Philadelphia reportedly made a massive trade on Wednesday, acquiring defensive lineman Michael Bennett and a seventh-round draft pick in exchange for a fifth-round pick and wide receiver Marcus Johnson. This splashy move will have an immense impact on the rest of the roster and on an already-tight cap situation.
From a positional standpoint, those most likely affected are soon-to-be free agents, Vinny Curry and Beau Allen. Bennett is more than capable of playing defensive end and defensive tackle. Philly will almost certainly be moving on from Curry and Allen after the Bennett acquisition. In Curry’s case, trading or cutting him would save the Eagles nearly $6mil in cap space.
Others that could potentially feel the immensity of this trade may include CB Patrick Robinson and LB Nigel Bradham. Robinson and Bradham were both instrumental in helping the Eagles win the Super Bowl, and in my opinion, of all of the impending free agents the Eagles currently have, are the two that make the most sense to return. I think Howie Roseman and Co. really want these two back in midnight green, but with the move made for Bennett, an already murky situation just became a bit murkier.
As far as draft implications go, it’s been hard to narrow down exactly what the Eagles’ front office wants to do with its first-round pick. They have certainly positioned the roster well over the last couple years – well enough to focus on the best-player-available strategy in the 2018 draft – but even with a stacked roster, the Eagles would be wise to add another talented defensive lineman to the mix with the 32nd pick. Although it’s not necessarily a need (I would argue it always is), unless there is a top-notch linebacker prospect sitting at 32, I would be taking the best overall pass rusher.
With this in mind, let’s dive into a prospect that I believe would fit very well in Philadelphia: DL Harold Landry. (Stats below via Sports Reference)
The difference between Landry’s 2016 stats/tape and his 2017 stats/tape is a little alarming. The Eagles will certainly have to do their due diligence as to why that’s the case, but it could be simply because of medical reasons, as, Landry dealt with a lingering ankle injury in 2017 that eventually ended his season.
That said, his junior season was phenomenal; perhaps even better than any season that top-rated pass rusher Bradley Chubb managed to put together. Although Landry’s overall size might scare some teams off (6’2” 250lbs), it didn’t seem to affect him much at Boston College. He has an elite first step and the ability to bend with the best of them.
While Landry may not have the kind of size and length many teams prefer from their edge defenders, he does have the type of off-the-charts athleticism that is sure to translate to the NFL. Besides, the NFL doesn’t just let athletic pass rushers fall out of the first round. I am expecting to see a rise in Landry’s stock in the lead up to the draft in April.
With the new addition of Michael Bennett to the D-Line Room, the Eagles have almost certainly cemented the group as the best in the league. Even then, they are more than likely going to lose some key contributors (Curry, Allen). We know what drives this Eagles’ defense: the defensive line. And we know how the Eagles like to utilize their defensive lineman: they like to send waves of fresh lineman to attack the QB and constantly create pressure with four-man rush concepts. Keeping these philosophical tenants in mind, the Eagles would be wise to use their 32nd pick on Landry if he’s available.
While other teams may sleep on Landry because of his size/length issues, that could create the perfect scenario for him to fall to pick 32. The Eagles 4-3 attack scheme has proved to work wonders for undersized DE’s Brandon Graham, and Derek Barnett. Not everyone will be asleep on Landry, though. As one PFF analyst puts it: “His high-end as a pass-rusher is as dominant as anyone we’ve graded at the college level, not named Bosa or Garrett.”
Moreover, Landry showed out at the NFL Combine. He tested inside of the top ten percent of edge rushers in each of the agility drills. He looked explosive in both the vertical and broad jump, testing in the 82nd and 72nd percentiles, respectively. Safe to say that this guy checked all of the boxes from an athleticism standpoint.
Here’s a breakdown of Landry’s entire combine performance:
All in all, while the Eagles have one of the most dominant defensive lines in the league, they will more than likely be losing a couple players from that group. Even with the addition of Michael Bennett, the Birds would be wise to replenish the most important position group on the team with the 32nd pick on draft night.
Landry is as twitchy an athlete you’ll find at the position, and in this draft class in general. He’s got elite bend around the edge – similar to Derek Barnett coming out of Tennessee – and he can dip and play at almost any angle imaginable.
While he does have these elite traits, he has some issues that may push him down the draft board come April 26th. A similar knock on Derek Barnett, some scouts believe Landry is too often a one-move-rusher. If he doesn’t win right off the snap he gets taken out of the play. He’s undersized and doesn’t have the speed-to-power rush that teams love to see. He too often telegraphs his move without being able to counter. Eagles’ fans are all too familiar with this rhetoric after taking Barnett in the first found last year.
I think when it’s all said and done, there’s a pretty slim chance Landry is there at pick 32. But I think there is certainly a chance. Additionally, the Eagles could use a plug-and-play linebacker with the 32nd pick, or even add to the offensive line. Those are the top three areas I think the Eagles need to address in this draft. It’s hard to say what will happen and who will be there at 32, but if Landry is available, I’m sprinting up to the podium to turn in the draft card.
And with the 32nd pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles select…
Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports