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April 15, 2023

Mailbag: Should the Eagles trade for Cardinals S Budda Baker?

Answering Eagles fans questions about Budda Baker, Bijan Robinson and more.

Eagles NFL
041423BuddaBaker Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Budda Baker

On Wednesday, we solicited questions for an Eagles mailbag via Twitter. Thank you as always for doing half the work for me. This is Part II of a two-part mailbag. Part I here.

Question from @Jack_Despeaux (and a lot of other people): If you were the Eagles, would you trade for Budda Baker?

Baker is a rare good player on the Cardinals, and he has reportedly asked them to trade him. 

After a season in which Chauncey Gardner-Johnson led the NFL in interceptions despite missing five games with a lacerated kidney, the Eagles offered him something in the ballpark of a three-year deal worth around $24 million, or approximately $8 million a year. When Gardner-Johnson repeatedly balked at that offer, the Eagles basically said, "OK, well, best of luck, we're moving on."

Gardner-Johnson is 25 years old. Baker is 27, and he has scheduled salaries of $13,096,359 in 2023, and $14,200,000 in 2024. Again, Baker is a good player and an outstanding run defender, but his current pay is $5.5 million/year more than what the Eagles were willing to pay Gardner-Johnson. And he's not happy with his pay. And you'd have to give up a pick to get him. Pass.

Question from @Winston_G: Who is the most likely player the Eagles pass on, and regret two years from now?

The most likely player to have a big impact in their first two NFL seasons relative to their projected draft position is Bijan Robinson. There's a pretty good chance that Robinson will get picked in the late teens or in the 20s, and then he goes on to make a Pro Bowl or two in his first two seasons in the NFL. The folks who wanted their favorite team to draft him top 10 / top 15 / top 20 (whatever) will claim intellectual superiority over those who didn't and their team's front office.

But I don't think the Eagles would regret passing on him, because they are well aware of the early, but short-lived impacts running backs have in the NFL, and are much more likely to select a player who they think can be a long-term foundational piece.

We've seen this game played out before, and honestly you might not even have to wait two seasons. It might only take one. For example, the Cowboys and Giants were criticized for drafting Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley fourth and second overall, respectively. In his rookie season, Elliott rushed for 1631 yards and 15 TDs, and Cowboys fans dunked on anyone they could find who called that a dumb pick. In Barkley's rookie season, he rushed for 1307 yards and 11 TDs. And sure enough, Giants fans crowed about the "generational talent" they had in him.

Of course, the Cowboys were one-and-done in the playoffs in Elliott's rookie season and haven't gotten past the divisional round since, while the Giants went 5-11 in Barkley's rookie season and have only been to the playoffs once during his five-year career. In different ways it quickly went downhill thereafter for both players individually. Elliott is now a free agent, and there's a decent chance that 2023 will be Barkley's last season with the Giants.

The player that I believe the Eagles could regret passing on if he somehow made it to them at pick No. 10 is Jalen Carter. I'm not the first to make this comparison, but the Eagles had the opportunity once upon a time to draft Warren Sapp, who like Carter was immensely talented but had character concerns. They passed, and... oops.

Question from @uscsucks: Convince someone who believes RB's are a waste of a 1st round pick why Bijan is the best option at 10.

I can't convince anyone that he'll be the best option at pick No. 10, because he's not in any scenario, at least if you're of the mindset that the NFL Draft is a vehicle for building a strong roster long-term, and not for immediate gratification.

Drafting Robinson would be a bad use of resources, but I think that "waste of a first-round pick" is a little strong. Any team that takes Robinson will probably get good production out of him early in his career, and, I mean, it would be fun to watch, so there's some value there. And certainly, if he's there at pick 30 (he won't be), then by all means go draft that guy.

Question from @rlocklear83: Understanding that Bijan Robinson is a longshot for the Eagles at 10, do you think Jahmyr Gibbs is a possibility at 30 or early in the 2nd round via a trade back?

I like Gibbs quite a bit. He's a home run threat, he's a weapon in the passing game who can line up all over the formation, and he even returns kicks.

However, his career season high for carries is 151, which he had in 2022. He averaged just 12.6 carries per game. On the one hand, he has low mileage, which is great. On the other hand, he's small (5'9, 199), and there's no concrete evidence that he can handle the rigors of being a lead back in the NFL.

In many ways he's similar to Kenny Gainwell, who came on at the end of the 2022 season, and who the Eagles very clearly like. While Gibbs may have more talent and might ultimately have the better NFL career, he would essentially make Gainwell a redundant player.

I don't see the Eagles taking him at 30, or with a trade back. I do think that a team that doesn't already have a dedicated a third-down back could have early interest, but probably not until Round 2. I doubt that that team will be the Eagles.

Question from @ErniePurcell: Knowing the infrastructure the Eagles have in place, what traits should they target in a potential new back? Bruiser to preserve Hurts on short yardage? Burner to take advantage of running lanes, and Jason Kelce at the 2nd level? Are vision / yards after contact less important when the OL mauls people?

That's a good question. At quarterback, Nick Sirianni said during the 2022 Combine that he values the following four traits: 

  1. Accuracy
  2. Decision making
  3. The ability to create
  4. Being at least above the line in arm strength (being able to make all the necessary throws)

Sirianni had previously mentioned those four traits to us media folks in an off-the-record session, in that order, so it's maybe safe to assume that's his prioritization order? Anyway, maybe I'll ask him his prioritization order at running back and wide receiver the next time we get to talk to him.

I'll venture to say that vision is probably high on the list. If the line is consistently opening up holes, you want a back who can identify them quickly and at least get the yardage that has been blocked up for him. When Miles Sanders had his best games for the Eagles, he was seeing holes and hitting them without hesitation. He was at his most frustrating when he was indecisive. 

On a side note, I'd like to touch on a "short yardage" point. I have seen the argument made (not so much in the question above, but just generally speaking) that if the Eagles draft Bijan Robinson, Hurts won't run as much, and will thus preserve his body. I don't understand that line of thinking. If the Eagles are running a read option play and the read defender commits to the running back, Hurts is going to keep it. If he commits to Hurts, he'll give it to the back. That won't change whether the Eagles' running back is Bijan Robinson or Miles Sanders. Maybe they'd run more straight running plays where the play call is to just hand it to the back with no RPR options attached, but then you're making it easier for the defense to stop your run game. 

Also, the Eagles aren't going to stop running QB sneaks. It's their most effective play.

Question from @cmckay024: Is the 5th year option on a first-round pick a meaningful enough benefit of staying at 30 and picking rather than trading back?

Fifth-year options can be valuable. Take Joe Burrow, for example. The deadline for the Bengals to exercise his fifth-year option is May 1. It is widely expected that he and the Bengals will work out a long term contract this offseason, but if they don't by that May 1 deadline, you can be 100 percent certain that they will exercise his fifth-year option and ensure that he remains under contract through at least the 2024 season. while they continue to hammer out a new deal.

That said, fifth-year options are expensive, and they have backfired on the Eagles twice in recent years, namely when they exercised the fifth-year options for Nelson Agholor and Derek Barnett and both players proceeded to have bad seasons. 

I do think their value is sometimes overstated. If other teams overvalue it and they're willing to pay a little more of a premium to jump into the first round for that purpose — especially if they're willing to cough up a nice package of picks for a quarterback like Will Levis or Hendon Hooker — then the Eagles should be happy to oblige.

Question from @avoidthenoid: Which will be greater: Total Eagles draft selections or Jalen Carter’s draft spot?

I like this one. If he goes to the Seahawks at 5, then the Eagles will almost certainly make more picks. If he falls to, oh, saaaayyy, 7 or later, I think the Eagles will make fewer picks. 

Give me Carter's draft slot.

Question from RickP25057744: Much was made of 2022 being Jalen Hurts’ first time in several seasons with the same offensive system/staff around him. Was that part of his performance last year, and with new coaches around him this year is there still a benefit from the same system and the same teammates?

Yes, and yes.

Question from @jfd6812: Any favorite late round targets?

I'll give you one projected Day 3 guy (or UDFA) at each position:

• Jaren Hall, QB, BYU
• Chris Rodriquez, RB, Kentucky
• Derius Davis, WR/RS, TCU
• Payne Durham, TE, Purdue
• Wanya Morris, OT, Oklahoma
• Andrew Vorhees, iOL, USC
• DJ Johnson, Edge, Oregon
• PJ Mustipher, DT, Penn State
• Ivan Pace, LB, Cincinnati
• Ameer Speed, CB, Michigan State
• Jay Ward, S, LSU
• Bryce Baringer, P, Michigan State

I love ending articles with the mention of a punter.

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