Speculation about whether the Eagles will trade the No. 4 pick of the NFL draft is fueled by looking at last year's draft, during which six of the first seven draft picks were dealt.
An impetus for the increase in activity was the new rookie salary structure that makes top 10 picks more financially appealing to teams than during the previous collective bargaining agreement. Yet the 2012 draft also featured elite talent at the top of the draft, so it was a seller's market.
This season's draft, which will begin April 25, is not considered as top-heavy. That makes it not the best year for the Eagles to hold the No. 4 pick, especially if they want to trade that pick to accumulate more picks.
There's considerable depth late in the first round and through the second round. So, in theory, if the separation between No. 4 and No. 24 is not significant, it's hard to think a team would be inclined to move into the top 10.
However, teams have not yet finalized their draft boards, and almost two weeks remain for a team to fall in love with a player. That's common this time of year.
"It really won't pick up until a week before the draft," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said in March, when asked about the market for the Eagles' pick. "We talked a bunch about trading for Fletcher Cox and moving up there, and that wasn't really finalized until the night before the draft. And a lot of times you're not doing it until the day of the draft."
Roseman also disagreed that the draft lacks the type of player a team would want to trade up to acquire. He pointed out that the comparison must be made against the talent in this draft and not in past drafts.
In other words, if a team wants a cornerback, it must assess how Alabama's Dee Milliner compares to a cornerback prospect later in the first round and not how Milliner compares to Morris Claiborne, last year's top cornerback, whom the Cowboys moved up eight picks to acquire.
Or if a team believes there is a significant drop-off between the top three offensive tackles and the next best tackle on its draft board, it might be apt to move into range to pick one of the three.
"We think there are really good players, guys who have Pro Bowl potential, and it's how teams rate them," Roseman said. "It's the same as any draft. There's always players people want to go get. There's always players teams are excited to get."
If the Eagles move back in the draft, two trades in recent seasons would serve as precedent: The Falcons acquired wide receiver Julio Jones in 2011, and the Cowboys moved to get Claiborne last season.
The Falcons moved up to the No. 6 pick and gave up their first-round pick (No. 27), their second (the No. 59 pick), their fourth-round pick (No. 124), and first-round and fourth-round picks in 2012. That was a huge cost to pay, but Jones turned into a premiere player. The Cowboys traded the No. 14 pick and the No. 45 pick for the No. 5 pick to select Claiborne.
One person involved in both deals was Les Snead, the Rams general manager who traded throughout last year's draft and was part of the Falcons' front office in 2011. Snead is armed with two first-round picks this season, No. 16 and No. 22.
"When speaking of drafts, I don't know that you're ever going to be able to figure out a pattern with us," Snead said. "I think it's going to be, what we need is the best available player, and we are going to try to get the player we want whether it's trading back and acquiring more players or if it's going up."
Another team in good position to move up is the Dolphins, who have 11 picks, including Nos. 12, 42, and 54. Miami general manager Jeff Ireland told reporters Thursday that he has the "ammunition to kind of go up if you wanted to." Miami might be in the market for an offensive tackle, and at least one, maybe two, of the top offensive tackles should be available with the Eagles' pick at No. 4.
Other players who could be attractive to teams trying to move up are quarterback Geno Smith, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, and Milliner. Each is expected to be the highest-drafted player at his position.
Eagles fans should hope some team covets a player in the top five. Then again, the Eagles might also fall in love with a player and not be inclined to trade. As Roseman said, the trade discussions become more serious in the week leading up to the draft. The clock for the first pick begins in less than two weeks.