Philadelphia Eagles: To Trade or Not to Trade


Rumor, discussion, and hypothetical analysis of the Philadelphia Eagles trading for Marcus Mariota (or the right to a higher draft pick with which to take him) has been going on, pretty steadily, since… it feels like… the late 90’s.

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It has become so much a part of this Eagles offseason that many fans have found a way to convince themselves that nearly every event is a sign that the team will land the Oregon quarterback.

Trading Foles? Mariota.

Signing DeMarco Murray? Mariota.

John Stewart’s leaving The Daily Show? Mariota!

There’s validity, of course. Chip Kelly is Mariota’s former coach. He’s spoken glowingly of Mariota:

“He’s a special player, and he’s just got a gift for playing football. He’s everything you want. He can throw the ball, he can run. He’s the most talented kid I coached in college.”

And, having seen Chip Kelly’s offense function (at a high level) in the NFL for two seasons, it’s quite easy to imagine how Mariota’s skill-set would apply.

It’s not just that: The Eagles are in that rare-if-unenviable position of being a good football team without a franchise quarterback. Teams in that situation know that finding an elite passer is the toughest task in sports and that it becomes even tougher when you don’t have top draft picks.

Do you look for a trade? Like the one the Eagles made for Sam Bradford?

Well. Sure. But those trades are far from sure-things. No one trades a franchise quarterback if they believe that’s what they’ve got.

There’s a chance that Chip Kelly looks at Bradford and sees visions of Lombardi trophies dancing in his head.

But, ask most Eagles fans this offseason and they’ll tell you that there’s also a chance that he looks at Bradford and sees a juicy worm that might help him land his big catch.

Do you simply draft developmental quarterbacks in later rounds and hope that they thrive at the next level and in your system?

Dec 28, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly before the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

After all: Tom Brady wasn’t a top pick. Neither was Russell Wilson.

Eagles /


True enough. But for every Tom Brady, there are fifty Matt Barkleys. And NFL coaches don’t have that many swings before they strike out of a job.

So. Then. If the right guy is available. Before he’s been picked and become somebody’s franchise quarterback. If you know him. And like him. And trust him. And he fits your system better than he would anyone else’s. Don’t you go get him?

For what?

Is the logical question.

Smart GMs are fond of saying something like, ‘Everyone’s available for the right price.’

And by that same token… everyone must be worth trading for… if the price is right.

There are still some folks out there, like me, who believe that Mariota would fall much further in the draft if teams let things play out organically.

I still believe that many teams have serious questions about his ability to take on a more traditional role in an NFL offense and I stand firm that those concerns would prevent any team in the top-10 from taking Mariota.

Any team before Cleveland at 12, really. And, given their experience with Johnny Manziel (I’m speaking strictly about his dismal performance on the field) even they might prefer to stay away from another ‘hybrid’ model at quarterback.

I think, in fact, the Eagles’ perceived interest in Mariota is driving up his value among fans and members of the media more than any other single factor.

But I’m not convinced that Mariota is a slam-dunk kind of a pick for anyone other than the Eagles (because of tremendous scheme fit and an already high-functioning offense with a terrific running game and a stellar offensive line).

Unfortunately for the Eagles, at the bargaining table, they hold no leverage. The Tennessee Titans pick second and they are free to put anything they’d like out into the world. They don’t need to want Mariota. They just need to convince a team, like the Eagles, that they do. Or that they’re getting calls from others who do.

For the sake of argument (and simplicity) let’s say that the Eagles believe they need to get all the way up to #2 to pick Mariota next week.

Should they do it?


Is my assertion.

At what cost?

A high one.

Look, it’s going to be expensive to get from #20 up to #2. That’s a fact. These silly three-team trade ideas simply aren’t realistic: The Eagles will have to give up a lot more than any fan will want them to give up.

If Bradford is an attractive piece to either the Titans at #2 or to someone else in a more complex version of a potential trade: Wonderful!

Obviously, Bradford would become expendable with the addition of Mariota and with Sanchez still under contract… so to jettison his large contract and use his value to help supplement a package of other players/picks would be a terrific advantage for the Eagles.

And then there are other players. Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice did a terrific job analyzing the top candidates, here.

The name most likely to shock and horrify the Philadelphian masses is Fletcher Cox: A 24 year-old


star at defensive end. He’s perhaps the Eagles’ most valuable asset and appears primed for about a decade of near-dominant football.

Nov 10, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox (91) sacks Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

And I want the Eagles to trade him?

If that’s what it takes? Sure.

Here’s the thing: franchise quarterbacks win championships. Look: I wrote all about it last week.

J.J. Watt is a beast. Better than Fletcher Cox (although not by as much as you might think.) And how’s his team been doing without a franchise quarterback?

Gerald McCoy? A monster. His team? Picking #1 in the draft. Why? Because they’re terrible. Why? Because they don’t have a quarterback.

For as wonderful a player as Darrelle Revis has been for the past seven years or so… it took coming to where Tom Brady was for him to finally help a team win a Super Bowl. In other words? It was a little more Brady than Revis that won that title.

The examples go on: Remember that time the Lions let star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh walk via free agency? Yeah… they’re not doing that with Matthew Stafford.

Finding the right quarterback is hard. It’s like catching lightning in a bottle (okay, maybe a little less hard than that. Because I’m reasonably sure that’s impossible.)

If there’s any sort of trust in Chip Kelly among Eagles fans… this would be the time to put it to purpose. Kelly knows offense. Kelly knows Mariota. And, at this point, it’s fair to say that Kelly knows the NFL at least reasonably well.

If this is the moment where Chip Kelly sees the quarterback (Marcus Mariota) that will be the Tom Brady to his Bill Belichick or the Joe Montana to his Bill Walsh… he must strike.

And if he’s wrong? If the Eagles sell the farm and Mariota isn’t all that Kelly hopes he’ll be? If the loss of Fletcher Cox (or whomever it takes) leaves the current Eagles team in shambles? Well, then Kelly will be gone. And the Eagles will be bad. And they, and their new coach will be picking right up near the top of the draft.

But guess what? They’ll still be looking for a franchise quarterback.

So if it goes down on Thursday night… and if the package the Eagles give up seems uncomfortably large… criticize all you want.

But remember this: It’s not mortgaging the future if it helps you realize the future you want. And it’s impossible to know that… until, well, the future. So. Calm down.

Next: This Draft is Big for the Eagles

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