Philadelphia Eagles: The Dion Lewis-Emmanuel Acho trade still looks silly

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

In 2011, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted a 5-foot-8, 195-pound running back out of Pitt by the name of Dion Lewis.

Now, at the time, this draft pick wasn’t considered particularly noteworthy. From 2009-13, the Eagles drafted five running backs from so obscure they don’t even have a Pro-Football-Reference page (Charles Scott) to future Hall of Famers and were willing to wheel and deal around to find their next Brian Westbrook, Duce Staley, or even Ricky Watters.

What they landed in Lewis, however, was a uniquely talented offensive weapon with a game ahead of his time who would go on record 3,833 all-purpose yards and a Super Bowl ring for his efforts.

And to think, Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly once traded away Lewis for Emmanuel Acho, the multi-hyphenate former linebacker who didn’t exactly have a prolific NFL career. So, one day removed from his NFL retirement, let’s look back at the Super Bowl champ’s career and lament what could have been.

Even Emmanuel Acho thinks the Philadelphia Eagles messed up in acquiring him.

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Before he was the host of The Bachelor post-game show, a talk show host on FS1, or the author of a book that is endorsed by Oprah Winfrey, Emmanuel Acho was a sixth-round pick out of the University of Texas.

The eight of 11 players selected by the Cleveland Browns in 2012, Acho didn’t log a single snap during his rookie season and almost immediately found himself on the roster bubble in 2013 following the team’s decision to switch defensive alignments from 4-3 to 3-4.

So naturally, with the Eagles also switching from 4-3 to 3-4, it would only make sense to trade for Acho, a player who somehow didn’t fit Ray Horton’s scheme but did have a season under his belt under Bill Davis, who served as the Browns linebackers coach in 2012, right? I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?

But, in the NFL, as well as our general society, you very rarely get something for nothing. Even if the Browns weren’t too high on retaining Acho under Horton – via head coach Rob Chudzinski – doesn’t mean he’d be shipped off to the Eagles for free. No, as any front office worthy of being the basis for Sonny Weaver Jr‘s motley crew of movers and shakers would do, the Browns asked for a player back that maybe wasn’t a fit with the Eagles under Chip Kelly but could potentially add some sizzle to Chudzinski’s offensive attack.

Assuming a list of multiple players was tendered, Michael Lombardi picked his favorite of the litter, who played just a few miles east of Cleveland in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But apparently, no one told that to Chudzinski or his successor, Kyle Shanahan, as he didn’t play a snap for the Browns in 2013 or 2014 – though he did suffer a fractured fibula that cost him the 2013 season – and was ultimately waived without recording a single offensive snap in a Browns uniform.

From there, Lewis signed with the Colts in an attempt to get some action in 2014 but was waived a week later, effectively ending his campaign before it could even start.

Acho, by contrast, appeared in 14 games for the Eagles in 2014 and appeared destined for a bigger role in the future before his time in Philly was cut short due to the drafting of another UT product by the name of Jordan Hicks.

Had both players’ careers ended right then and there, the Eagles likely would have “won” the Acho-Lewis trade, but on the very last day of the 2014 calendar year, Bill Belichick decided to sign the journeyman runner to a future/reserve contract and just like that, his career projection was changed forever.

Inserted into an offense known for getting the most out of its players, especially if said player is a running back who can catch passes, Lewis picked up 2,467 yards and 15 touchdowns over three uber-successful seasons as one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets. Lewis received a two-year, $2.6 million extension through the 2017 season and ultimately cashed out to the turn of a four-year, $19.8 million deal with the Tennessee Titans in the spring of 2018, even if he ultimately missed out on $9.5 million of that money when he was released in 2020.

Lewis most recently played for the New York Giants in 2020, where he ran the ball 29 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns and caught 19 more passes for 127 yards and a touchdown, but for the 30-year-old, the writing was on the wall. Despite having interest from multiple teams, Lewis opted to call it a career and follow in the footsteps of Acho five years later.

So what went wrong? Why did Chip Kelly sign off on trading Lewis when he probably would have been a good fit in his scheme?

Honestly, beats me.

After finding success with players like Kenjon Barner, LaMichael James, and De’Anthony Thomas at Oregon and everyone’s favorite diminutive sparkplug Darron Sproles – and eventually Kenjon Barner again – in the pros, you’d think Kelly would have a role in mind for a player like Lewis, but for whatever reason, that wasn’t the case. No, for whatever reason, Kelly decided to swap out East-West runners he inherited for power runners like DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, even though neither was particularly effective in his scheme.

I guess… actually, I’m not even going to try to understand Kelly’s thought process. I mean, we’re talking about a guy who changed his inherited defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4 because it “gave his offense better looks” in practice. With the glow of nostalgia finally worn off, that’s just plain goofy.

But hey, don’t just take my word for it; maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Philadelphia Eagles were right to trade for Emmanuel Acho, even if he had an objectively worse overall career and even if the Cleveland Browns literally got nothing out of Dion Lewis. Let’s see what Acho had to say on the subject.

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Yeah, I guess I stand by my assertion. Trading Dion Lewis was a mistake, and the Philadelphia Eagles should feel bad about it even now. Enjoy retirement, Dion Lewis!