Right off the bat, don’t even start by telling me that Eagles-Buccaneers trade rumors was something real. Talks, perhaps, but not a chance in the world with that ridiculous price. For entertainment purposes, if you haven’t heard, the Buccaneers would trade the #1 pick in the draft for RB LeSean McCoy, QB Nick Foles, and three 1st round picks. Uh, no.
This smokescreen, as I am calling it as an Eagles’ fan, is merely that. I do believe that Chip Kelly and the front office are legitimately interested in what it would take to move near the top of the draft for Marcus Mariota. The interest is obvious, the success in college was proof that Kelly and Mariota can orchestrate one of the nation’s best offenses. I have something to tell you, though, the Eagles’ offense has been elite and they’ve won 10 games in both seasons under Kelly so far. That was, in fact, with different starting quarterbacks: Michael Vick, Nick Foles, and Mark Sanchez. There might have been a Matt Barkley cameo in there somewhere, but you get the picture. Sure, stability sounds good at the quarterback position, but it hasn’t worked out so far for the rival Washington Redskins and Robert Griffin III.
So far this offseason, Philly has let us know that their starting cornerbacks will not be returning, by moving on from Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams. No, Brandon Boykin, the best slot corner in football, still isn’t likely to get a chance to start outside. Actually, the Eagles were solid in the front-7 despite their leaders at inside linebacker missing time, Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans. The defensive unit is fast with a strength in the linebacking core, between the inside guys and Connor Barwin. Philly bought themselves some insurance by signing Brad Jones from Green Bay, just in case Ryans’ achilles was slow to recover.
So, with vacancies at each starting cornerback position, and safety Nate Allen questionable to return as a free agent, how in the world do the Eagles think they can take the next step by trading multiple assets for a college quarterback? In 2013 they won the NFC East and hosted a playoff game, but losing in the first round gives everyone a bitter taste and it’s just not good enough. In 2014 they had a disastrous December, like any team without their starting QB would, and fell out of picture and missed the postseason at 10-6. So, let’s see, in 2013 Shady McCoy led the league in rushing and DeSean Jackson racked up over 1,300 receiving yards. In 2014, Shady struggled early on without 4 starting linemen and finished quietly in 3rd, while Jeremy Maclin returned from a knee injury to gain over 1,300 receiving yards himself. As a team Philly ranked 5th overall on offense, 6th in passing and 9th in rushing.
Unless Mariota falls down the draft board because teams believe he has to play in an uptempo offense to succeed, Philly doesn’t have to trade into the top 3 picks for a quarterback. Foles played lights out in 2013, struggled early on in 2014, then was sidelined midway through the season due to a collarbone injury. Philly has the leverage to let Foles play out the final year in his deal, to prove himself by being durable and productive, and go from there to see if he’s the future or not.
Most fans are happy to see that Williams, Fletcher, and possibly Allen, are being shown the door. That leaves last offseason’s free agent pickup, Malcolm Jenkins, as the only starter returning to not only his role, but to the team. Early word has gone around that the Birds would be one of the favorites to land prized free agent cornerback, Byron Maxwell, of the Legion of Boom in Seattle. Maxwell stood out across from arguably the best corner in the game, Richard Sherman, and is expected to leave the northwest region for the northeast. His services are reportedly coveted by the Eagles and the New York Jets, and plenty of other suitors behind closed doors. One of them being his former defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn, the new head coach for the Atlanta Falcons.
After seeing these early move made by Kelly and company, they must truly believe they will land one of the better corners via free agency: Maxwell, Brandon Flowers, Antonio Cromartie, Kareem Jackson, or Chris Culliver. I guess, there is also the 34-year-old Charles Tillman, 34-year-old Rashean Mathis, 34-year-old Ike Taylor, 33-year-old Carlos Rogers, or 31-year-old Tramon Williams. They could take a chance on Perrish Cox of the 49ers, Patrick Robinson of the Saints, or Davon House of the Packers, if they like what they see on film. Any chance that New England cuts ties with Darrelle Revis? Well, the thinking is that they want to keep him around at a lower price. Ron Parker has played corner and safety for the Chiefs, but the sudden retirement of Eric Berry should make him a priority in Kansas City. And then there’s the upcoming NFL draft. I believe it would be a successful offseason if they signed a top free agent corner and paired him up by drafting a top corner in the first round. Only would I buy Philly trading up for Mariota, is if he slides down past the 7-8 range in the draft, but most teams didn’t make the playoffs and most don’t have a franchise quarterback either.