From a pure compensation standpoint, the trade was a no-brainer: The Eagles gave up a fifth-round draft choice for a player who was selected No. 9 overall in 2006, a player Andy Reid called an "impact" player and one who, on the surface, appears to fit into this defensive scheme perfectly with his great speed and tenacity.
But there is more than meets the eye to the trade that brings Ernie Sims to Philadelphia. Four years in Detroit have quieted the "next-Derrick Brooks" talk that followed Sims from Florida State to the Lions. Some observers think that Sims just didn't develop into the playmaker they expected him to be, that his body has taken too many beatings and that he has been simply worn down in a short period of time in the NFL.
The Eagles offer the other school of thinking. They saw the opportunity to add a player who flies around the football field, who racked up the numbers for three seasons, who fits in perfectly to the style of defense here. And so, in a dramatic and out-of-the-blue move that was announced on Monday morning, the Eagles acquired Sims and expect him to play and play very well right away in the defense.
General manager Howie Roseman didn't come right out and say the Eagles expect Sims to come right in and start, because the Eagles are still high on Akeem Jordan and, at the very least, Sims' presence guarantees one great battle in training camp for a starting job. Where the move leaves Omar Gaither remains to be seen. All along, we expected Gaither to challenge Jordan for the starting WILL spot, but now, well, the Eagles aren't bringing Sims in to sit the bench.
No, the Eagles think Sims can be a three-down linebacker. This trade is a classic case of one team (Detroit) giving up on a player who played well for three years in one system (Rod Marinelli's Cover 2 scheme) and then battled injuries and a lack of consistency for a year in a new system (Jim Schwartz's scheme) and another team (Philadelphia) thinking the player would display his true football abilities in this system.
All of the criticisms you hear about Sims from his time in Detroit -- not disciplined, over runs plays, misses tackles -- are hoped to be things of the past in Sean McDermott's aggressive 4-3 scheme that needs more speed, that needs more playmakers, that needs more players who are physical and nasty and who need to get to the football.
"I'll tell you what," said Roseman, about to tell us what, "you just love watching him play. He just plays so fast and physical; he throws his body around. I think the fans of Philadelphia are going to love Ernie Sims."
Wouldn't that be great? The Eagles have made a bunch of moves in the off-season -- really, as many as any team in the league -- and this is yet another one by which to judge Roseman and his staff. Here is the way it works: Director of pro personnel Louis Riddick writes his report on every NFL player -- he and his staff do, anyway -- and then the Eagles look more deeply into a player if they think there is a chance to make a move to get the player. In this case, the Eagles thought they had a chance to get Sims, who had a hamstring injury last year that limited him to 11 games.
The talks "came together pretty quickly," said Roseman, and by the weekend the Eagles had a strong feeling the deal would get done. It did, in a unique three-way move and Sims lands in Philadelphia with, as he said, "a new start in my career."
That's the exciting thing. Sims has as good a football pedigree as you will find, and his combination of leadership and a flat-out hunger to win and to excel will be appreciated in the Eagles locker room. The best-case scenario is that Sims becomes a three-down linebacker, that the structure of the defense fits his skills perfectly and that he gains some national attention after playing for four seasons in an abjectly losing environment in Detroit.
Things are turning around in Detroit under Schwartz, but they just didn't feel Sims -- in the last year of his rookie contract -- was part of the future. So the Lions got some value -- a seventh-round draft pick and tight end Tony Scheffler from Denver -- and the Eagles acquired a player who not long ago was "the next big thing."
Linebacker has long been a position in flux for the Eagles. One year after another there have been changes and new faces and too many questions. The Eagles have one long-term player there, Stewart Bradley in the middle. The rest of the group is, really, on a one-year trial run. Jordan has played well in his time at WILL, and the Eagles thought so much of him prior to the free-agency period that they tendered him at a second-round draft pick level of compensation. That is saying something about a player who was not drafted.
The Eagles cut Will Witherspoon after his half-season here, a fairly stunning move. And then they traded for Sims, a real shocker.
Who knows? Nothing is ruled out. It would seem unlikely that the Eagles would use a draft pick on a WILL linebacker, but you never know how the draft board will look. Certainly, there is nobody out there who is as good as the league graded Sims in 2006. He says he is healthy, that he is re-invigorated and that he can't wait to get into the team's off-season conditioning program. The attitude from Sims is incredibly encouraging.
And so is the upside. Roseman is clearly not afraid to make changes, a characteristic of the Eagles for many years now. They are going to make moves. They are going to be aggressive. They are going to make moves until they think they have it right.
Sims is next in line for a defense that already added veteran pieces Darryl Tapp (who could start at left defensive end) and defensive back Marlin Jackson (who has to show he is healthy and can stay healthy after back-to-back knee surgeries) and even linebacker Alex Hall (who figures to compete with Moise Fokou at SAM linebacker). This week's draft is going to provide more help. The Eagles have 10 draft picks, and they are still alive in the trade games out there.
This is one of those moves with minimal risk and a huge upside. Who knows how much changing scenarios and defensive schemes will impact Sims? Don't you think he will feed off the emotional vibe at Lehigh University practicing in front of 10,000 Eagles every day after playing for four years in front of sparse Lions camp crowds?
I talked to Sims on Monday and he was virtually jumping through the telephone. He reported to work out on Monday in Detroit and left as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. Who wouldn't be excited about that?
As they did last year with the trade that netted Jason Peters, the Eagles struck with a trade to gain Sims. On the surface, yeah, it was an easy deal to make once it was on the table. But there is more to the deal than a not-so-simple three-team trade. How much more depends on Sims and on how he develops in the system. The sky is the limit, as they say, and if it all works according to the lofty dreams in my head, this trade will go down as one to remember for many years to come.