Philadelphia Eagles News

How a win Sunday helps the Eagles now – and in the future

A.J. Brown was acquired with picks obtained from the Saints in a pre-draft blockbuster trade.
A.J. Brown was acquired with picks obtained from the Saints in a pre-draft blockbuster trade.

On August 30th, when all NFL teams were required to reduce rosters to just 53 players following Training Camp, the Eagles meticulously crafted what they believed would be the most successful group of players to represent Philadelphia in the 2022 season.

As the clock ticked towards 4 PM, Howie Roseman was still hard at work; that afternoon, the Eagles announced that the team had come to an agreement with the New Orleans Saints to acquire safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson and a seventh-round draft pick in 2025 from New Orleans, sending to the Saints a fifth-round draft pick in 2024 and the Eagles' two late sixth-round draft picks in 2024.

Flash forward to Week 17, the 13-2 Eagles have the best record across the entire NFL. On New Year's Day, they'll host the Saints for the first time since the trade. With a win, the Eagles would clinch the NFC East division AND the conference's top seed, granting the team a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Coincidentally, it's the first game that Gardner-Johnson will be eligible to return since he was placed on Injured Reserve. He suffered a lacerated kidney during the Week 12 win against the Green Bay Packers. But before he was sidelined, he was flourishing in the Eagles' defensive secondary, leading the league with six interceptions. That's more than the combined total he'd recorded through three years in New Orleans. Despite missing four games, he's still tied for the most picks; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen is the only other player in the league who's reached that number.

Gardner-Johnson's status for Sunday's game is OUT, but Head Coach Nick Sirianni said through the safety's recovery process, he's remained involved in weekly prep.

"I love having him around. He has great energy about himself. He's always positive. I know the guys like being around him. I like being around him," Sirianni said. "So, as he's gotten healthier, as he's been able to get up and move around, he's been around the team more and been in meetings and out at walk-throughs at times as his body allows him to be."

The main focus, as it has been all season, is now. But, Sirianni didn't dismiss that the result of Sunday's game has implications that'll affect the team long after the end of this campaign.

Handing the Saints another loss to add to their unforgiving 6-9 record would improve what was formerly a New Orleans' draft pick. But, the Eagles now own it. As it stands, the Eagles (by way of the Saints) have the 10th pick in the NFL Draft, courtesy of a blockbuster pre-draft trade in April – one in which the Eagles sent the Saints two first-round picks in 2022 as well as a sixth-round selection in exchange for 2022 first- and third-round picks that became wide receiver A.J. Brown), a 2022 seventh-round pick, the 2023 first-round pick, and a 2024 second-round pick.

The more the Saints lose, the higher that first-round pick could climb.

"Obviously, our motivation is to win the division and to get the first-round bye, which is all in our grasp now," said Sirianni. "Well, this game directly affects both of those things and the draft status. So sure, but we are focused on right now in the season. It will be sweet if we can go out there and get this win, and then once we're making the draft pick later we can say to ourselves, 'Well, that really did help us out.' That's our goal though, just to win this game."

As the regular season winds down and the college football season nears its finale, 2023 draft talks begin to boil.

Here are the Eagles' current picks:

1st round – Own Pick

1st round – From the Saints in a 2022 offseason trade

2nd round – Own Pick

3rd round – Own Pick

7th round – Own Pick

7th round – From the Vikings through the Texans in the Jalen Reagor trade

There's still plenty of football ahead, Eagles fans. But if you're already curious about 2023, subscribe to the Journey to the Draft podcast! Join Fran Duffy and Ben Fennell's year-round approach to scouting, player evaluation, film reviews, interviews, the Combine, and everything else that leads up to that special moment when dreams come to fruition on the podium every April.

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