I wanted this piece to be a history of the best tradebacks in Eagles draft lore. Trading back is when you deal an earlier pick to another team for two or more of their later picks…or some other valuable consideration.
It seems to me the way to go if you want the most bang for your draft buck.
I had a very difficult time researching tradebacks in Eagles history because they don't show up in a tight little category on Google. It's going to take a lot of actual book study to complete my original idea for a story.
Tommy Lawlor had one of the best takes I've seen on trading back in his Igglesblitz.com column of February 28th, 2013:
"The Eagles have to balance out a few things in regard to this year’s draft strategy. If they stay at #4, the team must identify the 4 players they most want and thoroughly examine the situations. I’m using 4 players because the Eagles pick 4th. One of their Top 4 guys will be on the board. Maybe a couple. Heck, maybe all 4."
"There is no question that the player picked at #4 will be highly talented and have a great resume. The Eagles need to evaluate the player’s ceiling. Can he be a Pro Bowl player…a difference maker? Or is the player more likely to simply be a good starter? Think of this as the difference in Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware."
This is a fine distinction made by Lawlor. If you're looking for "great player", you stick with your early pick. If you're looking for "good starter", you trade back to get two or more "good starters"…
And Lawlor reminds us of the need for caution when trading back:
"The Eagles aren’t going to get some massive haul for the #4 pick. Heck, they might not get any offers. If a team like the Bills offered a 3rd and 4th round pick [for the Eagles] to slide back to pick #8, I’d do that. Maybe they’re desperate for a QB and want to get in front of the Cardinals. That’s a reasonable price. Dion Jordan might still be on the board at #8. You could go for an OT like Lane Johnson or might feel S Kenny Vaccaro is okay value there. Those are still very good options and you’d have the extra picks."
"Howie can trade down in the 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th rounds. He won’t pick up massive gains, but might feel it is worth it to get the extra picks."
"I know some people think the Eagles have traded back too much in the past. They passed on Sean Lee and that’s going to drive us all nuts for a long time. Last year they moved back in the 2nd round. GB got DL Jerel Worthy. The Eagles got Vinny Curry and Brandon Boykin. That trade feels pretty good. It really is what you do with the picks. Howie showed last year that if we stick to the board, we can land some really good players."
It's an interesting debate between sticking to the board and trading back. I based my own MACH 10 ballot on the premise that Howie and Chip will trade back out of the #4 position in the 1st round. Based on my own draft prediction history with the Eagles, that probably means just the opposite will happen.
But looking at how Roseman and Kelly are dealing with player acquisition in free agency, it seems to me they are likely to try to maximize the draft by trading back for more value.
They entered free agency with a ton of cash, but with a hard cap on what they would spend on a specific player and position. Unlike in the recent past, the Eagles refused to bend. They stuck to their walkaway numbers despite over $40 million at their disposal.
The Eagles had interest in some of the top safeties (Dashon Goldson and Glover Quin) on the market, just not at the overvalued price they were to be paid. They poked around the cornerback class (inquiring about Brent Grimes, Keenan Lewis and Antoine Cason) until they found two physical options who were the proper fit at the right price.
Roseman and Kelly entered free agency with a plan, and it wasn't contingent on landing any one player at all costs. They had a handful of players they liked, checked the price and worked from there.
After seeing what the market was for players like Goldson and Quin, the Eagles went with Patrick Chung instead. The former Patriot was a favorite of Kelly, according to an NFL source. The new Eagles coach pushed hard for the former Oregon player, and got his wish.
Bradley Fletcher, James Casey, Isaac Sopoaga and Jason Phillips were other players they targeted immediately and landed on the first day of free agency.
From there the Eagles had to adjust on the fly. They had checked on the price for cornerback Cary Williams and outside linebacker Connor Barwin when the legal tampering period opened on March 9. They did the same on March 12 when players were free to sign deals. The Eagles didn't think either would come in below their walkaway number. But as the market began to take shape, they realized they had a chance. Some time around late Wednesday/early Thursday, Roseman saw the moves as realistic possibilities. By Thursday afternoon, he landed two players the Eagles didn't think would financially fit into their plan.
Williams received a three-year, $17 million deal with only the first year fully guaranteed. He was the Ravens' No. 1 cornerback down the stretch, in the postseason and the Super Bowl. Barwin signed a six-year, $36 million deal with $8 million guaranteed over the first two years.
Barwin, for one, was surprised to land in Philadelphia. The Texans wanted to bring him back. Strapped by salary cap limitations, they couldn't meet his price. The Eagles, with plenty of financial flexibility, capitalized on the weak free-agent market and landed what they thought was the best 3-4 outside linebacker available. They also looked at cheaper options at the position like former Cowboy Victor Butler.
"I thought I was going to be back in Houston the whole process," Barwin said. "You know everybody there talked to me and we all thought we were going to get it done there. There were other teams that got into the mix but Philadelphia, Howie and my agent figured out this was the best place for me to be."
Kenny Phillips fell into a similar category. The Eagles didn't think he'd come as cheaply as he did. The former Giants safety was signed with virtually no guaranteed money. That was a deal they couldn't pass up. The Eagles had seen first hand what Phillips could bring to the table when he was healthy with the Giants. For almost nothing, they wanted to see if he could recapture that previous form in midnight green.
Just like that, and with some money still remaining in Jeffrey Lurie's safe ($17 million), the Eagles had six potential new starters on defense. And they didn't overextend themselves or reach for star power.
I sense a similar pattern developing for the Eagles in the draft— don't overextend, don't reach— which is another reason I'm expecting them to trade back out of the 4th overall pick.