The NFL is an unforgiving league. Time after time, top stars are lost due to injury. Last season alone names such as Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, and 49 others lost their season due to an ACL tear. 2018 has been no different than seasons past. This past weekend the San Francisco 49ers’ lost their franchise quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, to a non-contact ACL tear. Many NFL experts pegged the 49ers as a team that could make a push at not just the playoffs, but a run at Super Bowl 53. Losing your franchise quarterback is not promising for a team many had expected to turn around in 2018.
Week 4 of the NFL season is a tough time to be searching for a quarterback who could potentially get a team into the playoffs. Two of the most notable names being Teddy Bridgewater and A.J. McCarron had already been traded. Teddy Bridgewater was previously traded to the Saints and A.J. McCarron was sent from Buffalo to Oakland. Now where might a quarterback-needy team find a suitable QB in week 4? *Enters from stage right* The Philadelphia Eagles.
The Butterfly Effect or Chaos Theory as it is more commonly is “the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.” In short, the slightest effect of a butterfly flapping its wings can have prolonged changes on the ecosystem around it. To give an example, we will look at the 2016 Philadelphia Eagles. As a start, Chip Kelly was fired in the offseason, where Doug Pederson took over as coach. Doug, Howie, and co. realized they wanted Carson and used assets to trade from 13 to 8 to number 2. The organization had all intents and purposes of keeping Carson Wentz on the bench for the 2016 season. Sam Bradford was named the starter going into the year.
Then came the flap of the butterfly’s wings.
As we all know, unfortunately, Teddy Bridgewater went down with a non-contact injury in Vikings camp just under two weeks before the season. With Bridgewater down, the Vikings looked outside the organization for help. Expecting a deep playoff run, the Vikings anted up a 1st and a 4th round pick for Sam Bradford. Wentz would go on to become the starter in Philadelphia gaining much-needed experience. The Eagles would use their 1st round pick to select Derek Barnett, who would go on to getting the game-sealing fumble recovery in Super Bowl 52.
Now if Teddy Bridgewater never went down to injury, what happens? Does Bradford remain the starter? Does Wentz come off the bench during the season? Does Chase Daniel leave Philly knowing he may have a chance to win the starting role in 2017? And the list goes on and on. One slight shift in the universe and everything can change.
Fast forward to 2018. As I had previously premised, Jimmy G went down to an ACL tear in Week 3. Who is a team that has an available quarterback who has replaced an injured QB and had success? The Philadelphia Eagles. With Wentz returning from his rehab of his ACL, he has reclaimed his role as the starter from Nick Foles. It was much discussed in the 2018 offseason if Foles should be traded or not. Many, including myself, thought a trade was in the best interest of the Eagles. Foles would stick with the team and start the first two games for the Birds. But many are left wondering “should the Eagles have traded Foles for a 2nd round pick?” Well, they may once again have that chance.
Part two of this butterfly effect is someone who I have yet to mention. Le’Veon Bell.
I preface these following statements that this is all off of pure speculation. This all stemmed from a tweet I saw on 9/24.
Bell is owed $11.8 million on the franchise tag. Per Shefty, it will likely cost a 3rd rounder to acquire Bell & whoever acquires him cannot re-sign him until the end of the year. (So he could walk).
FYI: the Eagles need to clear $6.5m in cap space per OverTheCap to fit Bell
— Patrick (@pmc1423) September 24, 2018
This made my wheels turn. As we all know Le’Veon has been holding out since the end of the 2017 season. One of the best backs in the game has made it known that he wants to be paid, and Pittsburgh has yet to do so. Though a deal cannot come until the end of the year, a team may look to Le’Veon as a rental all for the cheap price of a 3rd round pick. Now I am a big believer in the quote “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” I can recall a tweet from a few months back that seemed foolish at the time but may be more relevant now than ever.
— Mayes and Myrtetus Middays (@975Middays) April 30, 2018
Take this as you will. Geoff Mosher is pretty well connected within the NFL community and this may hold some weight. But for now, we speculate.
Back to the butterfly effect.
The Eagles are currently in quite the pickle in regards to the cap. With just over $5 million with plenty of free agents upcoming, the Eagles are in no position to be handing out large extensions. So how would the Eagles be able to pay Le’Veon? By trading Nick Foles.
With C.J. Beatherd as the next QB up for the 49ers, Shannahan cannot be happy with the current state of his quarterback room. John Lynch has not been shy in regards to trades. He shelled out a 2nd round pick to get his franchise QB from the Patriots in 2017. This move would not be out of the realm of possibility between trader Howie and John Lynch. SF currently has their 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th round picks. For a QB with a cap hit of $13.6 million (before pro-rata) and $20.6 in 2019, a 4th round pick should be able to get the job done. For a 49ers team with $40+ million in cap room, Foles would easily fit into their payroll.
If the Eagles received a 4th for Nick Foles they not only pick up a draft asset but also over $10+ million in cap space. With the additional cap the Eagles would have near $15 million, well over the $11.8 owed to Le’Veon Bell. Philadelphia is projected to have 11 draft picks once they receive comp picks, and a ‘9ers 4th would bring them to 12. In 2017, Howie gave the Miami Dolphins a 4th round pick to acquire back, Jay Ajayi. A 3rd round pick, when you have 12 picks is not the steepest price especially for a GM who has done similar in the past.
Philadelphia is in no shape to make a long-term deal, especially for a running back. Though, a rental, especially for someone as productive as Le’Veon Bell, may be worth the price. The Rams gave out short-term contracts to playmakers this offseason to go all-in for the Super Bowl in 2018. The Eagles may need to up their arsenal if they want a greater chance to repeat. Now, this deal has about a 5 percent chance of happening in my opinion. But, never say never with Howie Roseman.
If Teddy Bridgewater never tears his ACL does Wentz become the player he is today? If Howie hired Ben McAdoo, would he have agreed to trade up for Carson? If Foles retired would the Eagles have won the Super Bowl? That is the magic of the butterfly effect.
It is most likely fan fiction that the Eagles trade for Le’Veon after sending Nick Foles to the 49ers. But without Jimmy G tearing his ACL and Le’Veon holding out, this discussion never takes place. In a league that has seen some of its largest stars traded as of recent, it may not be long before a few more are on the move. Once again, the Philadelphia Eagles may become the next flap of the butterfly’s wings.
Bell over Brown is an obvious choice for the Eagles
It’s almost fishing season in the NFL as all 32 teams look to catch some nice pieces for their roster through free agency, the draft, and the trade market. While the biggest fish don’t always tend to swim in those waters, every year a few big names suddenly become available for a team looking to spend.
This year, it just so happens two of the best at their position are up for grabs, and they both are coming from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Star offensive weapons in RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown will both be in different jerseys next year for the first time in their careers. Bell is set to become a free agent, while Pittsburgh and Brown agreed a trade is in the best interest for both sides.
On paper, the Eagles could make sense for both. Adding weapons around Carson Wentz will always be a priority. However if Howie Roseman and the front office decide they want to go after one of these expensive play-makers, Bell makes much more sense for a number of reasons.
Bell doesn’t come with the baggage Brown does
Don’t let this fool you. Talent beats culture. It is why the Steelers were consistently atop the AFC despite a chaotic locker room. Coaches like Chip Kelly flamed out because they prioritized scheme and a robotic culture.
Despite that, Brown’s antics off the field are a real concern. He quit on his team with the season on the line. Pittsburgh needed a win and a Baltimore loss to make the postseason in Week 17 but Brown was MIA.
The temper tantrums on the sidelines, ghosting your team with the season on the line, that kind of behavior despite six straight seasons of 100+ receptions is eye opening.
Bell doesn’t have that stench to him. While Steelers fans will tell you Bell was selfish and uncommitted to football, it is unfair to say he has character concerns because he didn’t want to risk his long term health in a contract year. He wanted to be paid like the star he is and Pittsburgh wanted to pay the position not the player. Can’t blame either side.
Brown would require trade assets AND a big contract
Some people love to scoff at the idea of paying any significant resource for a star RB like Bell. While it wouldn’t be smart to kill the salary cap for the do-it-all weapon, it is far more reasonable to pay Bell rather than pay Brown big money and give up the trade assets it would take to get him from Pittsburgh.
What sounds better to you? $14+ million a year for Bell or $14+ million a year for Brown and perhaps a 2nd round pick + Nelson Agholor?
Bell, Agholor, and the rookie taken with that 2nd round pick sounds a lot better than just Brown.
The report Bell wants $50 million in the first two years is scary. He turned down a 5 year $70 million deal with the Steelers but perhaps when the market develops Bell will have to temper his expectations.
Bell’s age and position is more attractive to the Eagles
Two other major elements in deciding between Bell and Brown would be age and position.
By the start of next season, Brown will be 31. Bell will be be 27. Bell has four years on Brown.
If Bell could maintain his productivity into his early 30’s, the Eagles could be set at RB for 5-6 years.
Being a running back also makes him a more attractive option. Doug Pederson’s offense is in desperate need of a talented RB.
Having a weapon like Bell in the backfield that can be your top runner, a top receiver, and efficient pass blocker puts this Eagles offense on a level only the Saints and Rams can match in the NFC.
It also makes the offense less predictable. Using a committee with featured grinders like Ryan Mathews, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajay, and Josh Adams to go along with the clear pass catchers in Darren Sproles and Corey Clement can be a good way to keep your backs fresh, but it is clear what the offense plans to do on 3rd and 4 when Sproles is out there.
It is easier to predict what Pederson will do on 3rd and 2 when Blount was out there. Someone like Bell keeps the defense guessing in any situation.
While the Eagles could use more speed on offense, Brown would be a luxury. A luxury that could cost high draft picks, players, a high cap hit, and potential baggage.
Is that worth it for a team that already has at least four quality receiving options? Can’t imagine Brown would be happy not seeing 13+ targets a game.
History tells us the Eagles won’t go after either Bell or Brown. However with an aggressive front office that has shown a commitment in surrounding their franchise QB with weapons, it wouldn’t be suprising to see one of these two in midnight green. Especially with Roseman’s ability to perform magic on the salary cap.
If they decide to pursue one, it should be Le’Veon Bell.
Offseason Options: Wide Receiver
The Eagles have plenty of weapons for Carson Wentz to throw to in 2019. The WR position, however, could use more speed to compliment the bigger weapons in Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Dallas Goedert.
If Golden Tate, Mike Wallace, and/or Jordan Matthews leave the Eagles this offseason, what options does Howie Roseman have in free agency and the draft when it comes to pass catchers?
Louie and Gino give some big name options in the draft and free agency, as well as some receivers that could fly under the radar in both offseason periods.
Offseason Options: Running Back
It is time for the Eagles to add some serious talent in the backfield. What are their options if they want to add a big name free agent? What about a high draft pick?
If Howie Roseman sticks to his strategy of lower-priced free agents or draft picks, who could be a diamond in the rough?
Our “Offseason options’ series begins with RB on the Locked on Eagles podcast!
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