-only shot at another championship, and that if it fails, they won't return to the Super Bowl before the dawn of the 22nd century.
In truth, the move fits within the personnel strategy that Howie Roseman, the Eagles' executive vice president of football operations, has deployed since he returned in 2016 from his Chip Kelly-ordered exile. Once the Eagles traded up in the 2016 draft to get Carson Wentz, Roseman smartly reasoned that he had the most precious commodity in the NFL: a terrific young – and low-cost – quarterback. With Wentz on his rookie contract for at least three years, Roseman could acquire veterans on short-term contracts, either by signing them or trading draft picks for them, and still keep the Eagles under the salary cap. That way, he could surround Wentz and fill any gaps in the Eagles' roster with more-experienced, better-established players. The Eagles wouldn't have to wait for an NFL novice to develop. They could build a better team around Wentz immediately, and in 2017, they did. They built one that was so good, in fact, that it won a Super Bowl even without Wentz.
Roseman maintained this approach ahead of this season – trading for Michael Bennett, signing Mike Wallace and Haloti Ngata – and he maintained it Tuesday by acquiring Tate, 30, who averaged 93 catches over his previous four seasons and has 44 for 517 yards and three touchdowns this season. This was not a desperation, all-or-nothing move for Roseman. It was part of an orchestrated plan that he has stuck to for three years now. And because the Eagles still have seven picks in the 2019 draft, including two in the second round, and will have more depending on how many compensatory picks they're awarded, he clearly calculated that he could afford to part with a third-rounder. Roseman buffered himself as well as possible for such a move.
"It was about the value of this player for our football team," he said.
But that doesn't mean the trade comes with no risk at all. A third-round pick is still a valuable asset, and the Eagles gave one up for what's likely to be just eight regular-season games with Tate. And remember: The Eagles are not the same team, in the same position, that they were a year ago. Then, they were 7-1, coasting to the NFC East crown, vying for home-field advantage throughout the conference tournament. Now, they're 4-4, a game-and-a-half behind the first-place Redskins, and there are, at the moment, eight NFC teams whose records are equal to or better than theirs. Yet Roseman was willing to sacrifice that asset for a shot at the Super Bowl – a much longer shot, at least on paper.
"There's no doubt," he said. "We have a lot of confidence in our players and our coaching staff. We have a really good football team, and we added a really good player, and we're going to keep our foot on the gas."
So where is it reasonable to think that this ride will take them? Of the Eagles' eight remaining games, five are against divisional opponents: two against the Redskins, two against the Cowboys, one against the lowly Giants. The two games on their schedule that promise to be the most challenging are on the road: in New Orleans on Nov. 18 against the 6-1 Saints, in Los Angeles on Dec. 16 against the 8-0 Rams. And they get the Texans, who have won five straight games, at Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 23.
So it's fair to assume there's another calculation that Roseman and the Eagles have made. In a one-and-done postseason, they'll take their chances with Wentz, Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and a pass rush that, at its best, can disrupt any opposing offense. If Golden Tate helps them get that far, if he helps them reach the playoffs, this trade will have been worth it. That's as all-in as these Eagles can be.
Our mission is to provide top-notch coverage for the best fans in sports. We can't do it without your support. Join us: philly.com/birds