Philadelphia Eagles: You know what? Why not trade for N’Keal Harry?

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the 2021 NFL season.

The team has a young sparkplug of a signal-caller, a new wide receiver with limitless potential, and a coaching staff that has been glowingly endorsed by some of the best in the business at their former stops. While that’s (probably) not enough to get the Birds back to the Super Bowl, it should at least make for a fun season where a winning record is very much still on the table, right?

If you subscribe to that “Philly”-osophy, I 100 percent get it. Optimism is never a bad thing, especially in the offseason when every team’s success is still hypothetical. But for outside observers who hold no real connection to the City of Brotherly Love, it’s become commonplace to see the Eagles ranked among the worst teams in the league.

Is that assertion fair? Eh. I mean, sure, the Eagles aren’t exactly blessed with a Cheifs-level of talent across their roster, but they have a new head coach, and that typically correlates with some immediate success based on mystique alone.

But what if those non-fans are right? What if the Eagles do stink, and their roster needs a whole lot more work to get where it needs to be? If that’s the case, why not use the 2021 season as a “Hunger Games”-style battle royal to find potential contributors down the line and acquire any disgruntled former top-tier draft picks looking for a fresh start? Finding a little bit of treasure in someone else’s trash is a mighty fine way to speed up a re-tooling; just ask players like Travis Fulgham.

The Philadelphia Eagles need to find future talent in whatever way possible.

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Coming out of Arizona State, N’Keal Harry looked like a certified world-beater.

Measuring in at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Harry did a little bit of everything for the Sun Devils during his tenure in Tempe and, for the most part, did them very well.

For the better part of two seasons, Harry was ASU’s number one receiving target, a big-bodied “Alshon Jeffery”-type on the outside, and showed an absolute mastery of the red zone, as evidenced by his 22 touchdowns in 37 games. He exhibited good body control, the versatility to kick it inside, and a willingness to muck things up in the run game as a certified fresh blocker, all the while leading the team in targets, yards, and touchdowns in each of his final two seasons in Tempe.

While some pooh-poohed Harry’s ceiling due to his lack of explosion off the line, the Toronto native silenced some doubters with a 4.53 40 yard dash at the 2019 NFL Combine and parlayed that success into a top-40 grade by many a talent evaluator across the league.

That evaluation, as it turns out, was ultimately correct, as the New England Patriots, fresh off their final Super Bowl win of the Tom Brady-era, opted to secure Harry’s services with the 32nd overall pick in that year’s draft, spurning a potential reunion between the former ASU receiver and his collegiate state’s lone professional football team.

Fun fact: The Arizona Cardinals were reportedly so hopeful that Harry would fall to them at 33 that they selected not one, not two, but three other receivers in the 2019 Draft to try to provide Kliff Kingsbury with some offensive firepower in his first professional season. In hindsight, I wonder if the Patriots wish they’d have instead picked Byron Murphy at 32, as he’s flashed promise during his first two seasons in the desert.

However, since landing in Foxboro, things haven’t been quite so kind to the two-time First-team All-Pac-12 member.

Despite turning in a handful of impressive showings during his second season as a pro, most notably an eight-catch performance in the Pats’ Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Harry was largely a secondary option for an offense defined by change. He appeared in 14 games with nine starts, hauled in 33 passes for 309 yards, and recorded two touchdowns as the Patriots’ third receiver in many a game, but as the season went on, his role diminished with each passing season, and thus, his future became a bit murkier than many a former first-round pick would like heading into their third professional season.

Factor in the free agent additions of Kendrick Bourne, Marvin Hall, and our old pal Nelson Agholor, plus Tre Nixon in the NFL Draft, and the idea of Harry becoming a cap casualty isn’t as crazy as it may have seemed one summer prior.

So naturally, as these things occasionally go, Harry’s agent decided to get out in front of things before they got out of hand and kinda, sorta, demanded a trade on Twitter.

You’ve gotta give it to Jamal Tooson; he left very little doubt about his client’s intentions and got him trending on Twitter. As far as marketing is concerned, not too shabby.

So, to the question at hand. Should the Philadelphia Eagles be players on a potential deal for Harry?

If the price is right, then sure, why the heck not?

While we still don’t 100 percent know how the Eagles will opt to divvy up snaps to their receiving corps and where each player will lineup when they are on the field, it’s hard to look at the team’s current collection of pass-catchers and feel too confident. Sure, they have a number of young, ascending receivers with potential, with Greg Ward holding down the spot as the team’s elder statesman at 25 years and 259 days old (as of the time of publication), but what are the chances that one out of John Hightower, Quez Watkins, or Michael Walker actually hits? Heck, what are the chances a player like JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Ward, or even 2020 breakout star Travis Fulgham officially establishes himself as a legitimate starting-caliber wide receiver, instead of a rotational piece who can wax and wane with little rhyme or reason?

Trading, say a sixth-round pick for Harry doesn’t magically fix the Eagles’ receiving corps or even fill a hole of particular note; it just adds another lottery ticket to the team’s current portfolio.

Who knows, maybe Harry really does just need a change of scenery? Maybe playing under a younger head coach with a growth mentality will be a whole lot easier than going from Tom Brady to Jarrett Stidham to Cam Newton on a team in flux? I mean, probably not, but you never really know. Fulgham went from a deep-bench player with the Detroit Lions to a pre-season cut by the Green Bay Packers, to the Eagles in a matter of weeks, and there wasn’t a talent evaluator in the NFL who preferred the pride of Old Dominion to Harry in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Again, if the price is right, what do the Eagles really have to lose?

Next. Danny Watkins named the Philadelphia Eagles worst draft pick since 2006. dark

Assuming the Philadelphia Eagles don’t shock the world, turn in a training camp for the ages, and hit the ground running right out of the gate this fall, the team’s summer will likely be defined by positional competitions, positional shuffling, and more than a few roster moves to better position the team for Nick Sirianni’s first season as a head coach. While the Eagles could wait it out and hope to land N’Keal Harry off of waivers in the lead up to Week 1, if they genuinely believe the third-year pro still lives up to his pre-draft evaluation, why not kick a Day 3 pick over to Billy B up in NE and have a full summer to test said evaluation? The Eagles did just claim Kerryon Johnson for that very reason off of waivers and could find similar success with a move for Harry.