Philadelphia Eagles

For Eagles, Brandin Cooks worth trading a 1st-round pick

For Eagles, Brandin Cooks worth trading a 1st-round pick

If the Eagles have the opportunity, they should trade for Brandin Cooks. Even if it means giving up their first-round pick. 

In an age when first-round picks are seen as untouchable golden bars, this opinion is going to be unpopular. I mean, how can you trade a first-round pick? 

Well, in this case, it just makes too much sense. Everything seems to line up. 

First off, you might have noticed the Eagles kinda need some help at receiver. The combination of Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, Dorial Green-Beckham and Bryce Treggs wasn't just bad. It was bad enough that if it happens again, it could stunt the growth of the franchise quarterback. 

Over the last two seasons, Cooks hasn't just been OK. He's been really, really good. 

In 2015 and 2016, Cooks had 162 catches for 2,311 yards and 17 touchdowns. The only other players in the league to put up those same stats over the last two years: Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr.

That's not bad company. 

And it's not just the overall body of work, it's that Cooks does exactly what the Eagles need. He had as many 40-yard catches (six) and 50-yard catches (three) as the entire Eagles team in 2016. 

The whole reason DeSean Jackson and Kenny Stills have been appealing options this offseason for the Eagles is because of their deep-threat ability. Cooks is right there with them. 

And he's just 23 years old. 

To put his age into perspective, the top three receivers in this year's draft class -- Mike Williams, John Ross and Corey Davis -- are all 22. So Cooks is one year older and already has two 1,000-yard seasons in the NFL. 

This trade wouldn't be a move to pick up an aging veteran in the league. It would be a move to pick up a proven commodity who is still young enough to grow with Wentz as he enters his own. 

So far, all of this has been stuff you already knew. Cooks is good and he'd fit with the Eagles. 

What about price? Not only the price to get him, but also the price to keep him. That's the part that has Eagles fans worried. We'll start with the price to get him. 

Yes, a first-round pick is steep. And Howie Roseman is probably trying to work his trade magic to pull off the deal for less. If he somehow lands Cooks for a second-rounder and something else, great. Then, it's a no-brainer. 

But even if it takes parting with the No. 14 pick in the draft, the Eagles should do it. Here are a few reasons why: 

Draft picks and new cars are just about the only things that seem to lose value the second they're driven off the lot. It's why most players drafted in a given round, unless they become great, are immediately worth a lesser-round pick a few years later. (A big reason for that is financial.) 

With the depth of the cornerback class, without a first-round pick, the Eagles can still use their second-round pick to pick up a starter in the secondary.

Still, there's no doubt the Eagles would have a good chance to draft a good player at 14. But it's certainly much more of a gamble than picking up a proven player. It's rare that a trade for a player of Cooks' caliber is ever an option. 

There's a really good chance the top receivers in this class will never be as good as Cooks. Obviously, there's a chance one of them could be great, but none are slam dunks. And do you really trust Roseman to pick the one that will turn out? 

And remember, this draft pick was the return for Sam Bradford. Would you have traded Bradford for Cooks straight up? 

The second part of cost is the cost to keep Cooks. And I understand the trepidation, but not trading for Cooks because of a fear that the Eagles won't be able to re-sign him after two years is just playing scared. 

This season, he would come with a low cap hit of $2.67 million, which would be great for the Eagles, who have around $8.5 million in cap space. They're strapped. And even next season, the Eagles would have a club option to keep Cooks for around $8.5 million. 

Two years of Cooks at around $6 million per year sounds a lot better than adding a free agent like Stills or Jackson for $10-12 million over four or more years. 

And then, if everything goes the way the Eagles hope over those two years, sure, Cooks will be expensive. If he isn't expensive after the 2018 season, something has gone horribly wrong. 

But here's the thing: Good players get paid. And it will be up to Roseman to find a way to keep him in the building. 

Roseman has talked all offseason about signing free agents in their mid-20s instead of older guys. He wants players that can grow with Wentz and the organization. Well, how's this then: In two years, the Eagles could have a pending free agent in-house who is 25 and coming off four straight 1,000-yard seasons. Yeah, he's going to cost a lot of money in two years. But that can't be the reason not to go after him today. 

Sure, there seem to be plenty of reasons not to trade a first-rounder for Cooks. But there are more reasons to do it.

Roob: Talented, young cornerbacks no 'Band-Aids' for Eagles

Roob: Talented, young cornerbacks no 'Band-Aids' for Eagles

It's hard not to wonder: With Jalen Mills on the brink of establishing himself as a true No. 1 cornerback and rookie Rasul Douglas shining in his first two NFL starts, what happens when Ronald Darby gets back? And what happens when Sidney Jones gets back?

Answer? Who cares!

All I know is that after a decade of watching recycled, over-priced, disinterested veterans like Ellis Hobbs, Nnamdi Asomugha, Byron Maxwell, Bradley Fletcher, Nolan Carroll, Cary Williams and Leodis McKelvin, it sure is encouraging to see the Eagles stockpile promising, young largely home-grown cornerbacks.

Soon after last year ended, Howie Roseman vowed to finally stop trying to solve the Eagles' cornerback problems with what he called "Band-Aids."

"What we’ve done at the cornerback position is put Band-Aids on things," he said.

And then Roseman and Joe Douglas went and did something about it.

The Eagles drafted Jones and Douglas in the second and third rounds, then traded Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick to the Bills for Darby, and with Mills returning for a second season, all of a sudden the Eagles found themselves with four promising cornerbacks 23 or younger, something unprecedented in franchise history.

The thinking was that the Eagles would be patient and take their lumps waiting for these raw, young corners to develop into legit NFL starters instead of riding the free agent veteran carousel year after year.

And that's where their plan went awry. Because Mills and Douglas are both playing at a high level, and that long-term plan seems to be way ahead of schedule.

It sure looks like for the first time since Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown first became starters 15 years ago, the Eagles have capable cornerbacks they can grow with.

Mills has come so far. He now has the technique to match his confidence. He had Terrelle Pryor most of opening day, and Pryor finished with six catches for 66 yards. Last week in Kansas City, he tracked explosive Tyreek Hill most of the game, and Hill caught four passes for 43 yards with a long gain of 18 yards. Mills drew one of the league's best Sunday — Odell Beckham Jr. — and although he caught seven passes, none went longer than 14 yards. 

Douglas, inactive on opening day, has been shockingly good in his two starts. He's proven to be a tough, hard-nosed, physical corner who makes up for average speed with very good technique, and he's as sure a tackler as the Eagles have had at corner since Brown.

How can you not be excited about these two?

The Eagles were without four defensive backs Sunday — Darby, Jaylen Watkins, Rodney McCloud and Corey Graham (five if you include Jones) — and they still beat a healthy division opponent with a Hall of Fame quarterback who threw 47 times and went after Mills and Douglas snap after snap.

I don't care what Manning's stats say, Mills and Douglas have both given the Eagles distinguished cornerback play the last two weeks, and now remind yourself that Mills just turned 23 in April, and Douglas doesn't turn 23 until next summer.

Which brings us to the future.

Jones, a projected first-round pick before his Achilles injury, has the glossiest résumé of any of these guys. He doesn't turn 22 until May. And Darby, who the Eagles liked enough to part with Matthews and a third-round pick, doesn't turn 24 until soon after the season ends.

Now maybe if the Eagles knew what they had in Douglas, they never would have made the Darby trade. But it doesn't matter at this point.

What's important is the Eagles have stocked the cornerback position with enough young talent that they should be in good shape for the foreseeable future. It's tough to find talented young cornerbacks, and the Eagles seem to have found a bunch of them.

And maybe it seems like they have too many. What do you do with all these guys?!?!?! But if you've lived through Asomugha and Maxwell and Fletcher and all the other guys the Eagles have paraded through the Linc over the last decade you're never going to worry about having too many young corners.

So what do the Eagles do when guys start coming back? And remember, even 30-year-old Patrick Robinson has been way better than expected in the slot.

We know Mills will play somewhere. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz could start Darby and Douglas and use Mills in the slot. Or he could keep Robinson in the slot with Mills and Douglas outside, leaving Darby as the fourth corner. He could go with Darby and Mills outside and Douglas in the slot.

And when Jones enters the picture? Jones and Mills outside with Douglas in the slot? Darby and Jones outside with Mills in the slot and Douglas at safety?

There are a million different ways to go, but all that stuff will sort itself out.

Really, all that's important now is that the Eagles have a stable of young corners to grow with. And not a Band-Aid in sight.

Jake Elliott's photo after unforgettable finish a major breath of fresh air

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USA Today Images

Jake Elliott's photo after unforgettable finish a major breath of fresh air

"A picture is worth a thousand words."

The saying is attributed to Frederick R. Barnard, but there is some debate who coined the phrase. We’ll let historians debate the origin. Fast-forward some 90-odd years later to a hot Sunday afternoon in South Philadelphia and the visual of Jake Elliott triumphantly being carried off the field on the shoulders of Mychal Kendricks and Kamu Grugier-Hill.

It was a fitting close to a crazy game. Elliott had just buried the longest field goal in franchise history. The sixth-longest ever in the NFL. Sixty-one yards of pure bliss for Eagles fans. All courtesy of a player who was not even on the team two weeks ago. A guy most had never heard of prior to that, including his now teammates, being given the ultimate escort. A kicker nonetheless. The still photo now serves a screen saver or backdrop for countless Eagles fans. A reminder of yet another wild finish between these two old rivals. But the image also represents something much deeper.

Sunday was dominated by images of the sidelines during the national anthem, as players responded to the President Trump's comments. The Eagles, along with their owner, Jeffrey Lurie, stood arms locked along with Philadelphia police during the national anthem. Others around the league sat or kneeled. Some teams never came out of the locker room. Some went the traditional route of standing with their hand over their heart to honor our flag. But unlike Colin Kaepernick’s protests last year or Malcolm Jenkins' clenched fist, this was a much broader protest being made by NFL players.

That this a complex, polarizing issue, no one will argue. The overriding message or theme from the players who took part in the demonstrations was it was done in response to the president’s cry Friday that NFL owners who see players “disrespecting the flag” should say “get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired.” The protests were also done to raise awareness of the racial inequalities in our country. There are those who find any action other than standing at attention for the anthem to be disrespectful to our country regardless of the reasoning behind it.

Sports has long been the cocoon that allows fans to escape "real world" problems. Attend or turn on a game and you could get a two-three hour respite from work or politics or family issues. Those days are gone. The two worlds have collided, and, like it or not, there is no untangling the two forces.

But there was something about the shot of Elliott, a white man being carried off the field by two African-American men. There was no division, race or class or otherwise. It was unbridled joy by three human beings from differing backgrounds. They put color and beliefs — and politics — to the side and celebrated a unique accomplishment. And that is what is still beautiful about sports. Pollyanna perhaps. But individuals of all races and ethnicities and backgrounds working together for a greater good.

Kind of the way it’s supposed to be in that "real world." Picture that.