In theory, trading up for a Quarterback makes perfect sense for the Eagles

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The Eagles have had a rollercoaster of an off-season so far and the run up to the draft promises to bring even more twists and turns. The latest trend of speculation is regarding the fate of the teams first round pick. From the Zeke week to the Hargreaves hype, there have been plenty of players linked with the pick, but perhaps none more so than Carson Wentz. It’s thought that if the Eagles are going to draft Carson Wentz, they’ll need to trade up once again and aim for a top-3 pick. With reports emerging today that the birds have already inquired about moving up to claim the number one pick, I still struggled to understand why.

The Quarterback class in this years draft is weak in comparison to previous years. Due to the leagues desire to find the next Peyton Manning and the pressure on the teams to do so, it seems almost certain that at least two of the Quarterback prospects will be drafted in the first round. I don’t think you can compare Andrew Luck to Carson Wentz or Marcus Mariota to Paxton Lynch. The talent differential is too great. This year’s top QB prospects could develop into franchise guys and they all have the potential to do so..but there is no way that for the Eagles at least (who are looking for a Project Quarterback) that trading up to draft one makes sense…or does it?

With the Eagles paying so much attention to Quarterbacks in the run up to the draft, there simply has to be a reason behind it. Doug Pederson is a former Quarterback himself and would surely spot the flaws that scouts and analysts have been pointing out for months, so why are the birds so insistent on evaluating first round Quarterback talent?

The truth is, it could all come down to one thing..the cap. We haven’t heard that in a while. If you look at players on the roster entering their  final contracted year, the answer becomes a lot clearer.

(Contract information found on sportrac)

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As you can see, a total of 35 players will be in the final year of their contract come September. Ouch. Not only that, but there are some names in here who are already deserving of a big contract extension or on the cusp of earning a deal that would keep them in Philadelphia should 2016 be successful. Small contracts all add up too..

Fletcher Cox
Bennie Logan
Stefan Wisniewski
Reuben Randle
Nolan Carroll
Kenjon Barner
Trey Burton
Cody Parkey
Ed Reynolds
Matt Tobin 
Dennis Kelly

You may disagree that some of these names are deserving of an extension now, but you could make a strong case that each could well be in play for a new deal by the end of next season. Then of course you have the increased salaries of Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson and Vinny Curry. Celek’s remains the same for 2017 but increases by $3M in 2018.

As it stands, the Eagles have an estimated $11M in cap-space. Howie Roseman was quoted saying this about Fletcher Cox back in February.

“It’s a huge priority for us to keep Fletcher Cox,” Roseman said. “Our intention is for Fletcher to always be an Eagle.”

If that’s the case then things are going to get extremely messy this time next year. Cox is a game changer and if they pay him the money he deserves, the Eagles will have very little in the way of cap space to retain the other 34 players who are entering their final contracted season. Many of the players you see in the list above may not be playing in Philadelphia next season, unless Roseman is able to work some more of his cap wizardry.

How does this impact the Eagles search for a Quarterback? It’s simple. There is a much stronger Quarterback class projected to enter the Draft next year, but if the Eagles lose some top talent due to the amount of players who could be looking for new deals, then a need for a project Quarterback could be the last of their concerns as holes begin to open up all over the roster.

So the Eagles are left with a choice. If they trade up to a pick that would most likely land them a chance to draft a Quarterback of their choosing and potentially trade 2-3 players that have impending extensions looming over them, it’s not only going to help them massively in terms of managing the cap next off-season, but guarantee them a talented Quarterback with the potential to grow into “the guy”.

It’s a gamble. The Eagles either trade up and lose valuable assets to the team in order to secure a Quarterback with the potential to become a Franchise QB, or they go against it and back on Sam Bradford..but even that is a risk in itself.

Common debates aside, the contract is structured in a way that places Sam Bradford on the hot seat. If Bradford has a poor season, it’s not going to cost the Eagles much at all to move on from him. But if he takes the team to the playoffs for instance which is perfectly plausible, not only will the Eagles have another player who they need to somehow construct an extension for (and negotiating with Tom Condon is going to result in big demands), but Bradford can very easily walk away. A market would almost definitely be open in Free Agency and Condon would have little trouble getting the money he wants for his player..leaving the Eagles with Chase Daniel and no project Quarterback to fall back on.

If a trade-up happens and the Eagles do decide to draft one of this years’ top Quarterback talents, they have a backup plan for if the above scenario unfolds. 2017 is going to be a very strict financial year and if Bradford is not with the team (for whatever reason), then the birds need to be suitably prepared. If they’re not, they will be relying on Chase Daniel and forced to draft a Quarterback much higher than planned, leaving other and much likely more prominent holes on the team poorly prioritised.

The Eagles are stuck between a rock and a hard place right now, but somehow trading up for a Quarterback may actually be the smartest move the team can make. In theory, the move makes perfect sense and if this was the 2015 draft or even the 2014 draft, there wouldn’t be a lot of backlash to the move at all, but with the Quarterback class subjectively  weaker than in years past, it’s likely causing a real headache for the Front Office.

But if it came down to it, would someone like Carson Wentz be more beneficial to the Eagles than a mid-round Quarterback next year? Absolutely. If the Quarterback truly is the most important position in Football, the Eagles have to make the right call..and although it means potentially losing some franchise talent in other areas, trading up may just be the right call.

 

 

photo credit: Mike Stone/Associated Press

 

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