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April 23, 2021

A look at Eagles player trade candidates, and expected compensation

Eagles NFL
021921HowieFishing Jimmy/for PhillyVoice

The Philadelphia Eagles have compiled 11 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, and nine more in 2022. As the team continues to overhaul its roster, they could look to add to their draft capital even further by dealing players no longer in their long-term plans. 

We've covered some of the players below individually over the last three months, but let's round them all up here, with the draft only six days away.

1) TE Zach Ertz

Duh. If you follow the Eagles closely, you have already seen at least a half dozen reports that Ertz wants out of Philly, and that the Eagles are willing to trade him.

If the Eagles had previously gotten even a decent offer for Ertz (say, a fourth-round pick), he'd almost certainly already be gone. Despite reporting that a bunch of teams have inquired about Ertz, his market has clearly been soft. That makes sense, for a number of reasons:

  1. He is 30 years old, and probably in decline. 
  2. He had by far his worst season as a pro in 2020, and not just because of poor quarterback play or whatever other excuses one might make.
  3. He now has a pretty extensive injury history.
  4. His base salary in 2021 is $8,250,000 in a year in which the salary cap is tens of millions less than was projected, pre-COVID, and many teams simply don't have the ability to take on that kind of salary, at least for a player with the list of concerns noted above. I mean, according to the NFLPA daily salary cap report, 16 teams (half the league) don't even have more than $8 million of room to spend under the cap.

What kind of compensation could the Eagles expect in return? As we've maintained all offseason, it's not out of the question that the Eagles will simply have to release Ertz. But I'd rank it like this:

  1. They're able to get a later Day 3 pick for him, or the equivalent of that if he's packaged in a move up.
  2. They release him.
  3. They cut off their nose to spite their face by keeping an unhappy vet around a bunch of young players, just because they didn't get a trade offer they deemed acceptable.

One possibility that we also noted recently is that the Eagles could be waiting until June 1 to move on from Ertz. If they cut or traded him now, Ertz would count for $7,769,500 in dead money against the cap, with $4,952,000 in savings. Since the Eagles already used both of their two allotted June 1 designations on Alshon Jeffery and Malik Jackson, they would have to actually wait until June 1 to get the benefit of a June 1 release/trade with a third player. If they cut or traded Ertz after June 1, the dead money hit in 2021 would be $4,221,500, with $3,548,000 in dead money kicked into 2022. They would have an immediate savings of $8,500,000 instead of $4,952,000.

In other words, they'd have an extra $3.5 million or so to work with this offseason, which on its own would be right around what the Eagles would need to sign all their rookie draft picks.

2) OT Andre Dillard

Dillard had a bad rookie season (and not just at RT), before being lost for the season in 2020 with a torn biceps. His stock isn't exactly high at the moment.

Earlier this week we published a review of Jordan Mailata's 2020 season, and came to the conclusion that Mailata is a better football player right now than Dillard. Mailata is also a year and a half younger, and presumably has more upside given that his first non-exhibition football game ever occurred fewer than eight months ago.

So if we're penciling Mailata in as the starting LT, Dillard is little more than a backup LT on this roster. Can he play somewhere else instead if need be? Eh, probably not. The Eagles can't trust him to be a swing tackle because he proved in 2019 that he was a disaster at RT. He is also a bad candidate to move inside to guard, because his biggest flaw is that he struggles anchoring against power. Some of the nastier DTs in the league would eat him alive in there. So it's seemingly LT or bust.

What kind of compensation could the Eagles expect in return? While he may very well be "LT or bust," and at this point I'd lean bust, it's not as if Dillard has no worth, especially considering Mailata landed on IR in each of his first two seasons in the NFL, despite not playing a single snap.

It'll also cost the Eagles more on the cap to trade Dillard than to just keep him, so they'd have to get something worthwhile in return. They'd probably gladly take, saaaayyy, a fourth-round pick in 2022 for him. I think that would be the best they could hope for. 

Could they get that? If a non-contender had a hole at LT and was willing to go through some growing pains with Dillard in hopes he can reach his potential, then you could maybe squint and find a fit there. It's hard to imagine a contender trading for Dillard and trusting him to protect their quarterback's blindside. The bet here is that he'll be back with the team in 2021.

3) OG Brandon Brooks

In a piece by Albert Breer on March 8, Brooks was listed among 15 players around the league that were being discussed in trade talks. A few days later the Eagles restructured his contract.

Pre-restructure, it would have been a dead money hit of $12,250,707 for the Eagles to trade Brooks conventionally (as in, before June 1), and they would have saved $2,303,528. Post-restructure, it's a dead money hit of $22,751,007 to trade him conventionally, and it would raise their 2021 cap number by over $15 million.

What kind of compensation could the Eagles expect in return? If I'm reading the tea leaves correctly, the Eagles probably floated Brooks' name, gauged interest, didn't find much, and instead restructured him. But to trade him post-restructure wouldn't make any sense. Maybe next year.

Side note: Jason Kelce might have made sense in a trade previously as well, but after his restructure, that also is no longer a reasonable possibility.

And then if we're throwing darts...

DE Derek Barnett: The Eagles would clear $10,051,000 if they dealt Barnett, but that would leave the Eagles with just Brandon Graham (aging) and Josh Sweat (durability concerns) as the only two legitimate NFL defensive ends on the roster.

CB Avonte Maddox: Maddox was overmatched on the outside in 2020, where he shouldn't have been asked to play in the first place, though the general sentiment is that he'll be fine if/when he moves back to the slot. If the Eagles traded Maddox, it would further deplete was is already an incredibly thin position. 

However, it's worth noting that Maddox got a "proven performance escalator" this offseason, so his cap number is now $2,339,478, the 15th highest total on the team. If they traded him, they'd save $2,183,000 of that. They wouldn't get more than a Day 3 pick, obviously.

OT/OG Matt Pryor: I know, "Lol, who's going to trade for Matt Pryor?" It happens! Teams are sometimes desperate for OL help. The Eagles traded freaking Matt Tobin and a 7 to the Seahawks for a 5, for example.

WR John Hightower: If the Eagles draft a WR as we all expect them to, I would have Hightower as seventh in the pecking order on this roster, behind that new WR, Jalen Reagor, Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, and perhaps even J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Hightower looked a whole lot like a rookie in 2020, but he did manage to get open deep down the field on occasion. Again, they wouldn't get much in return. 


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