Revisiting the Sheldon Brown Trade

Revisiting the Sheldon Brown Trade

When the Eagles' offense takes the field for the first time this season on Sunday, they'll be staring across at some familiar faces. Juqua Parker departed for Cleveland during free agency in March, joining Dimitri Patterson who exercised his rights one year earlier. Both are there to provide depth on a Browns defense that surprisingly finished second in the NFL against the pass in 2011. Their diminishing talents cast aside by the Birds' front office, neither Parker or Patterson are likely to engender much of a reaction from the Philadelphia fan base.

The same could not be said for Sheldon Brown, who arrived at this moribund franchise under far different circumstances. Once a fan favorite, his No. 24 jersey once among the shirts that would litter the parking lots and fill the seats inside the Linc, Brown was unceremoniously dumped off on Cleveland along with Chris Gocong in April of 2010. The return: fourth- and fifth-round picks, and some linebacker who made it through about a week's worth of training camp.

It was an unpopular trade to say the least, sending a borderline Pro-Bowl talent away for seemingly next to nothing, clearly weakening the roster at cornerback in the process. But as these types of deals often are, it was all about cold, hard cash.

The Eagles selected Brown in the second round of the '02 Draft, and upon becoming the starter two years later, he promptly signed a six-year extension in '04 that ran through 2012. It was a typical Joe Banner contract for that time period, done in the mold he became infamous for -- rewarding young players with long-term deals that had nice up-front bonuses, yet leaving them with all the risk down the line when the guaranteed money has dried up and multiple years still remain. Brown gritted through the dispute in '09, but by next season all his guarantees were gone, and he could be cut at any moment with no financial repercussions to the team.

The organization no longer saw Brown as a wise investment. At 31 years old, his best days were surely behind him, so handing over more money and a longer commitment was out of the question. His unhappiness with the club's stance was well-known however, and there likely was not a happy ending on the horizon had they forced him to play out another season. The Eagles had already begun the process of purging the roster of most of its highly-paid veterans over the past two offseasons. Sheldon was just next in line, followed days later by the earth-shattering Donovan news.

It would be fair to characterize the Brown move as one of the handful the franchise made around that time that did not work out so well for them. Both he and Gocong went on to become staples in Cleveland's defense -- though Gocong is currently on IR, and what that statement even means anyway on a team that can't win more than five games in a season, I'm not really sure. For whatever it's worth, Brown's play has remained reliable enough to hang on to a starting job despite his losing a step or two. Meanwhile, the Eagles went into 2010 with Ellis Hobbs at corner, then Patterson taking his place due to injury. Both were memorably torched.

The trade doesn't look a whole ton better once you see what those picks turned into. The fourth rounder was used on cornerback Trevard Lindley, who has been cut from the 53-man roster for the second year in a row. The fifth was sent to Detroit for veteran linebacker Ernie Sims, who spent one forgettable season with the Birds. They also leveraged a seventh rounder in '11 out of the Sims exchange, which as it turns out is the only remnant leftover from this apparent debacle in the form of Jamar Chaney.

Sheldon Brown and Chris Gocong for Alex Hall, Ernie Sims, Trevard Lindley, and Jamar Chaney.

Of course, merely grading from the haul and the immediate outcome ignores the bigger picture. Extending Sheldon Brown in '10 wasn't the solution either, and forcing a disgruntled player to work on what both sides knew was a bad contract would have been a mess. Although corner turned out to be a glaring hole for a year, it was also a season where expectations were already low to begin with. Parting with Brown when they did at least gave the Eagles the opportunity to get something of value in return, and more importantly, it gave them the freedom to eventually cut the deal for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and pursue Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency.

That may not come as much of a consolation to Brown's ardent supporters or plain ol' front office critics who will accurately point out the Eagles have received essentially nothing in return for a starting cornerback and linebacker. Brown is 33 and still balling. He's excellent in run support, and while he requires some safety help, No. 24 has held up in Cleveland.

But in some respects, this is not entirely different from the trade that sent Asante Samuel to Atlanta for a seventh round pick just this past offseason. While the deal itself did not produce much of value, it was a business decision where both sides ultimately got what they wanted: Brown a contract, the Eagles moving on so they could get younger and better at a key position.

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Riding a two-game losing streak, the Eagles (3-2) return home Sunday for the first time in nearly a month and welcome a familiar face to the confines of Lincoln Financial Field. 

Sam Bradford and the Vikings (5-0) will come to Philadelphia fresh off a Week 6 bye and, most notably, as the league's lone unbeaten team. Minnesota boasts one of the league's top defenses, ranking first in points allowed (12.6 per game) and second in yards allowed (287.6 per game), and is looking to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 2009.

The last time these two franchises met was back in December 2013, when Matt Cassell and the Vikings put up 48 points in a win over Chip Kelly's Eagles.

To get a better handle on this year's Vikings, here's what they're saying about the Eagles' Week 7 opponent.

Brian Robison poses yet another challenge for Big V
Making his NFL debut in a start against the Redskins last week, Halapoulivaati Vaitai struggled mightily. Ryan Kerrigan beat Vaitai and got to Carson Wentz for 2½ sacks, all of which came in the first half.

It won't get any easier for the rookie right tackle this week either, as he'll likely be lined up against Brian Robison for most of the afternoon. Robison has four sacks and two forced fumbles on the season and, according to Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune, the versatile 10-year defensive end could be difference maker on the defensive side of the ball Sunday.

"Whether his hand is in the turf at left end or he’s standing over a guard or center as the defensive tackle, Robison could be dropping back to cover a tight end or running back," Krammer wrote. "At the line, he’s given responsibilities to call stunts or twists depending on their own play call. Sometimes he’s setting the pick to free another teammate. ... And on Sunday against the Eagles and their rookie right tackle, keep an eye on Robison when he lines up at his traditional spot of left end. All four of his sacks this season, including two strip-sacks, have come from there."

Makeshift offensive line remains a question mark
The Vikings may be undefeated, but by no means are they made up of perfect parts. As the midway point of the NFL season approaches, Minnesota's injury-battered offensive line is still a work in progress. 

Starting tackles Matt Kalil and Andre Smith are both sidelined with season-ending injuries. Starting guard Brandon Fusco suffered a concussion Week 5 against the Texans, but is expected to return against the Eagles. Center is the only position on the line the Vikings haven't had to replace because of an injury at some point this season.

But despite the constant changes up front, Minnesota has been stout overall in protecting the quarterback, allowing eight sacks and 27 quarterback hits across five games. According to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press, the performance of that makeshift offensive line is going to be key in the Vikings' potential success down the road. 

"What’s best for Bradford and the Vikings’ standing as the NFC’s top dog is better pass protection," Murphy wrote. "He was sacked twice when Houston defenders turnstiled Clemmings and hit hard in the pocket other times. ... Offensive line intrigue never is a sexy storyline, but how well the Vikings manage the unit week to week figures to be an underlying factor to their continued success."

Strong away from home
The Vikings are a just a few years removed from going winless on the road, finishing 0-7-1 away from home in the 2013 season. Minnesota secured wins in only two of its first 10 away games under the tutelage of Mike Zimmer, but have since gone on a tear.

Minnesota has won seven of its last eight road games dating back to last season and, in their most recent game away from U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings took down the Panthers, 22-10, in Week 3. A testament of a true contender is having the ability to win consistently on the road, which holds true with the Vikings.

According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the Vikings' vast improvement over the past two-plus seasons has contributed to them becoming a stronger team away from home.

"Facing a tough opposing crowd once was a tall order for the Vikings, but it’s much less of one now. After being one of the worse road teams in the NFL earlier this decade, they’re now one of the best," Tomasson wrote. "Overall, the Vikings have improved, having gone from 7-9 in 2014 to 11-5 last season to 5-0 this year. That’s the main reason the road record has gotten so much better. Still, players say the continuity the team has had has especially helped when entering rugged road environments."

While Vegas has the Vikings as light favorites on the road, national experts have them heavily favored straight up to hand the Eagles their third straight loss.

ESPN: All nine experts picked the Vikings

CBS Sports: Seven of eight experts picked the Vikings

FOX Sports: Three of five experts picked the Vikings 

Flyers Skate Update: Ivan Provorov has a new partner

Flyers Skate Update: Ivan Provorov has a new partner

Ivan Provorov has a new partner.

Provorov will be paired with Brandon Manning on Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, a changeup from the first four games of the season. Mark Streit drops to the third pair with Nick Schultz, a tandem that worked together most of last season.

"We're going to change them up," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said after the team's morning skate. "We're going to look at a couple of different things. Some of the combinations are some familiar ones, such as Streiter-Schultz. They played a lot of minutes together last year. It's a move that we want to take a look at."

The Provorov-Manning pair is an interesting one. It should allow the 19-year-old to activate more in the offensive zone with Manning playing positionally sound. Manning has played with an extra edge thus far, showcasing a far more aggressive brand of hockey than he's shown previously with the orange and black.

With Streit, an offensive-minded blueliner, Provorov had to cover for his partner. Provorov also ran into some tough luck situations, too. Now with Manning, Provorov has the handcuffs off a little bit. Manning plays well positionally and while he has been more aggressive, he knows when to stay back, which will help Provorov.

It's another adjustment for the rookie. Through four games, he said, there haven't been any surprises in terms of his expectations for how the NHL game plays.

"I think what I expected is what I got," Provorov said. "It's the best league in the world, you expect all four lines to be great, you expect fast pace, physical game and that's what I got. I'm still learning, but I'm trying to do better as the games go on."

Provorov has one assist this season and enters Saturday as a minus-5, largely because of the Chicago game Tuesday. Hakstol praised Provorov's maturity level and ability to self-evaluate. What he hasn't done with Provorov is talk about numbers.

"There are some meaning in stats and we take the meaningful areas and apply those," Hakstol said. "But I haven't talked to any of the young guys about their statistics. We're four games in. I don't make too much of statistics right now. We're evaluating day-to-day play and looking at areas that we can use as strengths and areas individually we can improve."

Starting slow
If there has been one common theme through the first four games, it's the Flyers' poor starts. In first periods this season, they've been outscored, 6-1 (see game notes).

On Thursday night, the Flyers again came out of the gates slow. It was their first game back after a season-opening road trip out West, which Jakub Voracek said was a factor.

Voracek, who has four assists, said the burden falls on the individual player to focus on the small details and avoid committing mistakes.

"As a player, if you don't have that extra step, you just have to keep it simple," he said. "It's going to come around. The first 10 minutes, you have to make sure you don't make mistakes and I think that we were trying to do too much if we weren't feeling right. It showed last game against Anaheim. We were a half-a-step slower."

Four games isn't a large enough sample size for Hakstol to make a definite statement on the Flyers' first-period woes. The second-year coach said he'll have a better understanding where his team is at after the Carolina game.

"I think we'll answer that question after the start tonight," Hakstol said. "I think we'll get a fair evaluation of our starts after our start tonight, and if we have a problem, we'll know it after tonight. If we don't, we'll know that as well.

"Pretty clear, crystal clear, black and white in my mind. Tonight should tell else what type of team we are at the start of the hockey game."

Projected Flyers Lineup
F: Brayden Schenn-Claude Giroux-Wayne Simmonds

Travis Konecny-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek

Nick Cousins-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Matt Read

Chris VandeVelde-Boyd Gordon-Roman Lyubimov

D: Andrew MacDonald-Shayne Gostisbehere

Ivan Provorov-Brandon Manning

Nick Schultz-Mark Streit

G: Steve Mason