When asked about potentially trading out of the No. 4 pick, Eagles GM Howie Roseman recalled a tale from the 2006 draft.
“Charley Casserly told us a story that he had the first pick in the draft with Mario [Williams] and he called the Jets and he said to Mike [Tannenbaum], ‘What will you give me for the first pick in the draft?’ ” Roseman said. “And Mike said to him, ‘What will you trade me to take that pick?’ I think that was based on the salary structure at that time. It’s a lot different now. The cost is a lot different to move up a couple picks than it used to be.”
The conversation between the two GMs happened seven years ago, but it pertains to the chances of the Eagles trading down in this month’s draft. Before the 2011 CBA, teams were reluctant to trade up because of the salaries that top picks demanded. But now, with the rookie wage scale in place, moving up for top picks carries less risk.
Take the No. 4 pick, for example. In 2010, before the new CBA, the Redskins gave offensive tackle Trent Williams a six-year, $60 million deal with a reported $36.75 million guaranteed.
However, last year, No. 4 pick, Matt Kalil, got a four-year deal worth $19.77 million (all guaranteed) from the Vikings.
“It’s easier to maneuver with this new rookie wage scale,” Roseman said. “Before, it was cost-prohibitive in terms of cash and cap with your team to trade into the top-five, no matter how much you liked the player going forward because you were going to be hamstrung in some situation or another. It gives you some flexibility. You’re not as reluctant to trade up – not based on your evaluation, but based on how it’s going to affect your team in the future.”
Last week, we took a look at some of the teams that might be interested in moving up, like the Dolphins, Chargers and others. Offensive tackle is a position to watch. By all accounts, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson are the top three options, and then there’s a significant drop-off.
Oregon’s Dion Jordan might be another name to keep an eye on. If he doesn’t go in the top three, teams might be interested in moving up to grab him.
“Pass rushers are going to go quick like they always do,” Roseman said. “There may not be much of a run in the second or third round as you’d normally see with pass rushers. But I think there are high quality ones at the top and they’ll go quick.”
As for the process, don’t expect Roseman to frantically be working the phones in the minutes between the third and fourth picks. Conversations have already taken place this offseason, and the Eagles’ GM expects to talk to more teams next week.
There’s plenty of time for preparation, and it’s entirely possible that the Eagles could work out a deal ahead of time, in the event that a specific scenario plays out. That was the case last year when they swapped places with the Seahawks and drafted Fletcher Cox.
“I think there are teams that are very comfortable giving you scenarios they’ll stick to in that situation,” Roseman said. “With us and Seattle last year with [Seahawks GM] John [Schneider], it was very easy to get to an agreement on the compensation if the player we were interested in was there and they felt comfortable moving back.
“I think what that does, it takes the negotiating out of being on the clock, because when you’re on the clock, there’s a lot of things going on. You’re getting a lot of phone calls and when you’re starting something new or from scratch and you’re going through that process, time runs out fairly quickly.”
Last year (the first with the rookie wage scale), among the top-seven selections, only the Colts picked where they were originally slotted. And while that class had more firepower at the top, only one of the deals (the Rams/Redskins) was for a quarterback (Robert Griffin III).
This year’s class is not as top-heavy, meaning the Eagles might not get an offer that grabs their attention. But Roseman said he still believes there’s a “clear line of players” the team considers “elite talents.”
Asked if there’s a number he wouldn’t want to go past in the first round, Roseman said, “Yes. That’s usually our first meeting, and it was in this case, of what we think is the proper value, if we think there is a proper value, what we would do, what we wouldn’t do. That’s already been discussed and basically decided.”
While every deal depends on compensation, the hint seemed to be that the Eagles don’t anticipate dropping down to the 20s, or losing their first-rounder altogether. On the other hand, he didn’t rule out moving up into the top-three, although that seems like an unlikely scenario.
“We’re open to anything,” Roseman said.
While much of the discussion has been about the No. 4 selection, the more movable pick might be No. 35. There’s a lot of value in the second round, and Roseman expects to get calls about the team’s Day 2 selections.
“We don’t have 35 first-round grades, so you always hope that a guy you have in the first round slips to that spot,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of action because I think there’s going to be a lot of good players. I think that Friday’s going to be fun.”
Bottom line? The Eagles have not picked in the top-five since 1999. They’re coming off a 4-12 season and are in need of young, talented players with high ceilings. They’d be content staying put and selecting the top player on their board with the fourth pick.
But if a team offers up a sweet deal, and they’re still able to stay in the top half of the first round, they’ll absolutely consider moving down.