Philadelphia Eagles: A Jordan Hicks reunion is just too good to be true

The Philadelphia Eagles‘ defense hasn’t quite been the same since Jordan Hicks left town for the bright lights and humidity-less climate of Arizona.

Now granted, is that a bit of a generalization? Most definitely. Seemingly everything clicked for the Eagles’ defense in 2017, and while their 2018 numbers weren’t quite as good, they look exceptional when compared to the statistics that would follow over the following two seasons.

But for a time, from late 2016 until that pass slipped through Alshon Jeffery‘s fingers in the Divisional Round, the Eagles were a team built on a stout defense, a dominant front four, and a serviceable back seven built around their fourth-year middle linebacker.

Had the Eagles opted to retain Hicks over Nigel Bradham in 2019, maybe, just maybe, things would have been different, as the former went on to play all 16 games at a high level during his first season with the Cardinals, but alas, it just wasn’t meant to be.

But now, a few weeks past the 2021 NFL Draft, Howie Roseman and company may have a rare second chance to fix their initial mistakes, as Jordan Hicks has officially been granted permission to seek a trade after Arizona landed middle linebacker Zaven Collins in the first round. Should the Philadelphia Eagles be interested? Um yeah, 1000 percent. But will they? Unfortunately, probably not.

Jordan Hicks is the right player at the wrong time for the Philadelphia Eagles.

If Jordan Hicks was made available at this time last year – especially with his newly reworked contract – there isn’t a doubt in my mind that he would have been a member of the Philadelphia Eagles in time for Week 1 of the 2020 season.

Heck, if Hicks was allowed to seek a trade on Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft and was still around when the fifth round opened up, there’s a chance Arizona and Philly could have agreed to some sort of pick/player swap to get a deal done.

But now? Midway through the month of May? I just don’t see a world where Hicks is back in his old midnight green number 58 jersey in time for camp this summer.

Now, in theory, there’s no difference between the Eagles today and immediately after the 2021 NFL Draft. They still have Zach Ertz under contract, only added one veteran player to their roster in waiver wire claim Kerryon Johnson, and are just as questionably equipped at the linebacker position as they were in the days leading up to the NFL Draft. If the Eagles want to flip a future asset for an almost 29-year-old linebacker, they most certainly can do so with ease, but at this point, do you really think that will happen?

Because I don’t.

In the heat of the moment, with picks ticking along and names flying off the board, maybe Howie Roseman and company would have pulled a passion play and flipped a pick or more to the Cardinals for Hicks. While Roseman didn’t draft Hicks, the former Texas linebacker played very well when available for the Eagles during his tenure, and if the deal was good enough, that sort of lowball Super Bowl nostalgia might have been too good to pass up from an optics standpoint alone.

But now, with the schedule announcement mere hours away and the reality that the Eagles are going to be a young, developing team who will sink or swim largely based on their rookie-contract players coming more and more into focus, that sort of short-term play is the kind of move Philly fans would rightfully butcher and for good reason.

Even if Hicks is a better player than any linebacker on the Eagles’ roster, which he is when healthy, he’s approaching the middle of his NFL prime and may simply no longer have it when the team is ready to compete for championships once more even a few years down the line.

While teams have surely bounced back from a down season to win under a new head coach early – I mean, Doug Pederson did win a Super Bowl with a roster largely consisting of Chip Kelly players – this particular iteration of the Eagles has been hampered by dead money weighing down the cap, and a cupboard left barren by a string of consecutive bad drafts. If Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, and Miles Sanders can form a top-tier trifecta, maybe Nick Sirianni’s offense will be better than expected. If a few of the team’s young defenders like K’Von Wallace, Patrick Johnson, or Shaun Bradley can outplay their preseason expectations and develop into legitimate full-time starters, then maybe Jonathan Gannon’s defensive unit will be able to limit opposing teams to fewer than 26 points per game.

If all of those things happen, maybe the Eagles will be flirting with a winning record and could represent the NFC East a la another team with a first-year head coach like Ron Rivera in 2020, but realistically, that probably won’t happen. No, the Eagles would be better served looking at the 2021 season as a bridge year where young players across the board are afforded opportunities to test their mettle against live bullets in real-life NFL games. If they win, great. If they lose, that’s okay too. But forgoing a future draft pick, even a Day 3 selection, for an older inside linebacker on an expiring contract just doesn’t make sense, if for no other reason than that it would keep a player like T.J. Edwards off the field in the final year of his rookie contract.

No, if Jordan Hicks is traded in the not too distant future, which Ian Rapoport believes isn’t a guarantee, it’ll probably be to a team like the Green Bay Packers or the Los Angeles Rams who feel they are an inside linebacker away from being Super Bowl ready. For better or worse, the Philadelphia Eagles aren’t a team in win-now mode, so pulling off a hotshot trade with those intentions would fly directly in the face of what the forthcoming season should really be about.