The idea of conventional buyers and sellers at the trade deadline in the NFL has always been overblown. Unlike the NBA or MLB, it’s very rare that we see a blockbuster trade during the season in the NFL. Howie Roseman and the Eagles have routinely made trades during the season for the past few years, but none of them had any long-term impact.
Jay Ajayi was a nice piece during the Super Bowl run, but injuries derailed the rest of his career. Golden Tate was only in Philly for half a season, and Genard Avery has made a marginal impact in Jim Schwartz’s passing rotation. At 1-4-1, the Eagles aren’t necessarily in a position to give up high draft picks for an impact player, even if they’re still favorites to win the NFC East. They have a number of issues that can’t be fully resolved until the offseason, but that’s not to say they can’t start that process mid-season. Not every issue has to be fixed by trading a high draft pick, sometimes a third, fourth or fifth rounder can get it done.
Two of the biggest problems facing the Birds right now are their linebackers and offensive line.
The offensive line will get some people back from injury shortly, but Brandon Brooks probably isn’t suiting up this year, and let’s not act like Isaac Seumalo coming back is going to fix their pass protection issues. We all knew the linebacker group was going to struggle this season, but even with those low expectations, they’ve still played worse than most fans imagined. In particular Nate Gerry.
If Howie can make any move to improve one of those position groups, he should absolutely do it. There are plenty of players on struggling teams that could be had, and most of them won’t cost a whole lot.
Here are two trade scenarios the Eagles could potentially pull off.
Eagles trade 2021 3rd OR 4th round pick to Texans for LB Zach Cunningham
While the Texans have looked better since the firing of head coach Bill O’Brien, they’re still not in a position to make a playoff push in the AFC South. Houston’s ownership hasn’t straight up said they’re going to try and unload some of their contracts during the season, but all signs are pointing towards a rebuild for the Texans.
Cunningham just signed a four-year extension with the Texans, so the team clearly had him in their future plans. But with the head coach gone and a rebuild on the horizon, Cunningham could be dealt for some draft capital. He also hasn’t played very well this season. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s posted a 36.7 overall grade so far this year. A stark contrast from what the 25-year-old linebacker usually puts out, as he’s posted a 73.0 run defending grade or higher in his past three seasons.
Last season, Cunningham racked up 142 total tackles, 7 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries.
Cunningham’s contract isn’t overly high either. With a cap hit of just $5.8 million this year and a $11.4 million cap hit next season, the Eagles should be able to handle it after they unload some contracts of their own this offseason.
It won’t take much to upgrade this dreadful linebacking group, so if Cunningham can be had for a 3rd or 4th round pick in this upcoming NFL Draft, Howie should pull the trigger.
Eagles trade Alshon Jeffery OR Zach Ertz to Patriots for C/G Joe Thuney
A player-for-player swap is pretty rare in the NFL, let alone during the season, but this trade could make sense for both sides.
As we already know, the Eagles offensive line is in shambles. Right now, they’re down to two third stringers, two backups and Jason Kelce. Lane Johnson should return soon and shore up the right tackle spot, but the Birds still have a glaring hole at guard. Jamon Brown made his Eagles debut on Sunday against the Ravens, and boy was it terrible! Brown was attributed with two sacks allowed, four QB hits and three hurries. It was the worst performance from an Eagles offensive lineman this season, and that’s saying something.
Even when Seumalo comes back, he’ll slot right back into his spot at left guard, leaving the revolving door at right guard to continue. That would change instantly if the Eagles were able to bring in a guy like Joe Thuney.
He’s a versatile offensive lineman who can play either guard or center. He’s playing center right now because starting center David Andrews is out with injury, but he’s slated to be back in the lineup any week now. With Thuey at center, the Patriots have had to play rookie guard Michael Onwenu at right guard and he’s been an absolute stud so far. He’s the highest graded player per PFF on New England’s offense right now.
With Thuney playing on the franchise tag, moving him back to guard and taking Onwenu off the field just wouldn’t make much sense for New England. Thuney has been dangled before reportedly, so if the right offer is there, I’m sure Bill Belichick would consider it.
The Patriots are in desperate need of offensive weapons. They haven’t come close to replacing Rob Gronkowski at tight end and they could use some help on the outside with Julian Edelman struggling. Both Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery are expendable for the Eagles, and they’d both fill needs for the Pats. Ertz being hurt for the next few weeks throws a wrench in things, but he should be healthy by the time the trade deadline rolls around. Jeffery hasn’t played this year, but he’s on the brink of suiting up, and I think he’s still got a couple of productive seasons left in the tank.
The Eagles also already have the players to replace both Ertz and Jeffery. Dallas Goedert is primed to become the starting tight end for this offense, and the emergence of Travis Fulgham has really improved the Eagles wide receiving corps. Not to mention the return of rookie first round pick Jalen Reagor in the coming weeks.
Howie would also love to get rid of the $18 million Alshon is set to make or not have to worry about the Ertz extension anymore.
This deal would improve both squads, so it’s something to keep an eye on as we approach the deadline.