Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Eagles Trade Up: Bad Money After Bad Money After Bad Money

What It's Like To Be An Eagles Fan
To completely unpack the Eagles' all-in shove for the #2 pick in this draft, you need to look back at the history of the quarterback position here.

For the better part of a decade, the only real worry that the Eagles had with their QB was health. Donovan McNabb was the best in franchise history, and having him locked down made the rest of the roster a lot more manageable. McNabb was never quite good enough, but his strengths -- avoiding INTs, keeping plays alive with his legs, carrying terrible WRs early in his career and feeding very good ones late -- made them experience the best era in their history.

That's the world that Doug Pederson knew, the world that Howie Roseman wants to recreate, and the world that Jeff Lurie needs to get back to. Fine. Laudable goal.

Once the McNabb era wound down, the team thought they were in good shape on many occasions. No one remembers this, but Kevin Kolb looked really good for a considerable stretch of time, and that wasn't just hometown myopia. Once Kolb was displaced, they got value for him from Arizona. Mike Vick had half a year where he was a borderline MVP candidate, before the magic left for good. Nick Foles had a fluke year for the ages. Hell, even Mark Sanchez had a good month and looked like something that was in the process of salvage. All of this turned out to be fools' gold, but the biggest reason why this team hasn't won a playoff game during the Obama Administration isn't the QBs. It's the defense, and the turnovers, many of which were on guys other than the QB. (Well, maybe not when Sanchez played.) A great QB might have covered all of that up, but there are only ever 6 to 12 great QBs in the world.

Now, move to the latter stages of the Nero Kelly Reign of Error. One of his more defensible -- in that we are dunking on three foot rims here -- moves was to swap out Foles for Sam Bradford. What wasn't defensible was the price. Taking on eight figures of contract cap and giving up a second round pick for a guy whose career numbers looked no better than Foles took considerable faith, especially when you factored in Bradford's terrible health history.

Then last year happened. Foles lost the gig in St. Louis, and now looks like a guy that might be out of the league in a few years. Bradford had yet another year that failed to answer the question of whether he's actually good and betrayed by terrible teammates, or just a gun-shy arm who doesn't overcome adversity, along with the ticking knee issues. As the team moved to the off-season, most fans wanted the team to sign Bradford, but not for a lot and not for long, because he was the only way the team would be watchable in 2017. That happened, for a 2 year deal, and the club also made the curious move of overpaying for a binkie QB2 in Chase Daniel, probably because Pederson pushed for him. OK, fine. The club then sent out three reminders of Nero's mistakes to trade up to the 8th pick, and we were all fine with all of that. Most of the last few weeks in the laundry fandom has been spent wondering which stud would fall to them --  RB, CB, OL. We were good with whoever was Best Player Available. Honest, we were.

And then today, the entire shoe store dropped, and they traded 4 picks to move up 8 slots.

No, seriously,

Now, maybe this all works out. Maybe the either/or of the Jared Goff / Carson Wentz pairing becomes the Peyton Manning to the Rams' Ryan Leaf, and the team embarks on a new era of treating the NFC lEast as a speed bag. The team has already talked openly about how they didn't like what QBs would be available to them in future near drafts and free agency, and they are, we presume, living in a world where they don't think they are going to be this high in the draft again, any time soon. I've been wrong about lots of things in my life, and I'd like nothing more to be wrong about this.

But, um, I wasn't wrong when I hated Nero's moves last year. And I just don't like this one, either.

Let's start with the obvious; the chance that Bradford provides anything close to the value of his contract is now nil. Unless Nero gets the Niners to overpay for him, or the Broncos decide they just can't live without recreating the 2015 Eagles QB situation, there's no chance that you get a decent pick for him now. There's also no chance that he starts all of the games in 2016, because the team isn't good enough to get to the playoffs with nothing of value coming out of this draft, and if you aren't making the playoffs, let's see the new guy. This isn't now a QB controversy; it's a placeholder role for a guy that might have been the best QB available in the free market last year. I'd have felt better about this deal if Bradford had gone to Cleveland instead of any of the picks that went. Yes, even the fourth rounder. And if they somehow turn this around and deal him before the draft, fine, great, we'll reconsider. But for now, spending +$20 million for potential QB2 and QB3 is unprecedented in NFL history, and beyond ridiculous.

Next, let's move to the actual roster. This team needs a real RB -- preferably two, seeing how Darren Sproles is old and small, and Ryan Mathews can't stay healthy. If Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff don't make an incredible leap, or Rueben Randle does something that rarely ever happens and be better for Team 2 than he was for Team 1, they need most of a WR corps. RT Jason Peters is coming off his worst year and back and nerve injuries; he might be done, and T is kind of a big deal. C Jason Kelce is also coming off his worst year, and is small for the position. It's not a given that he bounces back, either.

The defense likely needs a CB. They are banking hard on MLB Jordan Hicks being great and healthy in his second year, and NFL history is writ large with guys who aren't as good coming back from either of these conditions. There's likely other holes here that we're not aware of just yet, because DC Jim Schwartz hasn't had game time to find these things out. We're also assuming that CB Eric Rowe is just going to be fine as a top tier corner, when all he's got is a handful of December games when he looked good. Like Hicks, it's not exactly a lock bet.

But fine; let's assume the roster is good enough in the lEast, and that Roseman's free agent moves paper over many of the holes that Kelly left behind. Just how many teams win a ton of games with a rookie HC, new DC, and maybe a rookie QB, too? There's a really good chance that the first round pick next year is also going to be top 10, and make this deal even more lopsided. This isn't the NBA, where you make deals like this and protect it after a certain number. It could just be that bad.

Now, the management says they've taken all of this into account. That Bradford's the starter, and maybe he plays so well that he provokes a bidding war from teams that have to have him in 2017. That the QB won't sulk, poison the locker room, or that the ever-helpful Philadelphia media won't treat this as an all-year circus. That whoever the Rams don't take will be a star at the position, healthy despite the shaky line, the face of the franchise for a decade or more. That the half dozen starter level players that you are giving up from the lack of picks will be covered by coaching up lower picks, finding developmental gems in free agency, and continued health.

It's all possible. It's certainly no less nuts than last year's "strategy" of trading away the best RB in franchise history for a broken-down LB, then bringing in the worst RB in franchise free agent history, and signing him to a contract that would make a Saudi prince blush.

Left aside, because I honestly don't know slave / college football -- whether or not Wentz is actually The Man. He's on the record as being a big Jebus guy, played at a small school in de facto Southern Canada, and is absolutely going to be the pick, because there's no way the Rams pass up the California Goff who actually played in a real conference. There's a real chance that the Eagles just went all-in, but with a hand that's a lot more crackable than aces, because I somehow have doubts about how a Jebus guy from Wherever Dakota will react when 70K drunken meatheads who have spent their entire lives rooting for laundry that never wins it all decide to show their disapproval vocally.

In other news, I'm drinking alone as I write this. A lot. It makes the typos more fun!

But, well...

I'd rather have a coached up Foles for next to no money, Daniel to be the fallback and/or guy to beat him out, a half dozen high picks to restock the roster, and a ton of salary cap maneuverability. And if it all fails, because it usually does for Rookie Coach, a great pick next year to use on a QB then, because the funny thing about weak QB drafts is that they someone always have a couple that start to look amazeballs.

I'd rather not have all of my eggs in one basket, and have to give up that basket again next year.

Especially on a roster that needed a serious rebuild in the first place.

But what do I know? I keep rooting for this laundry anyway, so I'm also clearly an idiot.

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