The trade of cornerback Asante Samuel opened the draft weekend for the Eagles, who can now turn in any number of directions in the first round of tonight's NFL draft. I'm not sure dealing Samuel makes the Eagles completely reverse their thinking, because the Samuel trade was one long in the conversations.
Anything is in play tonight for the Eagles, who have extra draft picks (they have 10 in the draft) to use should they decide to move into the top 10 of the draft. The Eagles can stay put at 15 and know they have a chance at taking a high-impact player to add to the cause in 2012 and beyond. And they can move back in the first round to accumulate more selections.
Which way do the Eagles go?
I guess most of the speculation centers around defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, the subject of most of the trade rumors. The Eagles, say the draft analysts, are trying to move up as high as the sixth spot in the draft to have a chance to select Cox, the talented lineman from Mississippi State.
Is it worth basing all of our focus on Cox when we know, as history as told us time and time again, that the Eagles are as apt as any team to come out of left field in the first round of the draft?
I'm not pinning my hopes on Cox. Would I like him? Sure. If he's as good as the analysts say, he would help a position that is good here, but not great. Adding a top-shelf defensive tackle is a good thing for every team in the league.
I'm going to get really interested in the draft right around the time the Browns are on the clock at No. 4. The Eagles and Browns, obviously, have a strong relationship and have traded in the past. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Tom Heckert dangle that pick, hoping to acquire extra selections in the process tonight.
After the fourth spot, the Eagles are candidates to move up at any time. Do they target a defensive tackle like Cox, who would work into the rotation right away? Or do they look at a slot cornerback, a really high-grade talent, to come in and challenge Joselio Hanson in the slot and offer a long-term possibility on the outside?
I've pretty much eliminated linebacker from my thinking in the first round, no matter who falls to 15, should the Eagles stay there. I don't think trading into the top 10 for an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense, for example, makes a lot of impact for the defense, but if Luke Kuechly is on the board for the Eagles, do they pass him up?
For me, tonight is about the defense. The Eagles need another impact player on defense to fit into the scheme, which is going to be more aggressive and defined than it was early last year. The Eagles want to be a pressure defense. They want to be tighter on the back end in coverage than they were last year.
They want the right fit.
So I guess I go into tonight thinking defense, defense, defense. Wide receiver, for those of you clamoring for a big-bodied, red-zone threat, isn't on the radar. Quarterback isn't even a, pun intended, passing thought.
It's all about the defense for me and for the Eagles tonight.
But, truth be told, I know nooooottttthhhhing (that's my best Sergeant Schultz from Hogan's Heroes impersonation). Howie Roseman hasn't called me into his office lately to share draft secrets. There are about three or four people who know what the Eagles are truly going to do in this draft.
The rest of us are guessing.
I expect the Eagles to be bold, as usual. I expect the Eagles to look into every scenario. I think a trade up is very possible, but the cost is something to strongly consider. Is an impact player, a potential impact player, worth the cost of at least a second-round draft pick and perhaps more?
Look, if it's me, I consider using this strategy: Trade up in as many rounds as possible. Reduce those 10 draft picks to 6 or 7 and if you need to fill in some roster spots and create competition, go sign some proven veterans to favorable contracts from what is still an ample free-agent market. This roster is young enough. The Eagles don't have to worry about replenishing their youth movement. They need to add difference-making players.
With a lot of space available within the salary cap, the Eagles have afforded themselves the luxury of flexibility. They can spend here and there, where they see fit. They can trade up into round one without fear of overly disrupting their salary-cap structure. They are in position to be aggressive.
Maybe I'm the only one still thinking that free agency is a viable option to help upgrade the roster. I don't know. I'm not sure there are difference-making players there, but I know that there are enough quality running backs on the market that can add depth to the position here. Do the Eagles, as I look at the entire picture, need to draft a running back to compete with Dion Lewis and complete the running back position or do they sign Joseph Addai or Cedric Benson or any of the players on the fairly lengthy list of veterans looking for jobs?
Anyway, the Eagles aren't taking a running back tonight. Tonight is round one, and I'm ready to pull out all the stops. If they trade up in the first round and get into the top 10, great. Go get the player who could make a difference for this season and beyond. But why stop there? Is it too much to think to think they could also trade up into the second half of the first round and solve another need?
Can this team make moves like that throughout the draft? Take a pair of sixth-round picks and get an extra fourth-round choice? Bundle some of the middle-round selections and inch up in the third round? I'm looking for things like that throughout the weekend.
This is said to be a deep draft, even if the names floating around in the mock drafts at the 15th pick don't excite me all that much. I see the Eagles on the move -- up, down and all around this weekend.
Tonight, though, the focus is on defense. Where does the impact come from in Round 1?