In an alternate universe, Sunday’s match up between the 2-1 Eagles and 2-1 Titans features the same quarterback battle between Carson Wentz and Marcus Mariota. Only if a few moves back in 2015 and 2016 took a different route, the two would be under center for the opposing team.
There is a scenario where Sunday features Marcus Mariota’s Eagles and Carson Wentz’s Titans.
What actually happened
Three years after the Chip Kelly era ended in Philadelphia, Eagles fans know the tale. Back in 2015 when Kelly won the power struggle with Howie Roseman, he began to reshape the roster by trading LeSean McCoy, letting Jeremy Maclin walk, trading Nick Foles for Sam Bradford. He replaced McCoy with Demarco Murray and Ryan Mathews while spending big on free agent corner Byron Maxwell.
To finish the roster overhaul, many expected the former Oregon Head Coach to move up in the draft for the QB he groomed into a Heisman winner with the Ducks. It seemed like the Eagles were set to do what it took to get Mariota in midnight green.
The targeted draft spot was the second overall pick owned by the Tennessee Titans. Kelly to this day says the trade talks didn’t even get to an offer as the Titans were clear they were comfortable making the pick and selecting a quarterback.
However, the rumors that Kelly offered any signal caller and defensive player on the Eagles roster, plus a bunch of picks doesn’t seem that far fetched considering Kelly thought Mariota had the potential to win “multiple Super Bowls.”
Either way the Titans identified Mariota as their quarterback of the future and selected him second overall. The Eagles stuck with Sam Bradford, regressed on offense, and Kelly was fired after the Eagles were eliminated from the 2015 playoffs in a week 16 loss to Washington.
The following year, the Eagles accomplished what Kelly couldn’t and got to pick two after a trade with Miami going from pick thirteen to eight, and then a trade with Cleveland going from pick eight to two.
The Titans meanwhile sat at first overall but had already invested in Mariota the year prior, so they collected draft picks by moving down in a trade with the Rams for Jared Goff.
What if the Titans were willing to deal in 2015 with the Eagles? They liked Zach Mettenberger or Sam Bradford enough to pass on Mariota and give him to his former college coach.
In an alternate universe
In this hypothetical, the Eagles select Mariota with the second overall pick. They have enough success in 2015 to keep Kelly as the head coach and head of personnel, taking them out of the quarterback market.
The Titans meanwhile have another down year as Bradford continues his underwhelming career and have the first overall pick.
Without Mariota, the Titans are not interested in moving down with the Rams and select a big, strong armed, mobile quarterback in Carson Wentz as they see the success Mariota had with his legs in Philly.
Clearly they were interested in that style of quarterback in the real world taking Mariota.
Just those two moves could have changed the fabric of the NFL universe.
It could have us watching Mariota and the Eagles against Wentz and the Titans.
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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