Philadelphia Eagles: Cash in all in on a Leonard Williams trade

(Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images) /

After suffering two major injuries at defensive tackle, the Philadelphia Eagles should go all-in on a trade for Leonard Williams with now-New York Jets GM Joe Douglas.

When Sam Darnold was diagnosed with mononucleosis, it all but spelled the end of the New York Jets‘ 2019 season.

Colin Cowherd said it, Steven A. Smith said it, Mike Greenberg begged the football gods to ‘Take me instead!‘ – it was the consensus.

But in a weird twist of fate, things somehow got a whole lot worse in Week 2.

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That’s right, after losing Darnold for months not weeks, Adam Gase and company lost their second quarterback in as many weeks when Trevor Siemian went down with a brutal leg injury that may very well end his season before it even really started.

Good thing the team elevated Luke Falk from their practice squad before the game – that makes two Day 3 Washington State quarterbacks thrust into starting roles in two consecutive weeks due to brutal injuries.


So with the season all but over, and the Jets now a front-runner to take the Minkah Fitzpatrick-less Miami Dolphins on a ride for the worst record in the NFL, it would make sense that new general manager Joe Douglas may opt to trade away some of their flashier pieces who may not want to re-sign with a rebuilding club come 2020.

And fortunately for the Philadelphia Eagles, the Jets have the mother of all flashy trade pieces who could put the team over the top: That’s right, we’re talking about Leonard Williams.

Dubbed the best player in the 2015 NFL Draft by Mike Mayok, Bleacher Report, and yours truly, Williams was an absolute beast for three seasons at USC – where he logged 20 sacks, 35.5 tackles for loss, and 218 total tackles in 39 games.  He then followed but a near-flawless tenure in Pasadena with an equally impressive showing at the 2015 Draft Combine, where, at 6-foot-5, 302 pounds, Williams confirmed his freakish burst by running a 4.97 40 and recording a 106-inch broad jump.

Had it not been for a string of quarterback hungry teams picking above the Jets – and foolishly the Jacksonville Jaguars, who instead opted to draft now-LA Rams situational pass rusher Dante Fowler –  Williams may very well have gone number 1 overall, surpassing now questionable selections Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.

Dubbed the ‘Big Cat’ for, well, his name (Leo obviously), his hair and his love of big cats, Williams looked like the kind of franchise cornerstone who could anchor a defensive line at any interior position – a dream for a defense-focused head coach like Temple alum Todd Bowles.

And then…. nothing.

Well, not nothing. Williams did make his lone Pro Bowl appearance in 2016 after recording seven sacks and 68 total tackles as a 3-4 defensive end, but in his other three professional campaigns, the former all-world prospect has only recorded 10 total tackles in 47 games.

Needless to say, a fresh start could do the 25-year-old a world of good, and despite getting a bit of a reprieve with the hiring of Greg Williams, who runs a 4-3, that may need to come outside of the Big Apple.

Jim Schwartz, please come down.

After losing Malik Jackson to a season-ending Lisfranc injury and his primary replacement, Timmy Jernigan, to a foot injury with an unclear return time, the Eagles should be desperately searching the market for a legitimate pass rusher to pair with Fletcher Cox over current reserves Hassan Ridgeway and Akeem Spence – a duo who combined for zero tackles and a single quarterback hit (Ridgeway) in 52 combined Week 2 snaps.

While Willaims’ 2019 campaign isn’t off to that much better of a start, as he’s only picked up seven tackles over two games, could you even imagine unleashing such a player in Schwartz’s attacking 4-3 scheme?

Dude would eat.

With easily the best defensive tackle tandem in the league – and potentially franchise history – Cox and Williams would be an interchangeable duo in the middle of the line; equally adept at attacking the run and the pass with vicious ferocity. While Williams may not have nose tackle-size to clog up holes in the middle, his prowess as a pure rusher would force teams to pick who to double play after play – freeing up one-on-one opportunities for Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett on the outside.

But Williams presence wouldn’t just affect opposing offensive coordinators blocking schemes.

No, having essentially two Fletcher Coxes (Coxii?) in the trenches would change the way opposing coaches play the Eagles for a full 60 minutes.

Want to run some five, or even seven-step drops? Good luck getting those off with Williams, Cox, Graham, and Barnett collapsing the pocket. Want to run down the clock? Against that four-man front? Get out-of-town.

With such a dominant, generational line, Schwartz could also become much, much more creative with his blitzing packages without having to put added pressure on his, shall we say, porose secondary.

As we’ve seen over the last few seasons, the Eagles have found reached their greatest heights by building through the trenches, and despite being four-years into his NFL career, Williams has a higher ceiling than any player Howie Roseman could target with a late first-round pick.

And fortunately for the Eagles, Roseman also has a longstanding relationship with first-year GM Joe Douglas; a player personnel director fans in Philly should be very familiar with.

While the Jets could easily franchise tag Williams in 2020 if he decides to forgo a long-term deal, New York is in desperate need for talent at pretty much every position across the board and may opt to turn one performers into multipe under team control long-term.

Their biggest needs? Cornerback and wide receiver.

Wait, don’t the Eagles have a surplus of players at those very positions? What are the odds?

After three years of working in the Eagles front office, Douglas has an innate knowledge of the team’s roster and may value players like Nelson Agholor, Rasul Douglas, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai more than external teams who have never sat down with them individually.

While none of these players alone could fetch a player of Williams caliber straight up, even if he’s been a bit of an underachiever over 65 NFL games, would Roseman be willing to package a few of these players, and obviously draft capitol, to add a legitimate game-changer nearing the end of his contract?

Sure, he’s done it before.

In 2017, the Eagles traded a fourth-round pick for Jay Ajayi, and he was a huge part of the team’s ultimate Super Bowl win. In 2018, the club followed it up by flipping a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions for Golden Tate, and while that didn’t really work, it highlighted the tendencies of a wheeler and dealer not content with resting on his laurels.

Next. At this point, what more can Sidney Jones do?. dark

Despite having a surplus of talent on the defensive line a mere two weeks ago, the Philadelphia Eagles are in dire need of an upgrade on the interior. While there are cheaper options both on the open market and via trade, if Howie Roseman wants to go all-in on a potentially season-altering trade with a form protegé now helming a lost franchise, why not swing for the fences and make a trade for Leonard Williams? It certainly couldn’t hurt and could pay major dividends for years to come.