Eagles Draft Watch: Who are the team’s five most valuable trade assets?

PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 27: Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (91) celebrates a sack during the game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Philadelphia Eagles on September 27, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Eagles have already made a couple of big trades that have altered the direction of the franchise ahead of the NFL Draft, but they may not be done yet. What the team will do with the 12th overall pick remains a mystery, but we can’t rule out the idea of another blockbuster trade. With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the team’s most valuable trade assets ahead of the Draft.

Zach Ertz

Although the rumor mill has slowed over the past few weeks, there’s no denying that a return to Philadelphia still remains unlikely for a tight end many once deemed untradeable. Zach Ertz was denied a big payday shortly after watching George Kittle and Travis Kelce secure theirs, leading to what can only be described as a heartbreaking season. On the field, Ertz looked disengaged and his production fell off a cliff. Away of it, he gave a teary press conference when the season came to an end, almost accepting that this is the end of an era that spanned 7 years.

With Hunter Henry in New England, Ertz is easily the most valuable tight end from a trade standpoint. His cap hit of $12M does rank 4th among all TE’sin the NFL, but the chances of a new deal upon re-signing are high given that the whole point this situation even exists is because he wants his long-term future secured.

If draft night approaches and a couple of the top pass-catching tight ends not named Kyle Pitts go off the board sooner than expected (Brevin Jordan, Hunter Long, Pat Friermuth etc.), then the idea of giving up a mid-round pick for a tight end who may well have declined last year because of the weight of his future pulling him down mentally certainly doesn’t seem like a bad move.

Better yet, pairing him with a younger player to set up a 2-3 year window where if Ertz continues to regress, you have a player ready to take the reins also makes sense.

The Eagles should be receiving plenty of calls about their once prized tight end as the NFL Draft approaches.

Derek Barnett

Derek Barnett is becoming a polarizing player to discuss. On one hand, you have the ‘he’s still only 24! Remember Brandon Graham?!’ Crowd. On the other, the ‘He’s shown nothing close to the consistency needed to be an EDGE1’ crew. The good news for the Eagles is that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Barnett’s 2020 campaign was a frustrating one. 5.5 sacks, 16 QB hits, and 34 tackles summarize a season that could have and should have been so much more. What doesn’t help is that Josh Sweat, a former fourth-round pick, had an absolutely blistering 2020 campaign, amassing 6 sacks, 12 QB hits, and 38 tackles, despite playing in 114 less snaps than the Tennessee product.

If a team looks at Barnett and sees the remaining upside as a 24-year-old edge rusher with four years of experience under his belt, then a mid-round pick could absolutely be attained. The Eagles need to be smart. Josh Sweat is clearly the defensive end to back if push comes to shove, injury concerns aside, and they can’t really afford to pay Barnett $10M this season. Moving on from him and targeting a replacement in the draft makes a ton of sense if the right scenario arises.

Andre Dillard

Andre Dillard had a rollercoaster rookie year that saw highs of a stunning string of starts against teams like Buffalo and Chicago, and then lows of being thrown to right tackle against Seattle, where he got absolutely brutalized. When an injury set him back next Summer, Jordan Mailata took over the starting reins and never looked back.

Left in a tricky spot, the Eagles would likely push Dillard over Mailata given the compensation given up to draft him, which is less than ideal when the Aussie showed he’s more than ready to take over the LT role for good. The smart thing to do would be to shop the former first-round pick, save any potential headaches down the road, realize that Jack Driscoll can fill in the backup role, and recoup some draft capital to spend elsewhere while his value is high.

Fletcher Cox

The unlikeliest player to be moved, Cox is also the most expensive Eagle on the roster and his contract is hardly going to slow down in 2022, with his cap hit shooting up to $23M. Javon Hargrave’s deal looks a little more enticing and Cox has somewhat slowed over the past two years production wise. You can make the ‘double-teams argument all day long, but it didn’t stop Malik Jackson from running rampant at times and when you’re going to be earning more than Aaron Donald next year, you kind of expect Cox to negate that to some degree.

Now over the age of 30, the Eagles may look to lift their biggest cap hit off the books and kick off a full rebuild. It would be sad because nobody wants to see Cox line up in another team’s jersey after all. But if the right offer comes along, would the Eagles be silly to turn down what could be a mega haul for a 2022 draft in which they already hold 3 first-round picks?

Rodney McLeod

McLeod restructured his contract a few weeks ago, saving the team $2M in cap space. This was a nice gesture, but it’s one he’s also had to do before when rehabbing a season-ending injury. Coming off of a torn ACL, the Eagles don’t really know when McLeod will be ready to go and have stacked the Safety room with talents that thrive when playing high, fitting the mood of Gannon’s new scheme.

McLeod won’t cost a potential suitor much at all and would provide a veteran presence for a young DB room. The Eagles should keep him around for that very reason, but with K’Von Wallace needing snaps, Anthony Harris manning one side of the field, and Marcus Epps previously proving that he can hold his own, the Eagles might be tempted to take a quick cash-in if they no longer view McLeod as part of their long-term plans.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire