NFL insider notes: Factors that fueled Eagles-Saints draft trade, plus optimism for top QB prospects

The Eagles’ extensive trade in draft picks with the Saints this week wasn’t really about next year’s supposedly upgraded quarterback draft class. It was essentially a reallocation and balancing of assets and hard teamwork.

And that makes perfect sense.

Philadelphia and New Orleans traded 2022 first-round picks, and along the way, the Eagles landed an additional first-round pick in 2023 and a second in 2024. The Eagles have been widely praised for the trade, and for good reason. Only, I wouldn’t focus so much on the relative strengths and weaknesses of any potential draft position group as part of the post-negotiation calculus.

After speaking to multiple sources with knowledge of each team’s thinking, here’s what I would say. For the Eagles, it was about the relative merits of having three swings in the first round of a particular first round, rather than what could be gained by having the latitude to move up and down future draft boards that comes with already several first round- peaks in tow. In terms of team building, if you manage to get all three first-round picks, you’re potentially looking at three fifth-year options with major pay raises all at once, instead of spreading them out over several years.

“It’s really about trying to balance your roster and being in the best position to execute a short-term and long-term plan,” a source summed up. And I completely understand.

Also, consider the rare dynamics of this first round. Eight teams control half of the first round, with two picks each. When you look at the teams ahead of the Eagles, the Giants, Jets and Texans alone control six of the top 13 picks. Trying to mock this and discern which players will fall on you is difficult under normal circumstances, and weird in these. Consider how this dynamic could impact future trades and the ramifications of what this means for actual player selection. Could there be more certainty in 2023, with fewer teams having multiple choices?

“I think it was in the mind of Howie (Eagles general manager Howie Roseman) when he was successful,” an NFL general manager told me. “I’ve never seen a draft like this before, with so many teams holding multiple first-round picks. Never. Never. Never. It’s new for all of us. It’s unique.”

As for the Saints, I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that it’s a quarterback for them, or having enough draft capital to edge out QB needy division rivals like the Falcons or Panthers. . New Orleans can be a tough team to read, but I’ve spoken to several GMs who think this trade is more about going all-in right now (like their trade for Marcus Davenport a few years ago) than about find their future QB or beat someone for it.

“The Saints usually play their cards very close to the vest, but I don’t think it’s about going up to grab a quarterback,” another general manager said. “They really like Jameis (Winston) and I think they watch the NFC and think they have as good a shot as anybody, especially if they land two impact players with those picks. more like the kind of decision they made when Sean (former coach Sean Payton) was around rather than finding a quarterback for two or three years.”

Two QBs in the top 10?

Newsflash: NFL evaluators are vastly higher on this class of quarterbacks than the media, and the three teams I spoke with earlier this week all believe two passers go in the top 10 picks. At least two.

It’s been a rage tearing these kids down, but the executives I’m talking to who aren’t in the market to draft a top QB – and therefore have less to gain or lose by lying about their true feelings about them – continue to assume that the race on them will start soon enough. Perhaps, with the Lions second overall, and surely by the time the Panthers (sixth overall) and Falcons (eighth overall) are on the clock.

“You guys (in the media) are tougher on these kids than us (in the Scouting community),” a senior executive said. “I don’t care what anyone whispers, (Kenny) Pickett and (Malik) Willis are legitimate quarterback prospects. Willis, if it all falls into place, could be really special, and Pickett played like a first-round pick last year. If I’m doing a mock draft right now, two of them are in the top 10 and four of them are going Thursday night. It’s not as bad as some the claim.”

follow the money

The NFL misled fans by tracking salary cap numbers as if they were a true indicator of intent to win a Super Bowl, and as a telltale measure of actual spending. This is not the case.

Please, please, please look at the actual payroll numbers. That’s where it happens. And in light of the bills making a huge splash yet again this week guaranteeing top receiver Stefon Diggs to a massive extension with $70 million guaranteed, I urge you all to keep track of the projected money committed to the 2022 season as a far greater barometer of an owner’s attempt to win a Lombardi Trophy than how much — or how little — cap space a team had on paper at any given time (because that’s a soft and always fungible ceiling, anyway).

According to Spotrac, as of Wednesday morning, 15 teams are expected to exceed the salary cap of $208 million in actual spending (nearly half the league), with some teams well exceeding that number. Here are the top five cash spenders in the NFL right now, per Spotrac:

  1. Browns $252 million
  2. Rams $242 million
  3. Dolphins $234 million
  4. Bill 232 million dollars
  5. Saints $232 million

Keep in mind that each owner receives around $360 million a year just for the rights to broadcast their games nationwide. Don’t fall into the okeydoke. Want to know if your team owner really goes for it or not? Track money and keep tabs on cash spending. Not everyone who spends big is going to win, but you better write your back if you think you’re going to win something remarkable if you’re in the bottom third of spending.

More Insider Notes

  • There are certainly strong differences of opinion on Oregon edge prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux. Is he really someone who will regularly make the top 10 bags? How high is the ceiling? He hasn’t exactly rubbed every team the right way through this process. Still enough talent to keep him in the top 10-12, I guess, but opinions vary.
  • Despite an Achilles injury sustained on his pro day, Michigan edge prospect David Ojabo remains likely to hear his name called in the first round from what I understand. A strong team that picks at the end of this round will want the fifth-year option on him, knowing that 2022 will likely be a year of redshirt rehab. Too much potential to drop on Day 2.
  • The veteran pass rush market – and there’s no shortage of them there yet – looks likely to be seriously affected by the depth of this pass rush group. Expect a surge of signings right after the draft among OLB/DE veterans in early May, among teams that don’t get what they need in the selection process.

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