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June 19, 2018

Here's another market inefficiency the Eagles seem to be exploiting

Over the last two-plus years, Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles have successfully tried to identify – and capitalize on – market inefficiencies throughout the NFL, both on the field and off of it.

The on-field examples are rather obvious, such as the team's aggressiveness on fourth down, which was one part Doug Pederson having the stones to make risky calls, and one part the analytics team telling him when the overall odds were in his favor. But there are certainly plenty of off-the-field examples as well.

In the 2018 NFL Draft, for example, many fans were upset that the Eagles received a second round pick in 2019 instead of, say, a third round pick in 2018 when they traded out of the first round back to pick No. 52. That was 100 percent the wrong take. Had the Eagles instead accepted a third round pick to move back in the second round, the pick in the third round would have been pick No. 83. The second round pick next year, at worst, will be pick no. 64. Obviously, it can be as high as pick No. 33.

In making this kind of trade, Roseman was able to exploit a market inefficiency. The idea that future picks should be worth significantly less than picks in the current year is crazy. General managers in the NFL tend to have short shelf lives. It's win now, or hit the road. As such, logic would dictate that many of them do not want to trade current picks for future ones because they need immediate results. Coming off a Super Bowl win after just a two-year rebuild, Roseman has no such job security concerns, and he capitalized.

In watching a video by Brett Kollman of SB Nation (he covers the Texans) titled, "The Eagles are changing how NFL rosters are built," Kollman brought up five things the Eagles do that he believes are going to be copied by the rest of the league. It's worth a look:

The majority of Kollman's points have been covered heavily here, such as the need to constantly hunt for quarterbacks, prioritizing the trenches, and the decision to leave Lane Johnson at RT after Jason Peters got hurt. However, there was one point that Kollman made that I hadn't considered that made a lot of sense.

The Eagles are more willing to pay top-market dollars to safeties over cornerbacks and tight ends over wide receivers.

Presently, Malcolm Jenkins is the eighth-highest paid (average per year) safety in the NFL, while Rodney McLeod is 13th. There are 20 NFL cornerbacks who make more than Jenkins, despite Jenkins providing more value than most of them because of his rare versatility.

Meanwhile, the Eagles' top 5 corners – Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, and Avonte Maddox, all playing on their rookie contracts – will count for a combined $4,495,873 against the salary cap in 2018. There are 39 individual CBs who will make more on their own.

We'll see how Roseman's financial investments in cornerbacks develop when the team's current corners are due for a second contract. 

At tight end, there's an even more steep market inefficiency. Zach Ertz is making $8,500,000 per year, which makes him the sixth-highest paid tight end in the NFL. The highest-paid tight end is Jimmy Graham, who makes $10 million per year, only $1.5 million per year more than Ertz. Rob Gronkowski is somehow still playing on a deal he signed in 2012 in which he's only making $9 million per year.

There are 20 wide receivers making more per year than Ertz. In fact, if you look at the receivers making within $500,000 of Ertz per year, here are the names you get, with their 2017 stats in parentheses: 

  1. Marqise Lee (56-702-3)
  2. Kenny Stills (58-847-6)
  3. Albert Wilson (42-554-3)
  4. Paul Richardson (44-703-6)
  5. Marvin Jones (61-1101-9)

Obviously, any sane person would take Ertz in half a heartbeat over any one of those players.

When the Eagles drafted Dallas Goedert in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, some logically questioned whether using a premium pick on a tight end was the right choice considering his snaps could be limited with an emerging star player in Ertz ahead of him. 

Surely the Eagles will run more two-TE sets if Goedert ends up being the real deal, but perhaps the NFL's current financial undervaluing of tight ends, especially considering the Eagles' salary cap challenges on the horizon, helped play a part in that selection.

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