The Eagles should trade Andre Dillard and Steven Nelson before the NFL trade deadline

The Philadelphia Eagles are in the midst of a rebuild. Should they deal away players in advance of the NFL trade deadline?

The Philadelphia Eagles’ 2021 season is playing out as many expected it would. With a rookie head coach and a preseason win total of 6.5, the Eagles had clear goals for this year — find out if Jalen Hurts is a franchise quarterback and undertake a light reset/rebuild. Through seven games, the jury is still out on Hurts, and it doesn’t appear Philadelphia is on its way to a postseason berth. With that in mind, should the Eagles and general manager Howie Roseman make moves before Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline?

The Eagles are set up well for the future

Throughout his time in Philadelphia, Roseman has been one of the more active executives in the NFL. He’s never been wary of making trades, taking risks in free agency, or creatively working the salary cap. That was never more apparent than during the 2021 offseason when Roseman managed to position the Eagles franchise on solid ground for the next few years.

Following a dismal campaign for Carson Wentz in 2020, Philadelphia shipped its starting quarterback to the Colts, acquiring a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional second-round pick that can become a first-rounder if Wentz plays 75% of Indy’s offensive snaps (or 70% if the Colts make the playoffs). In doing so, the Eagles took on the largest dead money hit — $33.8 million — in the history of the NFL.

Heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, Roseman executed another deal. Philadelphia moved back from sixth overall to No. 12, acquiring a 2022 first-round choice from the Dolphins in the process. That Miami pick is currently projected to be the No. 2 overall selection in next year’s draft.

Including their own selection, the Eagles may have three first-round picks in 2022, allowing them to move around next year’s draft board to acquire a franchise QB if needed.

Eagles are locked into veterans but should have money in 2022

Things are a little dicier from a salary cap perspective. Despite attempting to orchestrate a rebuild, the Eagles are still a veteran-laden team. They are essentially locked into keeping Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, and Lane Johnson for the foreseeable future.

However, Philadelphia does have nearly $22 million in 2021 cap space available. That total can roll over into next season when the Eagles project to have another $22 million to work with. Walking into the 2022 campaign with $44 million (not accounting for any cuts) and potentially three first-round picks, Philadelphia should be able to revamp its roster.

Who should the Eagles trade before the deadline?

The Eagles have already made two trades over the past several weeks. First, they dealt Zach Ertz to the Cardinals in exchange for cornerback Tay Gowan and a fifth-round pick. Next, they sent Joe Flacco back to the Jets, acquiring a conditional sixth-round choice.

Now, with the NFL’s trade deadline quickly approaching, who else could the Eagles move?

Andre Dillard, LT

Despite being a first-round pick just two years ago, Andre Dillard isn’t part of Philadelphia’s future. He’s struggled at left tackle, allowing former seventh-round pick Jordan Mailata to take over on the blindside. Mailata recently inked a four-year, $64 million extension, while Lane Johnson is entrenched at right tackle.

While Dillard hasn’t played well, there’s always going to be some kind of a market for a 26-year-old left tackle with his pedigree. Just last week, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN indicated Dillard could be on the move before the trade deadline, singling out the Browns and Ravens as possible landing spots. Given his youth, Dillard could appeal to even non-contending teams as a reclamation project. The Panthers, Dolphins, Bears, and Texans could theoretically have interest.

Steven Nelson, CB

One of several defensive veterans the Eagles signed to one-year contracts, Steven Nelson isn’t having his best season. Although he’s playing nearly every snap for Philadelphia, the 28-year-old is allowing the highest passer rating and yards per target of his career. Still, he’s generated competent cornerback play in the past, and he’s extremely affordable. The Bills, Chiefs, Titans, Saints, Buccaneers, and Cardinals could all use an extra CB before the deadline.

Anthony Harris, S

After the Vikings gave him the franchise tag in 2020, Anthony Harris surprisingly had to settle for a one-year, $5 million contract with the Eagles in 2021. Playing in defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s vanilla scheme, Harris has been roughly league average at safety. He’s capable of playing free safety, in the box, or in the slot. Thus, he could be a chess piece for several defenses around the league, with the Patriots, Colts, Ravens, and Chiefs among them.

Ryan Kerrigan, DE

The third veteran free agent signed this offseason by Roseman and Co., Ryan Kerrigan doesn’t seem to have much of a role in Philadelphia. He regularly played on three-quarters of the team’s defensive snaps during his time in Washington. But Kerrigan is only seeing action on 33% of the Eagles’ plays. The 33-year-old has just 1 pressure this year. Clearly not the game-wrecker he used to be, Kerrigan could still fit with the Bengals, Chargers, and Cardinals.

Derek Barnett, DE

Derek Barnett hasn’t lived up to his draft billing since the Eagles selected 14th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. His career-high in sacks is only 6.5. Yet, he is on pace to match or exceed his career-high in pressures this year. The Eagles already locked up fellow defensive end Josh Sweat on a three-year extension, and it’s unclear if they want to keep Barnett around once his contract expires at the end of this season. He could appeal to the same edge rush-needy teams as Kerrigan.

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