Since his first draft as Eagles head coach, it’s been no secret that Chip Kelly has lusted over the possibility of his former Oregon Duck standout Dion Jordan suiting up for him in Philadelphia. The former Oregon sideline boss basically came out and said, following their first round selection of Lane Johnson in the 2013 draft, that they had the outside linebacker as option 1-A and, were it not for the Dolphins trading up to select him, would have had quite the dilemma on their hands. After a season in the NFL, and a defense lacking the type of dynamic edge talent some envision Jordan could become, the rumors are once again re-surfacing in a big way. According to Bob Grotz of The Mercury, Philadelphia had a trade on the table a few months ago that would bring Jordan to Philadelphia in exchange for former first round pick Brandon Graham and the Eagles 2nd round pick in he 2014 draft.
“Buried in the preoccupation with pass catchers is that the Eagles, according to a respected NFL source, made an offer almost two months ago for pass rusher Dion Jordan, who played spectacularly for Kelly at Oregon but hardly at all last season with the Miami Dolphins. The details are unimportant. The Eagles are said to have included a second-round pick and linebacker-defensive end Brandon Graham. For now Jordan is still part of the Dolphins, who say they’re going to find a way to get him more snaps next season. Almost everything about a deal for Jordan still makes sense, including the contract should the Eagles package in some way a first-round pick.”
Though unspectacular in his rookie season with the Dolphins, Jordan displayed the world-class athleticism, coverage skills, and pass-rushing ability that had scouts salivating over him leading into the 2013 draft. Jordan finished his rookie season, one that started after recovering from shoulder surgery, with 26 tackles (19 solo) and a pair of sacks. Some speculated that perhaps Jordan did not fit the defensive scheme set forth by the Miami coaching staff and that the organization might be better off moving him while his value is still high. Personally, I find it difficult to imagine an organization shipping away an elite physical specimen with a unique skillset that allows him to impact the game in various ways. Nevertheless, as the old adage goes, ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’. Rumors like this don’t just appear out of thin air and, if Kelly is as enamored with his former player as it seems, the Eagles may just do whatever it takes to bring Jordan into the fold.
From a financial and personnel standpoint, the Eagles have the wiggle room to take on a contract like Jordan’s. Grotz’s article breaks down what a swap (involving the Eagles first round pick) would mean for both teams.
“Jordan’s contract wouldn’t be a huge obstacle to a trade. The Eagles would be picking up the remainder of his four-year, $20.572 million fully guaranteed pact according to Overthecap.com. The Dolphins would take a $10 million salary cap hit this year if they traded Jordan before the draft. After June 1, the Dolphins would be able to spread the cap charge over two years. If the Eagles included their first-round pick in a deal, Overthecap.com calculated they would be paying slightly more than what the 22nd overall pick would earn in the 2014 draft and saving bonus money.”
On the surface, if both franchises wanted to make this deal happen, conventional wisdom might say it’s a mutually beneficial transaction. The Dolphins would acquire an additional first round pick in a loaded draft, rid themselves of a potential issue if Jordan’s fit is as awkward as some see it, and avoid the possibility of seeing a top-5 pick that they traded up for turn into a bust. Every indication from the franchise is that they will take the patient route with the first round pick and find a way to make the most of a truly special talent. That said, if the Eagles decided to put their first round pick on the table, it would not surprise me if the Dolphins decided to nibble.
While I acknowledge the team’s need for a substantial upgrade at arguably the most important position on the defensive side of the ball for a team running a 3-4 hybrid scheme, I would be very much against the Eagles shipping away a first round pick for the Oregon product. Unless the second-year player on the table is a proven commodity, which Jordan is not, a first round pick in a draft this strong is always superior. When the situation is boiled down to its simplest form, a team already considering a player they moved up for just a year before should immediately take a first round pick off the table. Whomever the Eagles do end up picking, regardless of position, 22nd overall is already a year more valuable in both potential growth and finances to the organization. He is one year further away from his second contract, one year younger, and a player that will grow from his earliest stages as a pro within the Eagles culture.
Make no mistake, if there is one coach further ahead than any in the league, perhaps even more than Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, when it comes to tapping into what makes Jordan tick it’s Chip Kelly. That being said, it has been a year since the team has been able to observe Jordan on an even playing field with the rest of the league. If the Eagles were to acquire Jordan, it would be after a full season in the NFL with a completely different culture and mindset than the one the Eagles are trying to foster. There is no way of telling what the Miami coaching staff had Jordan do leading up to this point and why they would even fathom the notion of shipping him away. Simply put: teams don’t ship away 2nd year top-5 picks unless they aren’t the player they thought they were getting or a new regime has polarizing views on the player. In the case of Jordan, even if the new Miami front-office isn’t as high on him as the one prior, there are only a handful of players in the league capable of doing what he can do. If they wanted to trade him, it would not be because of what he brings to the table talent-wise.
With the Eagles’ first round pick, even at #22, they have the opportunity to bring in a special talent and bring him up the way they like. Some argue that a player’s first year in the league can dictate what level of success they will have in the long run. With Jordan, the Eagles would not be given the opportunity to mold Jordan during his most impressionable state. Whatever player they do select 22nd overall will have gone through multiple interviews and visits, examined the team’s facilities, and have a clear idea and message of what was to be expected of him. Whether that is a receiver, safety, linebacker, or whatever; the Eagles should realize the importance of this pick as it applies to their future. Lane Johnson was a player brought in and fostered under the atmosphere the Eagles are developing under Chip Kelly. The Eagles need another first round pick, a player expected to make an impact early on, to increase their talent level. Though I think Dion Jordan will end up being a very good NFL player, there are already question marks about his future. Unless the front office decides to play a practical joke on the fans and draft a kicker in the first round, every first round pick in this draft is given the same clean slate and chance to grow with reasonable expectations.
With all this said, Chip Kelly clearly holds the cards when it comes to the Eagles plan of attack. If he wants Dion Jordan enough and the Dolphins have a price, Kelly might insist upon a move. Part of me would even like to see one of my favorite targets from last year’s draft end up in Eagle green. Still, there is something to be said for the process of building a team and knowing when to be proactive and knowing when to stay the course. In this instance, I would hold on to the 22nd overall pick and wait and see how the draft shakes out.