THEY CAN'T possibly do it, can they?
Not after the price they paid a year ago. Not with their current allotment of draft picks. Not with all of the heirs to premium positions they still must locate.
It just isn't feasible.
In virtually all regards, Brandin Cooks is the type of the player the Eagles should be targeting this offseason as they look to build around their second-year quarterback, so it made a great deal of sense when ESPN reported on Thursday that they were one of two teams involved in trade talks with the Saints. Over the last two seasons, the 23-year-old receiver has averaged 81 receptions, 1,156 yards and 14.3 yards per catch, providing Drew Brees and Sean Payton with that rare deep threat who also contributes volume to the passing attack.
In 2015-16, Cooks had 11 catches of 40 yards or more. Combined, Eagles wideouts had 12.
But all of the reasons that make the guy an attractive target - did we mention he is eight months younger than Carson Wentz and has 4.33 speed? - are also the reasons that he'll be tremendously expensive.
At least, one would think.
Past trade markets suggest New Orleans could enter negotiations hoping to land, at minimum, a first-round pick, a third-round pick, and a seventh-round pick. That might sound like a lot, but it is a projection grounded in evidence, because, as it happens, NFL teams have a long history of trading away disgruntled wide receivers, often for big returns.
The most pertinent case is probably that of Percy Harvin, whom the Seahawks acquired from the Vikings in 2013 in exchange for the No. 25 overall pick in that year's draft and a third-round pick in the following year's draft. They also landed a 2013 seventh-rounder.
Keep in mind, Harvin was coming off a season in which he'd missed seven games due to injury. In fact, he's played just 21 games in the four seasons since the deal, only six of them for the Seahawks.
Here's how his numbers through four seasons stacked up against Cooks' through three:
Harvin: 5.2 receptions per game, 61.1 receiving yards per game, 11.8 yards per reception, 102 targets per season, plus an average of 27 carries, 171 yards and one touchdown rushing per season.
Cooks: 5.1 receptions and 68.1 yards per game, 13.3 yards per reception, 105 targets per season, plus an average of seven carries and 40 yards rushing per season.
The big difference between the two players, apart from Harvin's open-field skills, is the direction in which Cooks is trending. Those numbers above include a rookie season in which Cooks caught just 53 passes for 550 yards while missing six games. The last two seasons, he's averaged 5.1 catches and 72.2 yards per game and 14.3 yards per catch while totaling 17 touchdowns.
In 2010, the Dolphins parted with a pair of second-rounders for Brandon Marshall, who in four seasons with the Broncos had averaged 5.4 receptions and 65.9 yards receiving per game and 12.3 yards per reception as well as 136 targets per season. So, no first-rounder, but the second-rounders were both inside the Top 50, No. 43 and No. 46, compared with the No. 25 and No. 96 overall picks the Vikings received for Harvin.
In 2008, the Cowboys gave up a first-rounder (No. 20), a third-rounder (No. 82) and a sixth-rounder to Detroit for Roy Williams. In 2006, the Patriots landed a future first-round pick (No. 24 overall, it turned out) from Seattle for Deion Branch.
Barring a trade that includes a player or players from the Eagles current roster, it's difficult to envision them being able to outbid the Titans.
The Eagles have one pick in each of the first three rounds this year, No. 14/15, No. 43, No. 74, and two in the fourth, Nos. 119 and 139.
In 2018, the Eagles don't have a second-round pick, which they sent to Cleveland in the Carson Wentz deal. They do have two fourth-rounders, and they could end up with an extra third-rounder depending on Eric Rowe's playing time with the Patriots (he must play 50 percent of their snaps this season). If it doesn't commute to a third-rounder, it will mean an additional fourth-rounder.
In other words, this is what the Eagles have at their disposal in the first four rounds over the next two drafts:
No. 14/15 overall in 2017
No. 43 overall in 2017
No. 74 overall in 2017
No. 119 overall in 2017
No. 139 overall in 2017
2018 first round
2018 third round
2018 fourth round
2018 fourth round
2018 fourth round
Meanwhile, this is what the Titans have at their disposal in this year's draft alone:
No. 5 overall
No. 18 overall
No. 83 overall (third round)
No. 100 overall (third round)
No. 125 overall
So while the Eagles figure to have just five Top 100 picks over the next couple of years, the Titans have four this year alone, plus three more in 2018.
The reality is, a team can't afford to invest multiple high draft picks at too many positions, particularly a team that has whiffed on so many in recent history. In addition to their current needs - a pair of starting cornerbacks, a No. 1 wide receiver, and perhaps a defensive tackle to replace Bennie Logan - it seems likely that by the end of the 2018 season the Eagles will need to have drafted and developed a replacement at two premium positions: left tackle and defensive end.
Trading for Cooks could leave the Eagles having spent a whopping five Top 100 picks on a single position over the last four drafts: a first- and a third-rounder for Cooks, a first-rounder for Nelson Agholor, a second- rounder for Jordan Matthews, and a third-rounder for Josh Huff. They shouldn't allow past mistakes to affect future decisions, but that kind of volume is a good example of the eight ball they've put themselves behind in their quest to develop young talent at other positions.
Perhaps some mitigating factor will make Cooks cheaper than history suggests. If the run-up to last year's draft taught us anything, it's to never say never.