The key word in the huge deal that moves the Eagles into the No. 2 position in the first round of the NFL Draft next Thursday is this: Opportunity. The Eagles had one they felt they could not pass up, and now they are in position to select a franchise-altering quarterback next Thursday night.
Here are the terms of Wednesday's trade with Cleveland: The Eagles receive the second overall pick in Round 1 in 2016, plus a fourth-round draft pick in 2017 from the Browns. Philadelphia sends to Cleveland the eighth pick in Round 1, plus a third-round pick (77) and a fourth-round pick (100) in 2016, a first-round draft pick in 2017 and a second-round draft pick in 2018.
The Eagles have seven draft picks in 2016, including the No. 2 overall and a third-round pick (79) to use on Day 2. They've also spread out the hits taken by trading draft picks over a three-draft period of time, allowing them a chance to prepare in 2017 (when they don't have a first-round pick) and in 2018 (when they don't have a second-round pick).
By moving around assets – starting with the trade that sent linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell to Miami and moving up from No. 13 to No. 8 in the first round by virtue of that trade – the Eagles are taking advantage of the rare opportunity of being in the top 10 of the draft to take a quarterback.
And they will, for sure. It doesn't change the landscape for 2016, as the Eagles are committed – and gladly so – to Sam Bradford running the offense and hopefully maneuvering this team into position to make a deep playoff run with Chase Daniel as the backup.
This invokes memories of 1999 when Andy Reid became the head coach and the Eagles used their first draft pick to select Donovan McNabb, who became the franchise-altering quarterback who took the team to five NFC Championship Games and Super Bowl XXXIX. If this is, indeed, Andy Reid 2.0, as some suggested when Reid-protégé Doug Pederson was named head coach in January, then the script is a familiar one.
Clearly, though, the difference is that in 1999 the Eagles stayed put at No. 2 to take their franchise quarterback. This time, the Eagles made the quantum leap from No. 13 to No. 8 to No. 2.
Howie Roseman will meet the media and answer all the questions we have, but clearly the thought was that moving to No. 2 gives the Eagles a chance to select one of the two highly rated quarterbacks in this draft, either Cal's Jared Goff or North Dakota State's Carson Wentz. Los Angeles has the top selection on April 28 and media reports – for whatever they are worth – indicate that the Rams are "leaning" toward taking Goff. That would leave Wentz for the Eagles.
Both Pederson and Roseman spoke about Goff and Wentz and Wentz and Goff on Monday during their media updates at the NovaCare Complex and the compliments flowed.
"They're very close," Pederson said of Goff and Wentz, both of whom the Eagles reportedly worked out privately on the road and had as visitors to the NovaCare Complex in this pre-draft period. "Similar characteristics, good height, good size, smart, intelligent guys. Good arm strength, mobility."
Pederson also called Wentz an "elite" quarterback prospect, so the Eagles clearly feel very strongly that they are in position to get a young signal caller to restore the franchise to greatness.
It is important to understand that whomever the Eagles draft won't be asked to come in and play immediately. Or any time soon after that. Bradford is the starting quarterback here and the hope is that he lights it up in this West Coast offense and that the Eagles win the NFC East and have a deep run in the postseason. By being aggressive in free agency, the Eagles head into the draft without any glaring holes. That's not to say this team has no room to improve, but there is a starter for every position, and if the Eagles were to line up today and play, they could be a very competitive team.
No question, though, that the Eagles are using a long-term vision here. Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie outlined the approach during the NFL Annual Meeting in March when he was asked about the team's signing of so many players from the 2015 roster to long-term contracts this offseason. While he was talking more specifically about those moves, he was foreshadowing the total team approach as well.
"We expect to compete for the division title this season, but at the same time all decisions - Howie and Doug and I have talked about this – it's maximizing short term, maximizing midterm and maximizing long term," Lurie said. "One of the reasons for changing the resource allocation and making those trades was a change in the preference of how we wanted to allocate the resources. And that's a short-term impact, midterm and long term.
"We wanted to reallocate to other positions and other players. A key element in the whole thing was re-signing our best young players. We have a lot of really good young players. We wanted them all with us for the long run. You see it less and less in the NFL, but there is an opportunity and we've always been trying to do this for years: Find and identify your best core talent. If they're good people and teammates, if they're good in the community and they're real talented, make sure you get them and be Eagles for a long time and get them early."
Was it a high price to pay, one week after Los Angeles moved from No. 15 to No. 1 by executing a trade with Tennessee? No question about it. The theory here is to build around the quarterback position. The Eagles don't want to be in the top 10 in the draft again in the future. They believe in Bradford, who has a two-year contract. They have Chase Daniel, here on a three-year deal. They have former quarterbacks on the coaching staff in Pederson, who played for 12 seasons in the NFL, offensive coordinator Frank Reich (14 years in the NFL) and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, who played quarterback collegiately at James Madison.
"Here, it's quarterback paradise," quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson said on Tuesday. "It's all quarterbacks, all the way through. They make it easier for us and it's so quarterback friendly. I love having the opportunity to show them what I can do."
Exactly who the team takes at No. 2, well, we'll know that one week from Thursday night. Roseman said on Wednesday that he's fine with either Goff or Wentz. This is how the team feels: The Eagles have put themselves in position to take what they think is a quarterback who can change the course of this franchise, one that hasn't won a playoff game since 2008. It's been a long time, right?
With the help of a groundbreaking trade, the Eagles think they've taken a step toward reclaiming the glory of those days when the team had deep playoff runs and contended for the Super Bowl every season. They wanted to make sure they had a chance to cover every base at the quarterback position, and they've done that – with an exclamation point – with a second move up in the first round all the way to No. 2 and a chance to grab the quarterback of the future.