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How Jets GM Joe Douglas should replicate the Eagles, Part 3: A few trading techniques

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NFL: DEC 03 Redskins at Eagles Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Jets are not going to turn into carbon copies of the Philadelphia Eagles simply because they hired Joe Douglas. The new general manager has been around the league for a long time and has his own ideas. I am sure there are things his old boss Howie Roseman did in Philadelphia that he disagreed with. He will do those things differently now that he is in charge of his own team.

With that said, the Eagles do a lot of things right so I am sure Douglas will borrow some of the philosophies he liked from his time in Philadelphia.

Since his hiring I have shared some philosophies the Eagles have that I think Douglas should bring to the Jets.

What follows is the third installment in the series. You can read the first here. You can read the second here.

Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of building a roster through trades in football. The dynamics of trades in the NFL are different than you see in other sports. In this league trades tend to happen because a team is simply looking to dump a player and hoping to get something in return.

If a team cannot deal a player on the trade block, that player is frequently cut. A disciplined general manager will simply wait for that happen and sign the player. You get the player without parting with valuable Draft picks in a trade. Even if things don’t pan out, another player of equal talent will often hit the market in short order.

Of course it isn’t a good idea to deal in absolutes when team building. There are scenarios where making a trade is good sense.

Under Howie Roseman the Eagles have been one of the most active teams in the NFL at utilizing the trade market.

I am not sure I want the Jets to be as active in pursuing trades. The Eagles have made some irrelevant trades simply exchanging bottom of the roster fodder such as the 2017 Terrance Brooks for Dexter McDougle swap with the Jets. Deals like that probably aren’t worth seeking frequently. I also don’t want to see the Jets engage in short-sighted moves. (I’m looking at you, dealing away a third round pick for ten games of Golden Tate.)

There are, however, a pair of trading techniques the Eagles have utilized repeatedly that I would like to see Joe Douglas incorporate into his plans with the Jets.

Pick for player AND lower pick

Draft picks are the lifeblood of any successful NFL franchise. Every team needs to find young, cheap contributors. But acquiring a proven player in the NFL tends through a trade tends to sending away at least one pick, sometimes more.

You want to acquire a proven talent, but you don’t want to drain Draft capital. What is a team to do?

The Eagles frequently find a middle ground. They trade away a pick to acquire a veteran they want. Along with the veteran they acquire, a lower pick is part of the return.

In 2017 the Eagles traded for a quality defensive lineman in Timmy Jernigan. They traded Baltimore their third round pick (74th overall). The Ravens sent a lower third round pick (99th overall) to Philadelphia with Jernigan.

The actual price the Eagles paid here was minimal. They got a good defensive linemen and ended up with the same number of picks. Essentially all they had to do to get this lineman was trade down 25 slots in the third round. That wasn’t very costly.

A year ago Philadelphia got Michael Bennett from Seattle. They gave up a fifth round pick and Marcus Johnson, a camp fodder wide receiver who Seattle traded again a few months later. Along with Bennett, Seattle sent the Eagles a seventh round pick.

Johnson really had no value so let’s take him out of the calculus. The Eagles started with a fifth round pick. They ended with a quality pass rusher in Bennett and a seventh round pick. By the time you reach the fifth round in the NFL Draft, you are in the dart throwing portion. The odds of hitting on a fifth round pick are only marginally higher than those of hitting in the seventh. For this marginal cost, the Eagles got a proven pass rusher and didn’t deplete their number of late round swings in the Draft.

The Eagles did it again this year, flipping a sixth round pick to reacquire wide receiver DeSean Jackson and a seventh round pick. Again, the difference between a sixth round pick and a seventh round pick is negligible. They essentially got Jackson off the clearance rack.

In many NFL trades a team acquires a good player but at the cost of depleting critical Draft capital. When that cost is minimized and the reward of acquiring a good player remains, it can be very worthwhile.

Trading for players on rookie deals

Sometimes trading for a veteran is the wrong move for a team because a reasonable alternative is available in free agency. Why give up a pick to acquire a player when an equally talented player can just be signed without doing so?

This comes back to player value. If I am going to make a trade, it needs to be for something that is not readily available on the open market.

Part of player value is salary. Say Player A and Player B are equal in talent, and I have to choose one. Player A has a $1 million cap hit. Player B has a $5 million cap hit.

Player A is much more valuable. Either guy will give me the same production, but choosing Player A will give me $4 million extra to build up other areas of the roster.

Rookie contracts provide teams with remarkable values. Aside from the top picks in the Draft, rookie deals are very cheap. Players selected after the first round tend to carry cap hits lower than $2 million per year on their first contract.

When a quality player on one of these a rookie contracts becomes available, it is frequently worth exploring a trade. Good players on deals like this are not readily available on the open market. Free agency produces outrageous overpays for marginal players. There are seldom quality performers available for bargain basement rates.

At numerous points the Eagles have traded for players on their rookie deals. In 2017 they dealt for a starting cornerback, Ronald Darby. He counted $800,426 against the cap that year. During the season, they landed running back Jay Ajayi in a trade from Miami. Ajayi was a valuable role player in Philadelphia’s backfield committee. He chipped in 408 yards in just 7 games on a 5.8 average. He cost the Eagles under $400,000 for that half season of work.

This offseason they made another addition to their backfield by trading for Jordan Howard. This is a two-time 1,100 yard runner who will cost just over $2,000,000 against the cap. That seems like a deal worth pursuing.

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Nobody would suggest these are the only types of trades worth making. There obviously will be points in Joe Douglas’ tenure where it will make sense to give up a pick straight up for a player. There might even be the odd player for player swap that benefits the team.

If the goal is to maximize value, however, these are the types of deals that tend to do so. Above others, they are worth seeking out.