The Amari Cooper trade sent shockwaves through the NFL last night. Dallas sent a first-round pick to Oakland in exchange for the 24-year old who has two pro bowls and two troubled years to his name already in a deal that has frankly shifted the goalposts for all other pending wide receiver trades. Shortly after this story broke, a report came out suggesting that the Eagles reached out to Oakland and offered a second round pick for Cooper, but the Raiders turned them down. With there being a little over a week remaining until the trade deadline, the Eagles have two options. Hitting the panic button or leaving a loaded gun on the table. But which is the best option?
I want to take you back to 2016. It was the rookie season of Carson Wentz and the Eagles receiving corps was struggling massively. At the time of the trade deadline, the newly-acquired Dorial Green Beckham had 4 drops to his name, Nelson Agholor caught just 58% of his passes and Jordan Matthews had a further five drops. Oh, and to make life even more difficult, Josh Huff got arrested. Did the Eagles trade for a receiver then?
The immediate response to this is that the situation is contrastingly different and you’re right. This is a Super Bowl winning team who should not be sitting at 3-4 coming into this week. But overpaying for a wide receiver to ‘win-now’ won’t work for a variety of reasons.
The first and foremost being it’s all about chemistry. There’s a reason why after Carson Wentz was drafted, himself and Jordan Matthews hit the NovaCare Complex a week earlier than anyone else. Chemistry is everything between a quarterback and his receivers and it directly correlates to trust. It takes a long time to build and is about much more than just a relationship.
Timing, tendencies, throwing patterns, ball placement and individual traits all come into play. Wentz missed the majority of training camp and all of preseason, while the team carried on working with Nick Foles, who picked up the offense in week 14 and ran it to the Super Bowl. That’s an entire offseason and nearly half of a regular season that the offense got used to a very different kind of quarterback. The rust we saw early on from Wentz, in my opinion, had a lot less to do with the physical side of things, and more to do with getting back on the same page with an offense that grew so used to how Nick Foles threads the needle.
Secondly, there’s the window of opportunity. If you trade for a wide receiver, you’re going to have to accept that they can’t come in straight away and make an impact. They have to get familiar with the playbook, the terminology and concepts that an entirely different offense runs. Don’t believe me? Let’s have a look at some of the most poignant mid-season trades of the last few years and how they panned out.
Remember Percy Harvin? The Seahawks traded him to the New York Jets in the heart of the 2014 season. He would play in 8 games for the Jets that year, totaling 460 all-purpose yards, before being cut by the team in March.
What about Randy Moss? One of the most gifted receivers of all time reunited with the Vikings in 2010 after being traded away from the Patriots. He caught 13 passes in 4 games before Brad Childress released him. Like Carson Wentz, Brett Favre needed a deep threat that year and it was assumed the best in the game could fill that void. He didn’t.
In 2008, the Cowboys made a blockbuster trade to acquire Roy Williams from the Detroit Lions. He caught 94 passes with the Cowboys and never tallied more than 38 in a single season during that span. The Cowboys gave up a plethora of assets in exchange for very little.
Finally, a more recent example, Kelvin Benjamin. After being traded by the Panthers in the midst of season, he failed to register a 5+ reception game. In fact, he received for just 217 yards and a single touchdown in his final 6 games.
The Eagles crave a deep threat, I get that. They have since Pederson first arrived in Philadelphia. From the failed DGB experiment, to an inconsistent Torrey Smith and an injured Mike Wallace, the Birds’ have tried just about everything. The issue with trading for one this late into the season is that it’s a ‘buyers market.’
What we saw against the Panthers was Wentz target Ertz and Jeffery 22 times combined. The rest of the team were looked at 16 times. The offense is reverting back to its 2016 ways of relying on security blankets. The Panthers keyed in on that during the fourth quarter and began paying extra attention to Ertz and Jeffery, knowing Wentz would look in their direction. The result, as we now know, is an inability to move the chains or balance the offense.
The arrival of a deep threat won’t change that. Nelson Agholor is being used almost exclusively a gadget player, Shelton Gibson isn’t being targeted and Jordan Matthews is barely a factor. Would someone like De’Vante Parker really change that? If the answer is somehow still yes, let’s look at the above examples.
By the time the newly-signed player would even see the field, there would be half of a season left. Could the presence of one player really change a team for the better during such a short window? There would likely be four or five games when the player is fully settled and if the Eagles drop at least one more game, there would simply be no use in wasting assets for short-term production that even if it did elevate the team, would be too little, too late.
Howie Roseman has garnered a reputation as a very hard GM to win a trade with and in a ‘buyers market’, all the leverage sits with the team wanting to shift the wide receiver if a team comes knocking. The Eagles have reportedly been trying to bang down doors in Oakland and Denver with no avail. That should serve as a sign.
The Eagles drew many comparisons to Golden State last season for their selfless play and ability to spread the ball around so effortlessly. This year, they’re playing more and more like the Oklahoma City Thunder…and the addition of one new shooting guard won’t change that.
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports