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.

Mike Mayock: Eagles should weigh Gareon Conley vs. offense at 14

Mike Mayock: Eagles should weigh Gareon Conley vs. offense at 14

The Eagles need cornerbacks. Plural. 

It's not a secret that the team's biggest weakness heading into next week's draft is at the cornerback position. So it would stand to reason that their best bet might be to simply take the best one off the board when they're on the clock at 14.

But NFL Network's Mike Mayock, on his annual pre-draft conference call marathon extravaganza Friday, said he thinks they should take a different approach. 

Looking at the top corners in the draft, Mayock is convinced Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore will be off the board well before the Eagles are on the clock at 14. His next rated corner is Gareon Conley. After that, Mayock has Marlon Humphrey but pointed out his major flaw of struggling to find the football in the air. 

So if Conley makes it to 14, the Eagles should pick him, right? 

Not so fast. 

"So I look at it this way, if Conley's on the board at 14, you have to compare him to the best playmaker on offense on your board," Mayock said. "Because I'm not convinced the Eagles should go defense, to be honest with you. 

"If Conley's not there, I think you want to go get your corner in the second or third round and I think they need two corners. But my perspective is, you drafted Carson Wentz. You better support him. You signed two wideouts in free agency (Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith) who are both effectively one-year contracts. Your slot receiver, (Jordan) Matthews is in the final year of his deal. (Brent) Celek, the tight end, is 32 years old. 

"So you might sit there and go, 'This year looks OK,' but get a running back. Get a (Christian) McCaffrey or a Dalvin Cook. Get a tight end, O.J. Howard. Get weapons. Get one of those wideouts you like. So I would be comparing Conley to the highest playmaker you have on the board offensively. And I might be leaning towards offense if it was me." 

Zach Ertz hopes he and Carson Wentz can be NFL's next great duo

Zach Ertz hopes he and Carson Wentz can be NFL's next great duo

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham. Cam Newton and Greg Olsen. 

When Zach Ertz looks at the recent history of great quarterback-tight end duos in the NFL, he can't help but notice one thing stands out. 

"Those guys have been together for a long time," Ertz said Thursday afternoon. 

Brady and Gronk have been together for seven seasons. Cam and Olsen have been together for six. And Brees and Graham were together for five. 

"And I think just having that, where you're on the same page regardless of the coverage," Ertz continued. "If they give you this coverage, you know exactly what you're going to do. If they give you that coverage, he knows exactly what I'm going to do. When to expect the ball vs. certain coverages, it might be a little earlier, it might be a little later. So it's just that constant camaraderie where we're able to know what the other person is thinking without thinking about it."

Ertz hopes that's the kind of relationship he can forge with Carson Wentz, who will enter his second NFL season in 2017. 

Ertz and Wentz spend a lot of time together in the facility and away from it. A group of Eagles went to Ertz's wedding earlier this offseason, and of course, Wentz was present. If it seems like Ertz is going to great lengths to build a rapport with his quarterback, he is. 

After going through Mike Vick and Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford, the Eagles' starting tight end finally has a quarterback that isn't going anywhere for a while.  

"It's going to be huge," Ertz said about playing with Wentz for a second straight year. "I think when Carson was drafted, from the receivers and tight ends, that was the one thing we were really excited about. That we knew for the next five, 10, 20 years, hopefully, in Philadelphia, we knew who our quarterback was going to be."

Since he was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft out of Stanford, Ertz has been an extremely productive player. But that has set up huge expectations as fans wait for a "breakout year." Zach Ertz might never be Rob Gronkowski, but the numbers are hard to argue. 

In the first four years of his career, Ertz has 247 catches for 2,840 yards and 13 touchdowns. Since 2013, here's the list of tight ends who have more catches and yards than Ertz: Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Delanie Walker, Antonio Gates. 

Ertz and Jeremy Maclin are the only two players in Eagles history to put up those numbers in their first four seasons. 

The argument often heard about Ertz's numbers is that they come in garbage time. Ertz has historically been an absolute beast in December. In the last few years, that hasn't meant much to a struggling Eagles franchise, but if they're in the playoff hunt in upcoming years, they'll probably want that trend to continue. 

The one statistic that doesn't seem to match the others: touchdowns. While Ertz has been among top tight ends in the league in receptions and yards, his 13 touchdowns rank 17th among tight ends since 2013. (It's not a stat, but for what it's worth, Ertz would likely be among the league leaders in touchdowns called back for penalties in the last few years.)

"I want to be the guy in the red zone, believe me," Ertz said. "For the first four years in my career, I think the most touchdowns I had in a year was four. So this year, we didn't have a lot of red zone touchdowns and that falls on us as players to get it down when we get down there, make plays when the ball's in the air. That's something I do pride myself on, making those tough and contested catches, whether it be in the red zone or third down. I want to be more of a go-to guy in the red zone, but I've got to earn that this spring and summer, earn that trust of the quarterback as well as Doug (Pederson). It's going to be a process, but when you look at the great tight ends in the league, the first thing that stands out is touchdowns."