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October 27, 2019

More smoke is building around the Eagles potentially trading Halapoulivaati Vaitai

While the strong belief here is that the Philadelphia Eagles will be buyers — and not sellers — at the 2019 NFL trade deadline, the Birds do have some players who would make sense to deal if the right offer came along, either way.

One such player is OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who replaced Jason Peters in 2017 during the Eagles' Super Bowl run in 2017 after Peters went down with a torn ACL. Earlier this week, Yahoo's Charles Robinson named Vaitai as something of a fallback trade target for the Cleveland Browns if they strike out on acquiring Washington's Trent Williams, and the Giants' Nate Solder.

Option No. 3 for Dorsey would be more of a bargain move for depth and flexibility — targeting one of the Eagles’ offensive tackles. Specifically backup Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who has starting experience at tackle and also the flexibility to play guard if needed. Vaitai is in the last year of his rookie deal and has been the odd man out in an offensive tackle quartet that includes top-end starters Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, as well as rookie Andre Dillard.

Sunday morning, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network also cited Vaitai as a player getting interest from around the league:

Vaitai has been a useful player for the Eagles since they drafted him in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. As noted above, he started 10 regular season games for the Eagles during their 2017 run, and then every game in the playoffs. He has appeared in 46 games overall, and has 17 starts (20 including the playoffs), playing both at LT and RT.

He also gobbled up all the Eagles' first-team reps at RG during training camp while Brandon Brooks recovered from a torn Achilles. Brooks unexpectedly started Week 1, with Vaitai filling in for him once they got a comfortable lead against Washington.

For those reasons, Vaitai, while not an ideal starter by any stretch, is still an attractive, versatile player for any team with significant offensive line issues.

Presently, Vaitai would probably be the first guy off the bench if any one of the Eagles' offensive linemen went down. He would obviously fill right in for Andre Dillard, Lane Johnson, or Brooks if they went down, and would probably also be the first guy in for Isaac Seumalo. If Jason Kelce got hurt, Seumalo would likely fill in for Kelce, and Vaitai would, again, likely fill in for Seumalo. 

When Peters returns from his current knee injury, Vaitai will be buried on the depth chart at offensive tackle, his primary position. At guard, the Eagles would have to feel like Vaitai isn't that much better of an option on the interior than Matt Pryor to confidently deal him away.

What could the Eagles reasonably expect to get for Vaitai in a trade?

I think a player-for-player deal would make a lot of sense, however, if we're going to put a draft pick value on Vaitai's head, I would say that a fourth-round pick would be fair compensation.

He is going to be a free agent next offseason, and could very well get a good contract, seeing as: 

  1. He is still only 26 years old.
  2. He has high-intensity game experience.
  3. He has some versatility.
  4. He is never going to be an issue in any locker room.
  5. Because there is a dearth of offensive line talent league-wide, they often get wildly overpaid in free agency.

As such, the Eagles can count on Vaitai to count for a decent enough pick (a 5, perhaps?) in the compensatory pick formula if/when he signs elsewhere. Because he still has some value to them this season, the thinking here is that they would demand that another team beat whatever they project him to count for in the comp pick formula. A 4 in hand, as opposed to the uncertainty of a comp pick, should be enough for them to pull the trigger.

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