The Philadelphia Eagles are having a historic start to their season, sitting at 8-0 for the first time in their franchise’s history. While a lot of the talent on this team was drafted and developed in Philadelphia, some core pieces were acquired through free agency and trades. In this piece, I wanted to look back and discuss some of the most impact acquisitions made in Eagles’ history.
1958: Eagles trade pick, 2 players to LA Rams for Norm Van Brocklin
In the first major use of draft capital to acquire a player in Philadelphia history, the team sent a 1959 first-round pick, along with offensive lineman Buck Lansford and defensive end Jimmy Harris to acquire the future Hall of Famer quarterback. Brocklin ended up guiding the Eagles to a championship in his third season with the club before retiring. This trade was groundbreaking for the Eagles and the returns ended up being worth the risk.
1974: Eagles trade 3 picks to Cincinnati Bengals for Bill Bergey
Bill Bergey was a five-time pro-bowl linebacker that played for the Eagles for 7 seasons. He was acquired from the Bengals for a 1977 first-round pick and a 1978 first and second-round pick. Bergey was an anchor of an intimidating Eagles defense in the 70s that ultimately culminated in a Super Bowl appearance in 1980. He retired right after that season and a few years later was placed into the Eagles Hall of Fame for his accomplishments here. The Eagles were a team struggling in the early 70s and this move helped guide them in the right direction.
1995: Eagles sign Ricky Watters to 3-year, $6.9 million contract
In the biggest Philly free agent signing up to that point, star running back Ricky Watters was lured away from the San Francisco 49ers. Watters had won the Super Bowl the previous season and was the biggest name on the open market. While his time in Philly didn’t start in the best fashion, with the “for who, for what,” fiasco, Watters did end up being very productive during his time in Philly.
The team made the playoffs in 2 of his 3 seasons here and he averaged over 1,600 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns per year. This was also Jeffrey Lurie’s first big move as the owner of the team, after taking over less than a year prior.
2004: Terrell Owens somehow ends up in Philadelphia
During the 2004 offseason, there was a lot of drama surrounding Terrell Owens’s free-agent status. Owens and his camp believed that he was a free agent and was negotiating with teams throughout the NFL.
The 49ers however, claimed that Owens and his agent failed to void the final years of his contract on time, so technically his football rights were still owned by them. So while Owens was signing at 7-year, $49 million deal with Philadelphia, he was also traded to the Baltimore Ravens for a 2004 second-round pick.
Owens of course filed a grievance and the NFL and all three teams came to an agreement. Baltimore would wind up with their pick back, as well as a 2004 5th-round pick and a 2005 6th-round pick, the 49ers ended up with defensive end Brandon Whiting and the Eagles ended up with TO. While his tenure with the Eagles isn’t always looked at fondly, he was a dominant force when healthy and helped the team reach the Super Bowl in 2004.
2009: Eagles trade 3 picks to the Buffalo Bills for Jason Peters
Before draft-night in 2009, the Eagles were looking for their left tackle of the future and knocked it out of the park, acquiring Jason Peters from the Bills for a 2009 first and fourth-round pick and a 2010 6th-round pick.
Peters would go on to make 7 pro bowl and 4 all-pro teams during his time in Philadelphia and will most likely go into the Hall of Fame wearing an Eagles jersey. The Bodyguard was one of the biggest and baddest offensive linemen for over a decade, and there’s no such thing as an overpay for a position that important.
2014: Eagles steal from the Saints twice in one week
In 2013, the Eagles lost to the Saints in the Wild Card round. A few months later, they got a little revenge. On March 11, they signed away safety Malcolm Jenkins with a 3-year, $15.5 million deal and 2 days later, traded a 2014 5th-round pick for running back Darren Sproles.
Over the next 6 years, both players were constants that always seemed to elevate the team with their production and leadership. Sproles was less effective during his later years, but when he was healthy, he was an electric return man who could break through tackles due to his low center of gravity. Jenkins was a workhouse who seldom missed a snap, a captained a defense to a Super Bowl. Without those two players, the Eagles may not have a Lombardi trophy. Between a championship and 5 combined pro bowls, I say these moves were more than worth it.
2017: Eagles trade for Jay Ajayi from Dolphins to cap off Super Bowl run
On the day of the trade deadline, Howie Roseman made 1 final move that pushed the Eagles over the top. In exchange for a 4th round pick, the Eagles got pro bowl running back Jay Ajayi, to bolster their running attack. Ajayi was the exclamation point on a litany of shrewd acquisitions made by Roseman to put the Eagles in a position to win their first-ever Super Bowl. This trade was when fans knew the Eagles were all in 2017 and again, the reward was worth the risk.
2022: Eagles trade for AJ Brown from Titans
Maybe it’s recency bias, but no trade seems to have had an immediate impact on the team more than this one. In only 8 games, Brown has recorded 718 yards and 6 touchdowns. He also has helped to unlock the potential of Jalen Hurts who is performing at an MVP-caliber level.
Brown has been amazing in midnight green and is locked up for the foreseeable future. In today’s NFL, the wide receiver position is one of the most important and a true #1 receiver can completely change an offense. AJ will certainly become the first Eagles wide receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards since 2014 and has a real chance to break the franchise single-season mark of 1,409 set by Mike Quick in 1983. Brown has quickly become a city favorite and has the potential to be the best Eagles receiver ever with his physical size and catching abilities.
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