Eagles likely to entertain hometown crowd with draft-day trades

Leonard Fournette

The Philadelphia Eagles head into next week’s draft in a pretty good spot. They made some solid moves in free agency and are definitely on the upswing following an inconsistent 2016 performance.

Of course, it all starts with young quarterback Carson Wentz. General manager Howie Roseman and Co. are hellbent on building the team around him. And for good reason. Despite some late-season struggles as a rookie, Wentz showed himself capable of being a franchise quarterback.

That has to be music to the ears of an Eagles team that’s surely expecting to be in playoff contention this upcoming season. But thre’s still a lot of work to do here, and that continues next week when Philadelphia hosts the 2017 NFL Draft.

It also looks like we can expect some wheeling and dealing from the Eagles during the annual event.

After adding both Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to the mix in free agency, the Philadelphia Eagles’ wide receiver group will have a dramatically different look next season.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing considering this position struggled big time for Wentz last season. Finding two major upgrades there was a relatively big coup for Philadelphia and its young signal caller.

It also might have a trickle-down effect when it comes to those receivers the Eagles had on their roster last season. After jumping on to the scene with over 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons, Jordan Matthews failed to take that next step in 2016.

While he did catch 73 passes for 804 yards, Matthews ranked in the bottom 10 of the NFL when it came to drop percentage. Simply put, he’s let too many otherwise good passes hit the ground throughout the first three years of his career.

This led to previous speculation that Philadelphia might look to move Matthews for some capital in next week’s draft.

Focusing on that possibility, the Philly Voice’s Jimmy Kempski seems to be working under the idea that it makes sense for the Eagles to move on from Matthews.

“I think it would make a lot of sense (to trade Matthews),” Kempski noted. “Matthews has good numbers over the first three seasons of his career, but in a way, those numbers almost kind of work against the possibility of him staying an Eagle past 2017 because he’s going to expect more money than what he’s worth.”

Unless teams are centrally focused on stats (they aren’t), that’s unlikely to play a role in what type of market Matthews receives in free agency next March. Instead, it seems to be more about Matthews’ fit in Philadelphia and whether the team can acquire anything of substance for him.

Kempski noted that a third-round pick might be the going rate for Matthews during the draft. If that’s the case, multiple NFL teams will surely pick up the phone and call the Eagles. Still only 24 years old, the former second-round pick boasts a tremendous amount of upside. That will be appealing to teams such as the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets, all of whom are in desperate need of help at receiver.

We then have the Eagles’ need for a running back to pair with Wentz in the team’s offensive backfield.¬†Holdovers Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles don’t inspire much confidence in terms of shouldering the load. They combined for less than 1,100 rushing yards a season ago.

In order for Wentz to take that next step, he’s going to have to have more balance on offense. Picking 14th overall in next week’s draft, there’s a chance Philadelphia could add one of the top-two backs with that selection. Though, when looking at scheme fit and what Doug Pederson does on offense, there’s surely one player the team is targeting over the other two.

That’s likely to be Leonard Fournette, who fits the bill as a three-down workhorse back. Then again, Christian McCaffrey could fill a receiving role in the offense as well.

The problem here is that neither one will likely be available at 14. Fournette has been linked to the San Francisco 49ers with the second pick. Meanwhile, there’s a decent chance Carolina will look to add McCaffrey later in the top 10.

Could a trade-up be in the works here? Philadelphia would likely have to wait until San Francisco picks at two to draw a conclusion about whether it can add Fournette to the mix. After that, it will become more of a waiting game as the top 10 plays out.

Philadelphia owns picks in both the second and third round. It also has two fourth-round picks. Depending on how far Fournette and McCaffrey fall, one could be in play should the Eagles decide to exhaust draft capital here.

Another important thing to note is that the Eagles have trade capital in terms of veterans. We already covered Matthews a bit earlier, but both Jason Peters and Mychal Kendricks could be had for the right price. While neither would bring back more than a mid-round pick, it could be enough to flip those selections in order to secure either Fournette or McCaffrey.

Either way, we fully expect the Eagles to keep their home-town fans on the edge of their seats in Philadelphia when the draft starts this upcoming Thursday. Look for Howie Rosman and Co. to be extremely active.