Evaluating the Browns and Eagles Blockbuster Trade

In less than a week we have had our second major blockbuster trade, this time between the Eagles and Browns with the Eagles moving up to number 2 in the draft. The Eagles in return will send their 1st, 3rd, an 4th round picks this year and their 1st and 2nd round picks next year to the Browns. I had a chance to listen to GM Howie Roseman explaining some of the reasoning behind the trade today, which echoed many of my own thoughts when exploring the reasons for drafting a QB regardless of roster construction, but the cost of this was pretty big. I’ll use our OTC trade matrix to again grade the trade from both sides.

For those unfamilar with my trade matrix and who did not click through the above link what I have done is take every draft pick and turn it into an expected veteran salary based on historical approximate value research from profootballreference.com. This is a much better (in my opinion) method to analyze trade value than the old point system that is generally used as a trade guideline. So if a players draft value is $4 million it means that, on average, a player selected in that position should give the team the same performance as a veteran that costs $4 million a season. We can vary that based on draft expectations for a team as well by breaking each slot down into quartiles.

Browns Get Incredible Value

As we did with the Titans, the Browns need to assume that every pick has an average expectation. I don’t personally view the Eagles as bad a team as they were last season so I’ll just project that the Browns will end up with a mid round pick next year. Here is the value acquired by the Browns:


Here is what they will give up:


The gain is $10.4 million, just slightly below the $11.6 million the Titans received by making their trade with the Rams. The primary difference between the two trades is that the Browns were unable to get multiple 2nd round picks and were not able to grab a second third in return for flipping some late picks.

This is, much like the Titans move, a no lose trade for the Browns but they do risk more on the narrative end of this one. If the Rams hit on a QB the Titans will always get the “they had a QB treatment” when discussing the deal. The Browns do not have one and run the risk of throwing away the chance at a franchise QB.

Financially this is also a big move for Cleveland for two reasons. One is that they will be signing $39 million in contracts compared to just $29.5 million had they stayed firm.  Secondly there is now probably a greater chance that Robert Griffin III is handed a starting job and he has millions in incentives in his contract that will not be easier to earn. I don’t consider these a negative as the rookies are far cheaper than veterans and RGIII has upside to realize but it is something to at least think about.

The Eagles Are Banking on Greatness

From the Eagles point of view in which they think they are getting maximum value from the second pick, they should look at this as receiving about $14.7 million in value. If they view the 8th pick as a dud then they gave up just over $16 million.  Even if that’s a bad pick and they won the Super Bowl this year they would still be on the negative end of the trade (though nobody will be complaining if they win a Super Bowl). Obviously this is a big price.

I actually don’t mind the fact that  they don’t know who they are drafting. In my mind a good portion of the draft is a crapshoot once the scouts finalize the general slotting of the players. If the Eagles have a top 5 grade on the two quarterbacks they know it’s basically 50/50 on the prospects.  But I do have a slight problem on the timing. While it would be a rare situation that something could happen between now and draft day that would injure a players I would prefer to wait until draft day to make the trade because of that. The Rams have a fallback option since there are two QB’s. The Eagles would not have that if someone was injured. All I can imagine is that they were afraid someone else would fall in love with one of the players and outbid them.

Financially the Eagles will save around $10 million in total value but will cost them an additional $700,000 in the cap this year. Over the next two years, though, they will ultimately save cap room since they will not have a 1st rounder to pay in 2017.

The bigger problem for Philadelphia is how much they gave up here for one player. The Eagles had already invested heavily in the QB position and had a very ambitious offseason. Some of the contracts signed for Vinny Curry, Lane Johnson, and Sam Bradford were questionable to say the least as were some free agent deals they did. They committed themselves to the point where you really need the draft to fill the voids in your team that are creating by being so invested in veterans.

Fans of my Jets team will remember similar situations with the Jets from 2009 through 2011 where they gave up picks like they were candy while relying on the development of Mark Sanchez. Their failure to pair the expensive veterans with quality rookies was the beginning of their downfall.

What Happens With Bradford?

Perhaps the key to this trade is Bradford. The Eagles spent big on the QB position this offseason with Bradford ($17.5 million) and Chase Daniel ($7 million). Their $24.5 million investment in the top two QB’ was the highest in the NFL. Add in the rookie around $6.6 million and this is gross spending on the QB position compared to anyone else in the NFL. Given the importance of the position it is understandable someone may go here, but clearly the Bradford and Daniel combo were done with the thought that they were going to be unable to draft a quarterback worth much.

Now that they were able to make this move (in big part thanks to the Miami Dolphins being willing to drop 5 spots for Byron Maxwell) it really should make one of the expendable. The logical choice is Bradford. If they can move Bradford they will avoid $11 million in guarantees paid out as $7 million this year and $4 million next season.

The selling point on Bradford is the cost for this year. Teams wary of the Osweilier types were not pleased with the $18 million asking price. Since the Eagles already paid Bradford $11 million up front he now becomes a $12 million per year QB who will carry just a $7 million cap charge this year. That figure is right in line with where we valued Bradford last year and where multiple cap managers also had him. At that price there should be a market.  Whether it’s the Broncos, Jets, or any other desperate team the Eagles might be able to get two mid round picks back for him in next years draft. Since the Eagles prime concerns moving forward are depth that is a move they should be willing to consider.

The best time for the Eagles to move Bradford is after June 1, at which point his dead money would drop from $11 million to just $5.5 million. That would give the Eagles added cap room to really work on a contract with Fletcher Cox that might be pretty team friendly. Cox is likely unhappy with all of the Eagles spending and maneuvering which doesn’t seem to involve him despite his standing as the best defensive player on the team.  They could move him before that to create over $1 million in space but that wont help with any other moves.

Bradfords only trade market will exist this season, because this year is so cheap. If Philly waits until 2017 then Bradford’s salary and salary cap charge becomes $17 million. Nobody is taking that on unless Bradford has an exceptional season in which case Philadelphia may not trade him anyway. Moving Bradford would get their spending back in line with NFL norms on the position.

$11 million is a steep price to pay for some draft picks but the Eagles basically did that with the nightmarish signings of Maxwell and DeMarco Murray who they have essentially used to flip into this pick. It is out of box thinking by the Eagles here and in the NFL that can be a winner and help change the way we fundamentally view the investment in AB’s for the better.

On a side note Id also be curious to see if this impacts any other QB prospects. With the top two QBs now off the board the second tier of QBs is going to get a much stronger look around the NFL. That has a chance to move them up the board and increase asking prices for teams like the Ravens or Giants who are in positions where they can move down if the price is right.