For the second time in a week, a top NFL draft pick has been traded. And now there’s real potential that for a second year in a row, the No. 1 and 2 picks in the NFL draft will be quarterbacks.
For the Browns’ second pick in the 2016 draft, the Eagles traded away the No. 8 pick (they already traded up from No. 13 with Miami), their third- and fourth-round picks in 2016, their first-round pick in 2017 and a second-round pick in 2018. The Eagles also get the Browns’ fourth-round pick in 2017.
The rumored conclusion is that the Eagles are trading up for the rights to draft either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff, whichever quarterback isn’t taken by the Rams with the No. 1 pick. The thought process makes some sense—Sam Bradford performed reasonably well for Philly last season, but he’s been injury-prone for a long time, and that doesn’t generally turn around as one ages. Eagles’ current backup Chase Daniel worked with new coach Doug Pederson in Kansas City when Pederson was the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, and while Pederson has liberally praised Daniel, it’s a stretch to think of Daniel as anything but a career reserve.
Sure, the Eagles signed Bradford to a two-year, $36 million deal with $26 million guaranteed on March 1, but that doesn’t indicate a long-term commitment. It could be that Pederson and general manager Howie Roseman have been angling for their future quarterback all along and would love to have Bradford—the first overall pick of the Rams in 2010—around to show the new QB the ropes. Many believe that Wentz or Goff would require a year of development before starting, so nothing the Eagles have done with Bradford should make anyone think otherwise. It’s also important to note that Philadelphia was in talks with the Titans for the No. 1 pick before the Rams pulled the trigger—more reasons to think that a quarterback was the goal.
“It’s a talented group,” Pederson said at the combine about this class of quarterbacks. “It’s just a matter of figuring out how they can command a huddle, how can they come into Philadelphia and convince [veteran left tackle] Jason Peters of what they’re selling. I want to be able to see that. I want to be able to looking in their eyes and say that’s the guy I can hang my hat on.”
Pederson has some experience with the “bridge quarterback” concept—he was Donovan McNabb’s backup for the Eagles in 1999 as McNabb developed, and he backed up Tim Couch in 2000 for the Browns.
However, it’s not a guarantee that the Eagles will draft a quarterback; Philadelphia might look to draft Jason Peters’s eventual replacement on their quarterback’s blind side. The plan is for current right tackle Lane Johnson to move left whenever Peters proves unable to maintain his skill set, but Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss is a plug-and-play blocker who is far more adept than Johnson at that spot. There’s also the potential for a defensive player to help new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz as the team moves from a 3–4 hybrid to a base 4–3. Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey would be an intriguing possibility—he can play safety, slot corner and boundary corner, and the Eagles need players at all three of those positions.
As for the Browns, this trade fits nicely with their need to build from the bottom up after losing a ton of talent in free agency. New EVP Sashi Brown had reportedly been calling teams trying to trade out of the second pick, and the Eagles were just one of the teams interested. Cleveland may have less of a need at quarterback if recent signee Robert Griffin III can return to form or veteran Josh McCown can return from injuries. The Browns may have been more likely to stay at the second overall spot if they were just a quarterback away from the postseason, but that’s certainly not the case. Now, Brown, coach Hue Jackson and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta can parlay those extra picks into valuable depth if they play their cards correctly.
“I don’t want to make this always about Robert,” Jackson said of Griffin this week during the team’s minicamps. “He is a very talented player, and he’ll continue to get better each and every day. But ... I don’t think that’s going to determine what we decide to do in this draft. This draft is going to kind of take care of itself. Like I said, what I’m excited about is when the draft day comes that we’ll have an opportunity to add some really good players to our team and continue to get better.”
The draft has certainly taken care of itself for two more teams. With eight days left until the first name is called, the Chargers are on the clock with the third pick, and we’ll see if anyone else wants a higher perch before it all begins.