The Eagles own the final pick of the first round in the NFL draft next week and don’t have another selection until the fourth round, so top executive Howie Roseman made clear on Thursday that any team interested in a trade should come calling.
“We’re open for business,” Roseman said. “But at the same time, we’re ready to pick. We have 32 guys we feel very good about it. We can’t operate under the assumption that we’re going to bail out. We’re ready to roll.”
Roseman had joked that the Eagles could plan a golf outing for Day 2 of the draft, although given his willingness to make trades, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Eagles find a way into the second and/or third round. With limited draft capital, it will be easier – and perhaps more prudent – for them to trade down from the first round than up from their five Day 3 selections. The Eagles traded out of the first round in 2007 and 2008.
Joe Douglas, the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel, is responsible for setting the draft board. Last year, the Eagles picked No. 14 and Douglas said the Eagles needed 14 players they felt confident in taking in the first round. This year, Douglas said the Eagles have found 32 they would be happy to draft. Douglas does not rank players by round, but rather by how they project on the roster.
However, it’s unlikely the Eagles have 32 players they’d consider worthy of a first-round selection. Douglas learned from Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome the value of being patient and letting the board fall to him. But for the Eagles, the question might be whether there’s a noticeable difference between the caliber of player they can draft at No. 32 compared with the second round if they traded back. The difference in the caliber of players is sometimes more pronounced from the middle of the first round to the bottom of the first round than it is from the bottom of the first to the middle of the second round.
“Obviously, there’s been more successful [picks] in the top half of the first round,” Douglas said. “But I think if you go back and look at last year … you’ll find a lot of hits late first, early second.”
The trade talks will pick up next week. By draft night, Roseman expects to have a sense of what teams are interested in moving up to the Eagles’ pick in case a targeted player falls. First-round picks have a fifth-year option on their contracts compared with four-year contracts for players drafted in the next six rounds. That option year is especially valuable for a quarterback, so an interested team might want to jump into the end of the first round for that reason. The discussions must take place during the next week, Roseman said, because it’s too chaotic to answer every call and negotiate the particulars of a trade when a team is on the clock .
“I’m sure you’ll see a lot of reports coming out – this team is talking to this team – but our job is to figure out, ‘Hey if we’re at 32 and we want to move up and we want to move back, who are the teams that are anxious to do it?’ ” Roseman said. “I think people understand if they want something in this league, they’re going to get it. The flip side, if they feel like they have a need to get more picks or they have a surplus, to make those calls in advance helps.”
The Eagles traded their second-round pick in the 2016 deal for quarterback Carson Wentz and their third-round pick in a 2017 package for cornerback Ronald Darby. When the Eagles made those deals, Roseman said they acknowledged it would be tough to sit out a round – or a whole night of the draft. They reconciled that feeling by realizing it’s better to be frustrated on a Friday in April than a Sunday in October.
Don’t feel bad for Douglas and his scouting staff, though. The Eagles have two fourth-round picks and one pick in the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds. Douglas just needed to put on film from the Super Bowl to realize the opportunity.
“Eighteen starters in the Super Bowl this year were fourth-round picks or lower, including six of them that were undrafted free agents,” Douglas said. “So we choose to keep the glass half full on that one.”
Halapoulivaatai Vaitai, Jason Kelce, LeGarrette Blount, Nigel Bradham, Jalen Mills, Rodney McLeod, and Corey Graham were all Super Bowl starters for the Eagles who were picked after the draft’s third round. And who can forget that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick?
The Eagles could acquire more picks in those rounds, too. They’re always active traders. Don’t expect that to stop next week. As Roseman said, the Eagles are open for business.
Roseman said releasing cornerback Daryl Worley after Worley’s Sunday arrest was “the right decision for the Philadelphia Eagles” after they gathered the information. The Eagles acquired the Penn Charter graduate last month, but Roseman did not believe there was a lack of due diligence. “We did a lot of legwork on it,” Roseman said. “It’s hard to predict incidents like this. But we did do a lot of background on him and we had background from 2016. We just felt like, going forward, this was in the best interest of our football team.”