Arm-chair GM and Philly native always searching for the next Weapon-X

 

What Does Alex Smith’s trade mean for Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles?

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The Chiefs’ imminent trade for Alex Smith both helps and hurts the Eagles’ positioning with respect to trading Foles. While the Chiefs were the biggest target to acquire Foles because of their need at the position and Reid’s familiarity with Reid, the market for Foles may not be as depressed as we believe.

However, in light of the trade for Smith, it becomes more plausible that the Eagles really do not want to part with the young quarterback, despite his perceived lack of fit in Kelly’s offense. According to Tim McManus of Birds 24/7, Coach Reid said as much at the combine, flatly stating, “he’s not available.”

While Kelly appears to want to retain Foles, directly stating that he wants to coach the Arizona product, its always fun in the dead of offseason to think of possible personel permutations. With that in mind, here’s how the Smith trade could impact the market for Foles, if he were to be made available:

 

While one team is out of the hunt, so too is the top available quarterback out of play. To teams like the Cardinals, who are desperate for decent QB play, Foles could represent a more appealing option than spending their 1st round draft pick (#7 overall) on a QB with question marks such as Geno Smith or Matt Barkley. Given Foles’ low salary (his cap figure is well below $1 Million for each of the next three years), and his flashes of talent last year, the Eagles will be (as they’ve expressed publicly) reluctant to trade Foles for anything other than an outstanding offer (seeing as they’d have to turn-around and acquire a new back-up from this years’ crop anyway, this approach makes a lot of sense). If the Cardinals were to offer their second for Foles I think the Eagles would have to, at the very least, give it a long thought.

 

A more plausible trade scenario may be a swap of 1sts (ensuring the Cardinals will have one of the top 3 tackles available when they pick, a position they’re desperate for help at), in addition to the Cardinals giving up their 2nd and 3rd rounders’ for Foles. While I think this too is an unlikely trade, the first major domino has fallen in the QB market and it will be extremely interesting to see how much movement will occur prior to the draft.


While my first reaction when hearing the news of the Alex Smith signing was, “damnit, why couldn’t we have gotten that package for Foles”, and I still would’ve liked to have that 2nd pick on day 2, I’ve become comfortable with the Eagles sitting on Foles this year, especially given his low cap hit and his ability to back-up the oft-injured Mike Vick (or whoever else ends up getting the starting job.) I don’t see his value dropping tremendously between now and next offseason if we do elect to trade him then. His contract alone makes him a valuable commodity so long as he proves he can continue to develop in the NFL.

Does the Alex Smith Trade Indicate Andy Reid is Stuck in His Ways?

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The NFL world is abuzz with the news that Andy Reid’s new team, the Kansas City Chiefs, have traded for Alex Smith. While the details of the deal have yet to be publicly confirmed, reports are indicating the price the chiefs paid was a high one. According to ESPN, the chiefs will relinquish their 2nd round pick (34th overall) this year and a conditional high pick in 2014. In exchange for a player that was disgruntled, owed over $7 million this upcoming year, and would likely have been released had he not been traded, the 49ers get the Chiefs second round pick, which is essentially a late first (and arguably slightly more valuable than, say, the 32nd overall pick in my opinion; because the of way the draft has become structured across 3 days, a premium has been placed on the first five selections of Rounds 1, 2, and 4).


On first impression this feels like a forced move by Andy Reid. Following his script of past success, he clearly made obtaining a new QB his number one priority, reportedly expressing interest to the Eagles in Nick Foles before making the move for Smith. However, the 34th overall pick seems a high price to pay for a quarterback this will be 29 this season and was destined for release until his solid 2012 showing that highlighted both his strengths and weaknesses. 

We now have a pretty good idea of what kind of player Alex Smith is, a reliable decision maker that can win games for you but cannot bring the explosive level of play that a truly elite quarterback can. This was the reason Harbaugh made the move to Kaepernick; he brings a dynamic element that the Smith simply cannot provide. Alex Smith has seemingly reached his ceiling as a quarterback prospect, however it remains to be seen if Andy Reid can elevate his level of play given his success at the quarterback position during his time in Philadelphia (cue head being slammed against the wall while trying to forget the 2011 and 2012 seasons ever happened…)

I will say that Smith is perfectly suited for Reid’s west coast offense based on decision making and timing. Reid’s deviation to a more explosive, vertically based offense in Philadelphia combined with Vick’s propensity to hold on the ball had the cumulative effect of putting too much pressure on a injury depleted offensive line. If Brandon Albert is secured and the chiefs spend a draft pick on the oline (Luke Joeckel, Lane Johnson, and Eric Fisher headline an athletic Tackle class this year and all could be in the mix with the Chiefs 1st overall pick,) the chiefs could be in a position to compete as early as this year. With offensive weapons like RB Jamal Charles, TE Tony Moeaki, and WRs Baldwin, Breston, and Bowe (UFA), the Chiefs now have the offensive firepower to match-up with nearly anyone.


This move is extremely risky however; by pinning his future to a 29 year-old quarterback with well known limitations, Reid must be aware that he will be on a much shorter leash than had he waited to select someone from the 2013 or (much more promising) 2014 quarterback classes. While this move gives the Chiefs a chance to compete immediately it potentially jeopardizes their future by giving away heavy draft ammunition. I still feel the price was a little steep for a limited and aging quarterback who is at the best, a four-year solution (still nothing to snicker at, if he makes it four consecutive years as the chiefs starting QB he’ll be the first to accomplish the feat since Trent Green.)

I still expect Reid to spend a later round pick on a developmental quarterback who will look to be groomed by Reid as the QB of the future, however this pick will likely not sit well with Chiefs fans this week.

What is of the most interest to me is what the move suggests about Andy Reid’s mentality:

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Eagles Cuts and Possible Free Agent Targets

The slightly surprising release of both Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson today cleared over $9.5M in cap room, bringing the Eagles’ total cap space to roughly $30M. 

These moves were made with an eye to the future: both players were going to be on the wrong side of 30, making over $4M each, and, evidently, didn’t fit Kelly’s prototype. Following the two releases, the Eagles financial commitments to the defensive line become relatively meager (only Cole is making starter money), freeing them to acquire a few younger pieces on the defensive side of the ball in either the draft or free agency. By getting rid of shorter statured Patterson and Jenkins it appears more likely that a lengthy defensive player like Dion Jordan will be the Eagles’ pick at #4. This move also frees the Eagles to shore up their lackluster secondary by making a play for one or two of the free agent defensive backs on the market. 

The Eagles have already been linked to Dolphins’ cornerback Sean Smith. The 6’3” 26 year old corner certainly possesses the length that Kelly is reported to treasure and does not seem to be seeking elite money (he is reportedly looking for a 3 year/ $24M deal, or less than half what Nnamdi signed for). 

This year’s free agent class is particularly strong at safety and while the Eagles must be wary of big free agent sprees following the disaster that was the 2011 free agent class, the Eagles pressing need at both FS and SS may press them into the foray if any of the top safeties somehow escape the franchise tag. The Bills’ Jairus Byrd, the 49ers’ Dashon Goldson, the Texans’ Glover Quin, and the Falcons’ William Moore could all receive the tag this year as the franchise number for safeties is a very reasonable $6.798 million. However, if any of these four hit the open market look for the Birds to make an offer at least. Even if these four don’t make the open market, the Lions’ Louis Delmas could be a less expensive (albiet less reliable) option. The cream of the crop are Byrd and Goldson, arguably each among the very best safeties in football. Byrd is an Oregon product and has proven to have a penchant for the ball, creating 28 total turnovers in his 4 years in the NFL. Goldson is one of the top cover safeties in the league and more closely fits Kelly’s desire for length on the defensive side of the ball, measuring in at 6’2” to Byrd’s 5’10”. All of the safeties listed above are also on the greener side of 30. It will be interesting to see who makes it to free agency. 

This year’s safety draft class is also particularly strong this year, with solid players from top to bottom. I’ll focus in on some players I think the Eagles may target in a post soon. 

Cullen Jenkins’ Release and Thoughts on the Eagles Front 7:

[Update: The Eagles also announced the release of DT Mike Patterson today, creating a total cap savings of slightly over $9.5M between the two moves.]

 

The Eagles announced Monday that they have released 32 year-old defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. One of the last holdovers from the Eagles’ 2011 free agency haul, Jenkins was the team’s best interior pass rusher in 2011. However the selection of Fletcher Cox in the first round of last year’s draft rendered him expendable.

The Eagles already boast over $25M in cap room and will save an additional $4M on the $5.5M Jenkins was due this year. Jenkins will still receive the $1.5M guaranteed to him this year for restructuring his contract during the 2012 offseason. (contract details courtesy of Eaglescap.com)

The move comes as somewhat of a surprise, as Jenkins was considered one of the Eagles’ most versatile lineman. The Eagles’ switch to Billy Davis’s 4-3 under defense requires a different skill set from the front 7 than the traditional 4-3 or wide-9 fronts that had been implemented by Jim Washburn and Tommy Brasher last season.

Jenkins was previously thought to be a good fit at either the 3-technique or 5-technique spots given his experience in the Packers’ 3-4 front before coming to Philadelphia. Cedric Thornton and Fletcher Cox will likely fill these roles respectively with Jenkins now out of the picture, although I wouldn’t rule out the Eagles making a move in free agency.

What remains to be seen is if the Eagles will move to draft a defensive tackle or two from a draft class that saw its biggest blue chipper sent home from the combine for medical reasons. Star Lotulelei, the former Utah defensive tackle that has reached the top of some draft pundits’ boards, was advised to leave the combine for further evaluation after an echocardiograph (a sonogram of the heart) discovered a possible heart condition. While the range of possible prognoses varies drastically, this is certainly not a positive development for the top-rated NT prospect’s draft stock. Lotulelei is being evaluated by outside specialists this week. Good thoughts to him.

This development likely puts to bed the outside possibility of the Eagles’ selecting a defensive tackle with their 1st round pick for the 2nd straight year. This year’s draft carries substantial depth in the defensive lineman class and there will be options throughout the later rounds to fill holes in the front-7. With Chip Kelly at the helm, expect the Eagles to target longer, taller defensive players than we’ve been used to seeing. With that in mind, don’t be surprised if the Eagles jump at the chance to snap up 6’8 277lb Margus Hunt should he make it past the first round. 

The Estonian junior track Olympian has only spent four years around football but posted 11.5 tackles for a loss, 8 sacks, and 3 blocked kicks last year and put up great numbers today at the combine. The 277lb lineman will be 25 this season, which will likely affect his stock given his lack of football experience. However, his 38 bench press reps, 4.6 40 time, and 34.5” vertical jump will certainly open some eyes. With his size and athleticism, Hunt could develop into a pro-bowl caliber player at any position on the defensive line and could occupy a Calais Campbell type role on the Eagles defensive front.