DIGGIN' RG3 IN EAGLES GREEN
By Matt Meier
March 4, 2012
Robert Griffin III, the Heisman-winning QB from Baylor, has been KILLING IT at the combine. Forget the 4.41 sec 40, the 39’’ vertical, the 120’’ broad—no one ever doubted the dude’s athletic prowess, and he’s certainly lived up to the hype. I’m talking about the intangibles: character, work ethic, intelligence. ESPN insider and Mr.-Mackey-look-a-like Jon Clayton claimed Griffin to be the most impressive combine interview he’s seen in 24 years. Fuck Luck. My man RG3 is spittin more game with these scouts than a young Denzel, and bitches is swoonin to get a taste.
This puts the St. Louis Rams in a rather cushy position with the second overall pick in the draft. With the rebuilding franchise tied to Sam Bradford’s lucrative contract for at least another couple years, newly hired head coach and mustache connoisseur Jeff Fischer has made it clear that the RG3 pick is up for grabs, and his phone has not stopped ringing. Obvious suitors looking to trade up include the Browns (who hold the 4th and 22nd picks in the 1st round), the Redskins (pick 6), and the Dolphins (pick 8). Seahawks have been rumored to have interest as well; but at pick 12 and little else to offer, they probably don’t have the arsenal to land the coveted 2nd overall slot—not to mention that the Rams wouldn’t dare hand over RG3 to a division rival.
The most intriguing rumor, however, comes from Peter King, who was told by a Rams insider that they had received an offer from a team that no one would expect—and many suspect that team to be none other than the Philadelphia Eagles themselves.
The Eagles met with Griffin last week—in fact, they were one of the first teams to meet one-on-one with him—and the meeting seemed to go quite well (as has been the case of all Griffin’s interviews). Griffin even fleetingly mentioned at one point he wouldn’t mind sitting and studying behind Michael Vick for a few years. Most Philadelphians ignored the news as just your basic meet-and-greet, the kind of interview teams do more out of curiosity in case that player falls and not with the intention of trading up. After all, owner Jeff Lurie rather transparently suggested that Reid may be gone after next year if the Eagles don’t make a strong run for the Superbowl (i.e. Reid needs to win at least one playoff game in order to keep his job); so why would Andy spend the high cost of trading up for a player that will be only a backup his first season, a player that Andy may not even have the chance to groom if things don’t work in his favor next season? When healthy, Michael Vick is one of the elite QBs in this league, and he will undoubtedly remain the Eagles starter for the next few years at least. With other holes to fill and the clock ticking, most Philadelphians would seem to agree that when it comes to landing Griffin, the juice simply isn’t worth the squeeze.
As you may have already deduced from the title, I am not one of those Philadelphians.
I’ve been saying for some time now that I’d rather have RG3 than Andrew Luck (both are great QBs—it’s just a personal preference); but the thought of the Eagles trading for Griffin truly never occurred to me until I first read about their interview and the growing rumors of Philadelphia’s interest in the young stud. At first, I reacted with the same unequivocal doubt as most felt at such absurd speculation. The more I think about it, however, the more attractive the idea starts to become.
I do not deny for a second that the Eagles are in “win now” mode. This is why they invested so much in free agency last year, hoping that the veteran additions could help balance out an otherwise young team and better situate us for a championship run. But I still strongly assert that what held us back last year was not too many missing pieces, but rather the inability of those pieces to adequately gel into a unit, a task made even harder by the premature “dream team” hype. If you stop for a moment to consider the positions in need of improvement for next year’s roster, there really aren’t many; and the logic behind trading up for RG3 becomes apparent in dissecting each positional need.
Linebacker ranks the highest positional need by a landslide and is really the only position that Philly absolutely must upgrade in order make a strong championship run. The Eagles currently hold the 15th overall selection in the draft as well as the 14th and 19th picks in the second round (46th and 51st overall). This has been said to be a great linebacker draft, which is somewhat true, but it’s also very top-heavy.
Luke Kuechly of Boston College is a perfect fit for the Eagles—a stellar MLB with great instincts who never misses a tackle—but I highly doubt he will slip all the way to pick 15 given that the Bills, Seahawks, and Cardinals are all equally desperate for a top-tier inside linebacker. Courtney Upshaw (Alabama) is the other potential top 10 prospect, and even though there’s no chance in hell he falls to us, his pass-rushing skills as an OLB are much better suited for a 3-4 offense and are not meant for Washburn’s wide-nine.
That leaves Upshaw’s former teammate, Dont’a Hightower, as the best option remaining. Hightower is a superb inside linebacker prospect and I’d be thrilled to have him; but considering that he’s projected as a late 1st rounder and Philly hasn’t drafted a linebacker in the first round since the 70s, the Eagles will have to be more than sold on Hightower to draft him that high.
After that, the talent really drops off. Former first-round prospect Vontaze Burfict (ASU) has plummeted due to his attitude, work ethic, and shitty combine results, and there are numerous coaches who likely wouldn’t even consider him until at least the third round. OLB Zach Brown is another athletic pass rushing prospect that may get snatched up in the late 1st or early second by a 3-4 style team, but he’s a less impressive version of Upshaw and also a bad match for us. The next available inside linebacker who fits our system is Lavonte David of Nebraska, who may fall as far as the third.
With all this in mind, it would seem safe to assume that our linebacker issues are one better suited for free agency, where a veteran like Stephen Tulloch, Curtis Lofton, or London Fletcher could come in right away and contribute. Ergo our ailments at LB remain unaffected by trading up for RG3, other than missing out on Dont’a Hightower, whom I wouldn’t miss if we landed a free agent and got RG3.
(2) Defensive Tackle
Cullen Jenkins was undoubtedly our most valuable acquisition from last off-season. He has quickly emerged into a defensive leader and has been a steady contributor through each and every game. Behind him, Derek Landri showed lots of promise on a per-snap basis and Mike Patterson has been an adequate second DT for us throughout his career.
I wouldn’t be shocked if the Eagles added depth by using that 15th overall pick on a DT like Michael Brockers or Devon Still or even Dontari Poe, whose stock has skyrocketed from late second–round projection to as high as top 10. But this is a positional need of far less urgency than linebacker, one that could even be ignored without severe repercussions. We’re really only looking for solid depth here, and lucky for us, this draft is balls-deep in defensive tackles. If we were to trade up for RG3 but retain at least one of our two second round selections, I have no doubt we could land a solid DT who could potentially even start for us as early as week one.
(3) Back-up QB
I had considered putting safety here, but we’ve already invested so many high picks in that position that we need to give them a little more time to prove themselves—plus this is a weak draft for safeties, and we’d have better luck nabbing someone in a trade or through free agency. There’s also our need for a big possession receiver whom Vick can rely on in red-zone and third-down situations; but for that, the Eagles needn’t look any further than Plaxico Burress, who has been all but begging to play for us since his release from prison.
When it comes down to it, Vick has had only one injury-free season in his career, and his fragility played a major role in many of our losses last season. Mike Kafka and Trent Edwards may suffice if we’re playing lights-out defense, but we’re an offensive-minded team. Andy Reid could do wonders with a guy like RG3, and trading up for him would instantly upgrade our back-up QB situation.
But clearly drafting RG3 is about more than just the comfort of a stellar back-up (though I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a good back-up to Vick). RG3 is the type of prospect that only comes around once a decade at most. Vick is on the wrong side of thirty and probably only has about three years left before his production starts to wane. Imagine RG3 spending three years under the tutelage of Reid (who has a supreme track record in getting the most out of his QBs) and the mentorship of Vick (whose style is probably most comparable to Griffin’s). That seems like a recipe for a future Hall of Famer, and he would be ours for the next decade! Fuck the rebuilding stage—I’m talking dynasty!
So even if the Eagles’ front office agrees with my analysis, it’s going to be a lot to nab that second overall pick, which once again raises the question: is the juice worth the squeeze? Cleveland seems the front-runner since they have two first round picks this year, but we have something that neither Cleveland nor any of the other suitors have: Asante Samuel. Asante is the odd man out in our loaded CB situation, and everyone (including him) expects him to be traded elsewhere. Asante may be 31, but he’s still an elite corner with plenty of ball left in him. Imagine the following trade:
Eagles’ 2012 first-round pick (15th overall)
Eagles’ 2013 first-round pick
Rams’ 2012 first-round pick (2nd overall)
The Rams will probably want slightly more than this (maybe one of the Eagles’ two second round picks this year, or one of their third-rounders), but either way, the Rams’ walk away with great value at 15, a second 1st round pick next year, and an experienced veteran who could instantly change the make-up of their struggling defense. If the Eagles are able to keep at least one of their two 2nd rounders and can sign one of the top inside linebackers in free agency, it’s a perfect deal for Philly: we solve our back-up QB situation and get our QB of the future without losing any short-term value.
If we had a QB who never misses a game or if there were a higher likelihood of a game-changing linebacker being available at pick 15, than I would not have bothered writing this in the first place. But that is not the case, and I just pray that the time does not come next season when we start losing games because Vick is hurt and our 1st round pick isn’t doing shit while RG3 lights it up in Cleveland or wherever; because if that dreadful day ever comes, even I won’t be in the mood to say “I told you so.”