Philadelphia Eagles: Only trade Derek Barnett for C.J. Henderson

(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

Over the past few days, there’s been a lot of talk about the Philadelphia Eagles trading Derek Barnett.

While there is no substantive reason for these trade rumors, at least as far as I can tell, as Barnett has had a very “Derek Barnett”-y offseason in that he’s been solid though not spectacular, the beyond unfortunate (potentially) season-ending left leg injury of New York Jets pass rusher Carl Lawson has caused some members of Eagles nation to pontificate about what sort of package the team could get in exchange for the 14th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Could the Birds get back a player like Keelan Cole, a beyond-solid veteran who could help to mentor the team’s young receivers? Or what about Denzel Mims, the Jets’ 2020 second-round pick who may be on the roster bubble? I mean, probably not the latter, as he openly stated he was afraid of Philadelphia – among other things – during his pre-draft process, but in theory, adding another viable pass-catcher wouldn’t be the worst idea, especially since Travis Fulgham, John Hightower, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside all remain fighting for the team’s fifth and potentially sixth receiver spots.

Then again, wouldn’t swapping out an every-down defensive end who has started 30 of the last 33 games he appeared in for an at-best fourth wide receiver be a pretty poor return value-wise?

For my money at least, if the Philadelphia Eagles are going to trade Derek Barnett, they should at least target a player like C.J. Henderson with an ultra-high ceiling at a position of need.

The Philadelphia Eagles might not be as deep at CB as we initially thought.

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For all of the hype Zech McPhearson received during training camp, he was absolutely targeted by Cam Newton in the Philadelphia Eagles’ second preseason game of the season, who gave up – by my count – six catches in the first half and was attacked over and over again.

Now granted, there were some factors working against McPhearson in only his second contest in midnight green.

For one, he was playing in Darius Slay’s spot on the right side of the field, as opposed to the left side, where both he and Steven Nelson have spent the vast majority of their time this preseason. McPhearson also wasn’t exactly put in the best schematic position to succeed versus the Pats, as Jonathan Gannon has been playing his cards fairly close to the vest so far this preseason.

With that all being said, the idea of McPhearson having to be thrust into action in an actual regular season game is a rather frightening prospect that might not turn out as well as one would hope.

That’d be all fine and good if the Eagles had another veteran cornerback better suited for spot-up duty, but unfortunately, the team’s only other real options on the outside are Michael Jacquett – who was a disaster in the Birds’ December game against Dallas – and Avonte Maddox, who finished out the 2020 season as PFF’s worst overall cornerback out of 121 options.

Needless to say, if the Eagles can land a veteran outside cornerback capable of playing special teams and filling in in the case of injury, it would be incredibly advantageous to do so.

Landing a player like, say, D.J. Hayden or Dre Kirkpatrick fit that bill? Sure, I guess so, but why settle for free agents who are still unemployed two weeks into the regular season? Why not shoot for the moon and try to land a legitimate blue-chipper with all of the physical tools to become a legitimate star?

Why not offer to trade Derek Barnett for C.J. Henderson?

As you may or may not know, I’ve discussed the prospects of acquiring Henderson before – here actually – and at the time, I was lukewarm on the concept because of the presence of McPhearson and the hype he’d generated in camp. With no real place for Henderson to play right away, procuring his services would be a down-the-road move, which I surmised might no longer be needed considering the perceived strength of the cornerbacks’ room.

In hindsight, I was wrong.

Now, I’m not quite ready to give up on McPhearson just yet as having NFL starter traits. He’s physically looked the part of an outside cornerback so far this preseason – which is more than anyone could say about Maddox last season – and hasn’t given up any game-breaking massive catches despite his high volume of targets. If schemed for his physical limitations and strengths, McPhearson could likely be a solid if not spectacular cornerback – a “Derek Barnett”-type, if you will – but Henderson? He has all of the tools to be a legit difference-maker.

Measuring in at 6-foot-1, 204 pounds, Henderson ranks in the 60th or better percentile in arm length, height, bench press, broad jump, vertical jump, and 40 yard dash time, according to Mockdtaftable. Henderson was a standout performer at the University of Florida – which is saying a lot, considering the strength of the defensive backs that come out of that school – and parlayed an unreal 2018 season into a top-10 draft selection by David Caldwell and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Though Henderson didn’t play particularly well during his rookie season with the Jags, ranking 74th out of 121 cornerbacks according to PFF (subscription required), he still flashed the occasional bit of brilliance that I’m sure Jaguars fans chose to hang their collective hats on, even if their new front office may not feel the same way.

Factor in a strong showing in the Jags’ preseason debut versus the Cleveland Browns, and the idea of stashing Henderson on the bench as the Birds’ first cornerback coming off the bench feels pretty darn intriguing, especially since the presence of Ryan Kerrigan and Milton Williams has made Barnett expendable both now and moving forward.

Is a fourth cornerback worth more than a fourth defensive end? For a team with depth at one position as opposed to the other, the answer is a resounding yes, especially since Henderson would be under team control through 2024 if his fifth-year option gets picked up.

Next. Avonte Maddox looks like a natural in the slot. dark

Will the Philadelphia Eagles ultimately trade Derek Barnett? No, probably not. For how fun it is to hypothesize about potential trades, Barnett has been a valuable contributor to the Eagles for a long time now and may still be in the team’s plans long-term, depending on how his season shakes out. But if Howie Roseman does opt to cash out on Barnett while there is a market for his services, why not do so for an uber-talented cornerback prospect who could replace Steven Nelson in 2022 and retain in the team’s plans long-term? That makes more sense to me than adding a depth wide receiver.