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October 27, 2020

What they're saying: Some options for the Eagles ahead of the NFL trade deadline

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Stephon-Gilmore_102720_usat Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports

Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore is reportedly available. Unfortunately, he doesn't make a ton of sense for the Eagles.

By the time you're reading this, the NFL trade deadline will likely be less than a week away. And the Eagles, despite their 2-4-1 record, sit in first place in the NFC East and have suddenly surpassed the Cowboys, their opponents in Week 8, as the favorites to take home the division crown.

Part of that is because, unlike Dallas, the injury bug has not yet reached the QB room in Philadelphia (knock on wood). And the Birds, even with their early-season struggles, do not appear to be headed for a full-blown meltdown like their Texas rivals. It also helps that the Birds have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the entire NFL. 

That's good news for an Eagles team that has played quite a mixed bag of opponents so far this year, as their schedule includes eight games against two of the toughest divisions in football and six games against the worst. If the Birds hope to become the first back-to-back NFC East champs in over a 15 years, they'll need to take advantage of an easier second half of the season. 

Another way the Eagles could help themselves in the short-term is by going out and acquiring some talent ahead of the deadline. As we've written about plenty on this site, going all-in on 2020 is a double-edged sword. Yes, the division is wide open for the Eagles to win, but this team needs a lot more than one or two quick-fix pieces to become a legit contender. And buying at the deadline to win a hollow division title could come back to bite the team as early as next year, when they'll find themselves nearly $80 million over the cap — and that's before accounting for any of the salaries they'll potentially add at the deadline.

Currently, sure, the Eagles are among the teams with the most available cap space, but they also have a ton committed to next season, which is why they'll be looking to roll over as much of this as possible to help them in 2021.

That doesn't mean they have to sell — after all, two of their biggest trade chips, Zach Ertz and DeSean Jackson are literally un-tradeable and no one seems to want to take Alshon Jeffery off their hands. Adding smaller pieces with deals extending beyond this season and the potential to stick around in Philly might be how Roseman and Co. can best approach the deadline this year. 

And with about a week left to make a decision, there are still options for the Eagles, whether they want to be buyers or sellers, even if it doesn't seem like they'll make any big splashy moves. Sunday night's matchup against the Cowboys could see the Eagles put some more distance between themselves and their biggest competition in the NFC East, as the Birds are currently 7.5-point favorites according to TheLines.com's consensus spread. And that could make the Birds more likely to be buyers than sellers. Or not. We'll have to wait and see how Roseman decides to play it.

In the meantime, here's a look at what they're saying about the Eagles with the deadline rapidly approaching... 

What would you do?

Bo Wulf and Zach Berman | The Athletic

In their latest back-and-forth email exchange column, The Athletic's Bo Wulf and Zach Berman went deep on the trade deadline, and specifically the Eagles' options and how it might play out. Apologies to Bo and Zach for pulling so much from this, but it was both really good and really long, so I hope you'll click over and check out the full story. It's a worthwhile read for any Eagles fan hoping to be prepared for the deadline.

First up, Bo asked Zach whether or not the Eagles would be buyers or sellers, and while Zach didn't give a hard-line answer, it's clear he sees them leaning one way, especially in the wake of the recent injuries to guys like Ertz and Jackson, two players they might've been eager to deal while they still had some value on the trade market. Now, it's looking like the first-place Birds — for better or worse — might be buyers, at least in the margins. 

Berman: Bo, I can see the Eagles fitting both labels — looking to sell aging players who might not be part of their 2021 plans while also pursuing low-cost players at positions of need (linebacker, cornerback, maybe offensive line) who could fit on their 2021 depth chart. I don’t envision them making a trade for a rental, a la Golden Tate in 2018, but if it’s a trade similar to the ones for Jay Ajayi or Genard Avery, in which the Eagles thought the addition could help for more than the latter half of the season, I won’t rule out them being opportunistic. I’m not suggesting this is the correct strategy, but if they view it as they’re 2-4-1 in an awful NFC East and have a chance to get healthier and make the playoffs and they can find a linebacker who can start for eight games this year and all of next year for a low-cost pick, it’s a defensible position.

As for selling, it would be challenging given the injuries. If Zach Ertz and DeSean Jackson were healthy, it’s a different conversation. I can’t see the Eagles getting anything for Alshon Jeffery. I’d imagine Malik Jackson would have some value. The veterans on one-year deals (Vinny Curry, Nickell Robey-Coleman) wouldn’t command much, right? So we can make a convincing argument that the Eagles should view themselves as sellers, but I frankly don’t know whom they would sell. The most attractive trade chip would have been Ertz if they were prepared to move on from him in 2021, but that’s a moot point now that he’s on injured reserve.

Of course, Roseman knows how to work the market. He’s found a way to trade hard-to-move players before.  [theathletic.com]

While I agree with Zach that the Eagles adding players at the deadline might not be the smartest idea, if it's low-cost moves for players that can contribute beyond 2020, it's really hard to complain. So, what might some of those low-cost options look like, especially at one of the Birds biggest areas of needs — and what might Philly have to give up to get them?

Packers LB Oren Burks: A third-round pick in 2018, so there’s a year left on his deal, and he tested as a great athlete. Persona non grata in the Packers defense.

What it could cost: A conditional 2022 late-round pick.

Bears LB Joel Iyiegbuniwe: A fourth-round pick in 2018, Iyiegbuniwe is a core special-teamer who hasn’t played much on defense in three seasons.

What it could cost: A 2021 seventh-round pick.

Jets LB Neville Hewitt: He’ll be a free agent this offseason, but he’s only 27 and could be a re-sign option as a downhill inside linebacker. But is Hewitt really any better than T.J. Edwards? He would fill the void left by Nigel Bradham for “Eagles linebacker with a very British name.”

What it could cost: Arcega-Whiteside?  [theathletic.com]

That last one is interesting for sure, but that has more to do with what the Eagles would be giving up than anything else.

Finally, Berman mentioned in his overall assessment about some other options for the Eagles beyond Ertz and Jackson, should the Eagles decide that selling is in their best interest. With his recently restructured contract, the guys agree that Fletcher Cox is likely off the table at this point, but Malik Jackson, Nickel Robey-Coleman and others remain as options. As does a current defensive end who would likely fetch the biggest return of any of the players Zach and Bo mentioned... 

Derek Barnett: This would be a shocker, but it’s possible the Eagles decide Josh Sweat has outpaced Barnett. With a decision looming on whether to give Barnett a second contract, they could fetch a handsome price for a promising young pass rusher. This would fly in the face of Roseman’s track record, but for the sake of argument: Leonard Williams and Dante Fowler have each been traded at the deadline for a third- and fifth-round pick. Would that be enough for the Eagles?

Deal: Barnett to the Tennessee Titans for a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 fifth- or sixth-round pick.  [theathletic.com]

Bo and Zach cover A LOT more over at The Athletic. I highly recommend you check out the full story

More options at LB

Chris Franklin | NJ.com

Over at NJ.com, Chris Franklin took a look at the two biggest areas where the Eagles need help at the deadline — offensive line and linebacker. Here's what he had to say about the latter...

Where could Roseman find LB help?

Jets linebacker Avery Williamson is rumored to be available. He has played inside linebacker for the Tennessee Titans and the Jets.

Falcons outside linebacker Foyesade Oluokun also might be available. He taken by the Falcons in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Olokun, who is still playing under his rookie deal that ends in 2021, can play the strongside and is decent in coverage. In five games, he has 40 tackles, three forced fumbles and an interception.

How much would the Jets or Falcons want in return? The Eagles have eight draft picks, including two fifth-round selections in the 2021 NFL Draft. If the Eagles can get either linebacker for a sixth-round pick or less, it could be worth doing a deal. Another key: Finding a player who has a future in Philly beyond this season.  [nj.com]

Here's another writer who believes that it's OK to buy, as long as a) they're not giving up premium draft picks and b) the player is going to be on the team beyond 2020. 

I think those are the two golden rules Howie should be following at the deadline — unless, of course, something crazy should present itself...

Gilmore? Happy?

Albert Breer | NBC Sports Boston

Something crazy, like, one of the best corners in football suddenly becoming available? That's the word out of New England, as Albert Breer is reporting that the Patriots could be looking to move on from Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Here's what Breer said on NBC Sports Boston — prior to the Patriots blowout loss to the 49ers. 

"They've got to be real honest with where they are, from a building standpoint. And if you're not going to be competing for a championship, which I think is always going to be the bar here as long as Bill Belichick is here, you have to look to see what you can get for someone like Stephon Gilmore, because chances are he's not going to be on the team in 2021. They had to move some money from 2021 to '20 to keep him happy this year. He'll want another raise next year. I think when they did move that money up to '20, there was an acknowledgment that he might not be around next year. And if he's not going to be around next year, and you don't think you're competing for a championship this year, then it behooves you to take a look. 

"The question then becomes what you're willing to take for him, because I don't think it's going to be a first-round pick. I can give you guys a list of 10 guys who have gone for first-round picks over the last two years, and every single one of those guys was 27 years old or younger. So I don't think you're getting a first-round pick for him, but if you're willing to move him for a second or a third, I think there could be a market out there for him."  [twitter.com]

Obviously, this move would go against the grain for Philly, who has been looking to get younger and shed some bloated contracts. Gilmore is 30, and while he is under contract for another year, that comes at a hefty price. In addition to being on the hook for the remainder of his near $24 million cap hit this year, they'd also take on a $16.42 million cap hit in 2021. And they're already paying a pretty penny for Darius Slay. So while the Eagles could always use an upgrade at corner, hoping for the team to go after a guy like Gilmore seems like a stretch. If they were a player away from being a Super Bowl contender, then you absolutely try to make this move. But right now, it would likely be a waste.

Still, the Patriots seem like they're ready to move on — and have been for some time now. 

"They have talked about the idea of trading Stephon Gilmore. They were in contact with other teams in March and April and then again in August. So before he got his quote-unquote raise — the moving the money from '21 to '20 — they absolutely did have conversations with other teams about dealing Stephon Gilmore."  [twitter.com]

LeBron Wentz?

Tim McManus | ESPN

Over at ESPN.com, Tim McManus was looking at the ways in which the Eagles use quarterback Carson Wentz, and specifically what ways they can use him to maximize his talents. And that's when analyst and former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky came up with an interesting cross-sport comparison. 

For his career, Wentz has a 6.3% touchdown rate outside the pocket compared to 4.4% inside the pocket, according ESPN Stats & Info. His accuracy doesn't go up in those situations, but the chances of him making a splash play do.

"I don't think Carson's really much of a dropback passing quarterback, sitting in the pocket type guy," ESPN NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky said.

"The more they utilize him as an open-field weapon is better. I wouldn't ask him to sit back in the pocket too much. I'll be honest, I don't know if he has great feel for that. Like, he just likes to sit back there until he cannot. So I think getting him on the move is almost like getting LeBron [James] in a pick-and-roll situation. I don't know if you can go wrong with getting him on the move."

The state of the offensive line only furthers the need for this approach. Wentz has been hit 76 times so far this season, the most in the NFL by a wide margin (Cincinnati's Joe Burrow is second with 60 contacts). He has been sacked a league-high 28 times and has faced the blitz 97 times, the second most behind the New York Giants' Daniel Jones.

In the pocket, he's a sitting duck, and his propensity to hold onto the ball doesn't help any.  [espn.com]

Get over Agholor

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Finally, let's take a look at two of Roob's 10 observations this week, both of which deal with wide receivers. First up, there's his assessment of Travis Fulgham, who has looked like the real deal in his four games with the Eagles. 

Then there's Nelson Agholor, who has been playing well in Las Vegas, but if you're just watching his highlights or looking at the stats, you might miss the fact that Agholor is still Agholor. This No. 2 observation from Roob was exactly my takeaway from watching the former Eagles receiver on Sunday while the Eagles were off — the game started with me wondering why the Eagles couldn't get more out of this guy and ended with me going, "Oh, I remember."

1. We can all stop asking whether Travis Fulgham is a fluke. I’ve seen enough. I’m sold. The kid’s a baller. Think about what 357 yards in four games means. T.O. is the only WR in franchise history with more yards in his first four games here, and he was already a four-time Pro Bowler when he got here. Fulgham has good enough speed, tremendous body control and strength, he’s aggressive to the ball, has terrific hands and has some real swagger to his game. He doesn’t back down and isn’t afraid of the moment. And he already has incredible chemistry with Carson Wentz, who quickly developed tremendous trust in Fulgham to go up and get the football. This is without a training camp, OTAs or preseason games. The kid first walked into the NovaCare Complex two months ago. Imagine when he has a full offseason with Wentz and in this scheme? He’s only going to get better.

2. I saw a lot of people blasting the Eagles for letting Nelson Agholor walk after his 107-yard game for the Raiders against Tampa on Sunday. There's a lot you can criticize the Eagles for but not this. And while he did catch his fourth TD of the season, if you just look at the stats you won't see that he also had two drops Sunday and a deflection that led directly to a Tampa Bay interception. Agholor is playing well, and every Eagles fan should be happy for him. But no matter what he does in Vegas, he's clearly a guy who needed a change of scenery.  [nbcsports.com]

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