Mariota-Eagles Dream Not Dead Yet

Matt Kartozian / USA Today

Matt Kartozian / USA Today

I do not believe the Eagles-Marcus Mariota dream is dead. If anything, I’ve grown more confident over time that there is substance behind the speculation, and that Chip Kelly is going to try to land his old college quarterback on Thursday night.

The whole idea seems a little fantasy-landish on the surface: How on earth can a team go from 20 to 2? Would Kelly really be willing to hand over the ransom that it would take to get there? Isn’t this whole concept a bit detached from reality? But in a search for stop signs behind the scenes, the vast majority of the people we’ve spoken to have signaled us forward. That continues to be the case even with the draft just one day away.

There are a few factors keeping this thing alive. Number one is the fact that the Titans seem willing to make a deal. I’m of the opinion that if they were married to the idea of drafting Mariota, we’d know it by now. It appears No. 2 can be had for the right price.

What would it take for them to consider moving out?

“Because of the players that are there and potentially there,” said Titans general manager Ruston Webster Tuesday, “we have to get value that will help our team not only now but in the future.”

The Eagles can try to entice them with a generous package that includes a combination of  players and picks. As it just so happens, Kelly is in the process of making over his roster and has some young talent like Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry that might not be perfect fits for  him but are valued pretty highly elsewhere. Would that plus picks convince Tennessee to move from 2 to 20? I would say no. Webster noted that there are about 16 players in their mind that are first-round caliber, and that number shrinks when you consider character, scheme fit, etc.

“If you think there’s 16, 17 first-round picks, then I think you have to be careful to go below that,” he said.

The rest of the package is going to have to be pretty impressive, which is why a guy like Fletcher Cox has been mentioned as much as he has.

Would the Titans bite on a package that included three quality players and multiple picks? That would be hard to resist.

Would the Eagles be willing to hand that kind of haul over? If that’s what Kelly has to pay to play, I’m starting to believe he might just pony up.

Sam Bradford has also been mentioned as a possible trade piece, but his reluctance to sign an extension elsewhere likely complicates things to a point where his situation would be handled separately.

Pulling off a trade like this is no easy task, especially when there are other variables involved that could derail a deal. For instance, if the Chargers are in fact willing to trade Philip Rivers to Tennessee, it could very well be game over. Reports and intel have been inconsistent when it comes to San Diego. According to Webster, the Chargers are not one of the teams he’s had trade conversations with as of Tuesday. San Diego GM Tom Telesco said the plan is to have Rivers play quarterback for the Chargers “for a long, long, long time.” However, this is not exactly the time of year to blindly take executives at their word.

There are other potential contenders for the No. 2 pick as well, including Cleveland — which holds the 12th and 19th overall pick — and the Rams, who are scheduled to select 10th.

The possibility also remains that Tennessee ultimately decides to hold onto the No. 2 spot. As I wrote a couple days ago, I think Ken Whisenhunt likes Mariota more than he was maybe expecting to. He might not look at him as an ideal fit for his system (which could help explain why the pick remains for sale), but if Whisenhunt believes Mariota can develop into a franchise quarterback, it could certainly be a worthwhile investment both for him professionally and for the team overall.

Kelly, it’s safe to say, thinks Mariota can be that guy — particularly in his offense. I believe this is his ideal quarterback: A smart, quick decision-maker that can beat you with his arm and feet; a humble leader who will stay true to the cause and serve as a top ambassador of the Kelly Way.

Think he’s interested in acquiring a guy like that? Definitely. Can he pull it off? To be determined. But the closer we get, the more I believe that if he goes down, he’s going down swinging.