We’re just three days away from the dawn of Eagles Training Camp and for fans of the Super Bowl champions, it can’t come soon enough. The Eagles have sailed through the offseason with relative ease, aside from the Super Bowl visit fiasco and some off-the-field legal issues, all of which have been handled with respect and class by the organization. One thing we haven’t seen very much at all of however, is trades.
Howie Roseman has garnered a reputation as one of the most successful general managers in the league. In fact, it’s very rare that a trade executed by the young GM is held in poor regard. But after an offseason without much in the way of trade action, despite there being plenty of opportunities, could we see a late shock heading into August?
The most obvious factor in the decision to make a trade would be the urgency of needing to fill a void. It’s unlikely that Howie Roseman would get to this stage of the offseason and still have a certain area of his team circled, although there are two main spots on this championship winning team that could use some extra depth.
The Eagles may have their dynamic duo in McLeod and Jenkins, but beyond that is a total mystery as of right now. The Birds regularly fielded packages of 3-4 Safeties. A cover-3 look would often see McLeod joined by Jaylen Watkins and Corey Graham, which gave Malcolm Jenkins the free reign to run rampant inside the box.
As of right now, Tre Sullivan, Jeremy Reaves, Ryan Neal and Stephen Roberts will be the trio of underdogs competing for those roles, with no real word on the return of Corey Graham. If the Eagles weren’t confident in their depth, a trade would’ve likely already happened. There is always the potential of one of the many cornerbacks making the jump to the defensive backfield as Jaylen Watkins did before them, which may also sway Roseman into keeping his current pieces.
On the same day that veteran Paul Worrilow tore his ACL, the Eagles opted to part ways with Mychal Kendricks. This leaves a paper-thin linebacker room with an open competition to fill the recently vacated OLB role. But just how much of a problem is it set to be?
Malcolm Jenkins played the majority of his defensive snaps at linebacker last year and the Eagles have shown high confidence in Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry to name two, not to mention the recently acquired Corey Nelson whom he will be dueling with. There is every chance that the Eagles walk into week one with the linebacker room remaining exactly how it looks now. Versatility and explosiveness are two words often associated with the position and both of which have become key terms in the Jim Schwartz defense. While some extra depth would be nice, it’s unlikely that the Eagles break the bank to fill a role that a combination of players may be able to fill just as well.
So let’s say that a GM calls Mr Roseman with a suitable candidate to fill either of these roles. Who, or what could the Eagles send in exchange? This is where things get a little interesting.
The Eagles 2018 draft haul may have been light in some areas, but heavy in others. The Eagles played the game of patience and were clearly the victors. With 11 projected picks for next year’s draft, the team could safely use some mid-round ammunition to lure the trade in their favor, without parting ways with key talent.
2019 projected picks
|2||Acquired in trade into second round of 2018 NFL Draft to select Dallas Goedert|
|4 (projected)||Compensatory pick|
|6 (projected)||Compensatory pick|
|7||Pick dependent on Allen Barbre’s playing time|
This won’t be a popular name, but the phantom extension to keep Graham in Philadelphia still remains exactly that. It’s a shame, as it doesn’t matter what Graham does on the field, that long-term security still evades the defensive end who built on an already rampant 2016 campaign, by tallying 9.5 sacks, a career-high. Instead, the Eagles drafted Derek Barnett and gave a long-term deal to Vinny Curry, who was later traded. The Birds don’t have a tremendous amount of cap space and the market for premier pass-rushers is only growing.
The Eagles may have unfortunately missed the boat to cash in on the value of Graham, signing him to a long-term deal and he now enters his contract year. Trading him would be less than ideal and would put a substantial amount of pressure on the emergence of Derek Barnett and even Josh Sweat, but it would be crazy to think that this contract extension hasn’t been in the works for months, if not over a year with no agreement from both parties. Graham and his agent will know his value better than anyone and if the Eagles are unable to match that, receiving some value in a trade instead of losing him to free agency may prove to be the more beneficial, if not heartbreaking option.
Like most in this list, Darby is entering his contract year and is doing so coming off of a productive first year in Philadelphia…for the most part. Darby missed half of last year due to an injury sustained in week one, but when healthy, he was a force to be reckoned with and a key cog in the Eagles pass defense machine. If Darby has a career year, it’s safe to say that his value would also sky-rocket.
This is interesting because surprisingly, Darby is still just 24 years of age and his ceiling remains extremely high. Countering this, is the name Sidney Jones and an influx of young, raw talent that is only getting stronger. Rasul Douglas and rookie corner Avonte Maddox could both earn starting roles in the future and a Jalen Mills extension appears to be far more feasible.
Lets not forget the timing in which Darby was attained. Not to say that history will repeat itself, but Darby remains one of the more likely trade chips if a team does come sniffing around this roster of Championship pedigree.
THE UNLIKELY CANDIDATES:
Names such as Jay Ajayi and Jordan Hicks may appear spinning around the rumor mill, but with little substance. While both players find themselves in similar ‘prove-it’ situations and both have significant injury histories, the pair remain vital to the success of their team. When healthy, Jordan Hicks is among the most dangerous coverage linebackers in the league and after all, Ajayi did average 5.8 yards per carry in his lone season as an Eagle.
If both can defy their injury tags and enjoy a strong season, there’s no reason why an incentivized contract wouldn’t work best for both sides. With players buying into the culture in Philadelphia, names such as Ajayi and Hicks carry too much uncertainty for trade partners and too much value for the Eagles.
Wendell Smallwood would be a name who if traded wouldn’t come as a huge surprise.
Smallwood was drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft and would go on to record 312 yards and a touchdown on 77 carries, before suffering an injury that would cut his rookie season short. A promising offseason and training camp saw Smallwood fueled by the competition brought to the table by Corey Clement, adding a sense or urgency and aggression into his game. He began meeting tackles head on as opposed to trying to dance around them and all of a sudden, Smallwood began to look like the back the Eagles hoped he would become.
Ultimately, the WVU product had to encounter injury demons once again. Missing the last week of training camp and two preseason games due to a hamstring injury, it all but gifted an opportunity to Corey Clement who wasn’t going to let it slide. When the regular season rolled around, Smallwood simply struggled. He was given carries in the opening two fixtures but averaged under 2 yards per carry in each contest. His heaviest workloads of the season came in the following games against the Giants and Chargers and he would go on to amass 105 yards and a touchdown between those two contests. The problem was that as the backfield diversified and LeGarrette Blount’s role increased, the slices of cake previously left for Smallwood became simply scraps.
In his rookie year, Smallwood returned 9 kickoffs for 261 yards and a touchdown. One year later, he returned another 4 for 93. The potential for the carving of a niche role and one even beyond that is certainly present, but for that to happen, Smallwood has to be.
It’s not like Smallwood has been a liability or ineffective during his time with the Eagles, it’s just that the backfield dynamic has changed so much when he’s been injured that he’s often been left in the cold. Perhaps warmer waters would serve him better. There’s no reason why a team starved for RB depth wouldn’t take a flyer on Smallwood and he could be the perfect ‘sweetener’ to any major last-minute deal.
In all reality, it’s unlikely that the Eagles pull the trigger on a trade at this stage in the offseason, especially with all things considered. Their championship roster comes back with the likes of Peters, Sproles, Hicks and even Carson Wentz raring to go, making it more dangerous than ever before. There’s no real reason to initiate a trade, which in many ways gives even more power to Roseman, knowing he has the high ground. But we have seen stranger things…and if we’ve come to expect anything during Roseman’s rein, it’s the unexpected.
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports