Eagles’ Trade Options: 49ers RB Jeff Wilson could be the offensive Robert Quinn

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 22: Philadelphia Eagles helmet sits on a cart during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagle on December 22, 2019, at Lincoln Financial Filed in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Eagles are a darn good football team and by bringing Robert Quinn into the fray, they just got a good bit better.

A speedy specialist who excels at rushing off the edge from a two-point stance, Quinn is set to join a scheme reminiscent of the defense he racked up 18.5 sacks in last season, and will suddenly go from the main focal point of the Chicago Bears’ rushing attack to a rotational cog in a greater machine headlined by the likes of Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat, and Haason Reddick.

But just because the Eagles secured one heck of an upgrade for the low-low price of a fourth-round pick doesn’t mean Howie Roseman is necessarily done making moves or looking for ways to make his team better. If anything, the addition of a difference maker like Quinn for such a meager asking price could galvanize the Eagles’ front office to work the phones even harder to secure another upgrade on the margins.

Enter Jeff Wilson, the San Francisco 49ers’ lead rusher who suddenly finds himself a lame duck thanks to the addition of Christian McCaffrey, who was rumored to be a trade target for the Eagles.

Jeff Wilson could bring the thunder for the Philadelphia Eagles.

An undrafted free agent out of North Texas who signed with the Niners in May of 2018, Wilson slowly but surely worked his way into Kyle Shanahan’s running backs rotation, earning spot-start duties throughout the first four years of his career as an early-down rusher before improbably becoming the team’s surprise starting back in 2022 thanks to the Week 1 ankle injury suffered by incumbent starter Elijah Mitchell.

Though far from a “complete” back, as he isn’t much of a pass catcher and does most of his damage running north and south, Wilson is a bruising force between the tackles who can rip off big runs down the field, and even provides value as a pass blocker, which has become a bit of a lost art among some backs. Through seven games of action in 2022, Wilson has picked up 454 rushing yards, good for the 11th-best mark of any player in the NFL, on just 88 carries for a 5.2 yards-per-rush average while picking up a pair of touchdowns on the ground.

Though Wilson has only been given double-digit rushing attempts on four occasions, he’s already passed into triple digits once – versus the Carolina Panthers in Week 5 – and is averaging 64.9 yards per game on just 12.5 rushing attempts, which is an objectively impressive mark for a player making just $1.085 million.

So why, you may ask, would the Niners want to trade Wilson away when his production is on point, and his value is undeniable? Well, two reasons, really.

For one thing, Wilson’s value is at an all-time high heading into the 2022 NFL trade deadline, with his usage expected to go down considerably as McCaffrey becomes more comfortable in Shanahan’s offense and Mitchell returns from IR in November. Teams have reportedly already been reaching out to San Francisco about Wilson’s availability, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, and those calls will likely only ramp up as the deadline gets closer and closer.

The other reason Wilson could be on the move is that he’s on the final year of his current contract and will likely look to sign a new, much richer deal thanks to his improved on-field production. Even if the Niners are only able to secure a deal akin to the one the Jacksonville Jaguars secured for James Robinson, a conditional sixth-round pick that becomes a fifth if certain qualifiers are met, that could be useful considering just how many picks have left San Francisco in deals for Trey Lance and McCaffrey.

If the Eagles could swoop in and secure a player of that caliber for a late Day 3 pick, it would be imperative for Roseman and company to at least infer about the potential deal, as Philly loves to run the ball, and they don’t have a pro-ready running back who fills Wilson’s exact on-field profile – no offense to Trey Sermon, who lost carries to Wilson both in 2021 and in the summer of 2022.

Place Wilson on the Eagles’ roster as an early-down specialist, and the Eagles could rapidly find themselves with a four-man rotation that looks remarkably similar to the unit they ran in 2021, when Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard split the lead snaps while Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell each rotated in situationally. For the price of a late Day 3 pick and Sermon’s roster spot, that sort of on-field upgrade is well worth the price of admission for the Eagles and could provide a Jay Ajayi-level supercharge to the offense before the air starts to cool and winning the ground game becomes all the more imperative.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire