Eagles better off not making the big move

SAM BRADFORD still is an Eagle. So are Mychal Kendricks and Fletcher Cox and Brandon Boykin and Dave Spadaro and Howie Roseman and everyone and everything else Chip Kelly reportedly dangled in front of the Tennessee Titans in his dogged but unsuccessful attempt to be reunited with Marcus Mariota. 

When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stepped to the podium in Chicago's Auditorium Theatre last evening at 8:19 EDT and announced that the Titans had somehow managed to just say no to Chip and keep Mariota for themselves, Eagles fans wept. OK, maybe they didn't actually weep. But they were pretty damn upset.

Mariotamania is a powerful thing, especially when Kelly has openly predicted that the kid will win multiple Super Bowls.

Despite the high degree of difficulty of a 20-to-2 trade-up, they were convinced that Chip somehow, someway, would get his man, cost be damned.

Thankfully, he didn't.

Listen, I've got nothing against Mariota. I think he's going to be a terrific NFL quarterback. And maybe Kelly's right. Maybe he will win multiple Super Bowls. 

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But the price for Mariota was excessive. In the end, Kelly realized that. What good is having a young franchise quarterback if your defense is in shambles?

"We had a conversation with both teams in the front," said Kelly, meaning both Tennessee and Tampa Bay, which had the first overall selection. "But it was way too steep for us to do anything. It didn't really get very serious, to be honest with you.

"It was like driving into a nice neighborhood and looking at a house and you say, 'That's really nice.' And they tell you the price and you turn around and drive away. 

"We didn't walk in the front door. We didn't take a look around. Part of our plan is, we're going to build this team [with draft picks]. And we still think there's a lot of value in this draft, and future drafts. We're going to try to hold on to our picks if we can."

Last year, the Eagles traded down in the first round from 21 to 26, and then ended up reaching for a projected third-round edge rusher, Marcus Smith, who played only 74 snaps last season.

Despite a few offers to trade down last night, the Eagles stayed at 20 and selected USC wide receiver Nelson Agholor, a 6-foot, 198-pound wideout with sub-4.4 speed who should help offset the free-agency loss of Jeremy Maclin. 

"That wasn't in our plans," Kelly said of a possible trade-down. "We were going to stay at 20. We feel there were going to be a couple of really good picks there. 

"We had no conversations [with other teams] after looking to see if anything was going to happen at 1 or 2. We were going to hold pat. There was a bunch of guys we liked. There still are some [other] guys right now that we would have taken at 20. There still are some [other] guys right now that we would have taken at 20. But Nelson was the highest [-rated] guy we wanted." 

Kelly insisted that reports he had offered an extensive package of draft picks and veteran players, including Cox and Kendricks, to the Titans in their pursuit of Mariota were incorrect.

"That's false," he said. "As I said earlier, we never got into a conversation about players."

Losing Cox and Kendricks would have been major blows to Bill Davis' defense. They are two of the top young defensive players in the league. There is no truth to the rumor that Davis had to be coaxed off a ledge at the NovaCare Complex.

Quarterback Sam Bradford can breathe easier now that Mariota is headed for Tennessee. Since the day the Eagles acquired him in a trade with the Rams last month, he has had to deal with speculation that he was going to be a trade chip to get Mariota. 

Yet, Bradford seemed comfortable enough with his situation to start house-shopping in the Main Line area a few weeks ago.

The public enthusiasm for Bradford wasn't very high when the Eagles traded for him last month, and their failure to get Mariota won't help that.

He has an 18-30-1 career record as a starter and a 79.3 career passer rating. But he never had the offensive talent around him in St. Louis that he will have here. And he's playing in an offense that is similar to the one he played in at Oklahoma when he won the Heisman Trophy and became the first overall pick in the 2010 draft. 

No, he doesn't have Mariota's mobility. But if he can stay healthy — and yes, that's a big if — he can be a very good quarterback, particularly in Kelly's system.

Asked last night whether he felt the need to talk to Bradford about the speculation that the Eagles were trying to trade him, Kelly said: "Do I feel I have to have a conversation with him? No. I talked to him tonight about taking a wide receiver. He seemed pretty fired up about that."

While Kelly would have loved to have drafted Mariota, he said he's not going to dwell on not getting him.

"We don't sit there and wish and rub pennies together or anything," he said. "You let the draft unfold the way the draft unfolds.

"We obviously know he's a very talented player. I wish him the best of luck. I think Tennessee made a helluva pick.

"It played out the way I thought it would play out. I didn't think it would happen and it didn't."


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