The Philadelphia Eagles’ Day 1 draft haul might be the best of any NFL team. They entered Thursday night possessing 10 overall draft picks—tied for the fourth most—including five in the top 101. That kind of stash gave general manager Howie Roseman plenty of capital to be aggressive once the draft kicked off, and he didn’t disappoint.
Philadelphia drafted a foundational defender in Georgia lineman Jordan Davis and traded for one of the NFL’s best young wideouts in A.J. Brown to emerge as one of Thursday night’s biggest winners.
The Eagles moved up two spots to snag Davis at no. 13, giving the Texans the nos. 15, 124, 162, and 166 in exchange. In addition to anchoring one of the most dominant defenses in college football history, the 6-foot-6, 341-pound Davis’s testing profile is one of the best (and most absurd) ever. Six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox re-signed with Philadelphia last month on a one-year deal, and Davis could be his natural successor.
Modern defenses are utilizing lighter boxes to slow down opposing passing attacks, which made Davis one of the most singular prospects in this draft. As my colleague Steven Ruiz noted, defenses are at an advantage when they can deploy players like Davis as dependable forces within the interior who can eat up multiple gaps. Cox, 31, has been one of the NFL’s top interior defenders for a decade. Davis will be able to learn from him, as well as ease himself into a full-time workload—endurance was one of the biggest question marks surrounding Davis, who averaged only 25.2 snaps per game last year. If Davis can increase his workload, the price Philadelphia paid to move ahead of the Ravens to acquire him will have been worth it. According to Sports Info Solutions, the Eagles used two-high shells on 53 percent of their defensive snaps (the 14th-highest rate) last season. They were able to deploy a light box on 53 percent of their defensive snaps (19th), too. Davis’s addition means that defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon could be able to increase both of those figures in coming seasons.
Shortly after trading up for Davis, the Eagles acquired Brown from the Titans in exchange for the 18th pick and a third-rounder. Philadelphia reportedly reached terms with Brown on a massive contract extension: a four-year, $100 million pact, including $57 million guaranteed. Brown was entering the final year of his rookie contract and scheduled to make less than $4 million this season. He had indicated that he would hold out of Tennessee’s offseason program unless he received an improved contract; Titans GM Jon Robinson admitted on Thursday night that the two sides weren’t close to an extension. The Titans drafted Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks with the 18th pick—Danny Kelly’s no. 4 receiver in this class—who’s drawn comparisons to Brown.
“There was a priority to get the right player,” Roseman told reporters Thursday night. “And this for us was the right player. This was the right fit.”
The Eagles’ quick strikes to acquire Davis and Brown were the biggest surprise of the evening, surpassing the Cardinals’ acquisition of receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and a third-rounder from the Ravens for a first-rounder. The Eagles managed to add A.J. Brown, a dynamic 24-year-old pass catcher with two 1,000-yard campaigns in his first three pro seasons, without surrendering significant draft capital. He teams up with DeVonta Smith to provide an elite one-two punch for Philadelphia. No wonder third-year quarterback Jalen Hurts is so happy:
Roseman is probably similarly ecstatic. The Eagles went 9-8 in coach Nick Sirianni’s first season, with Hurts showing real improvement. The extra first-round pick the Eagles acquired after trading Carson Wentz allowed them to acquire Brown, and they still hold two first-round picks in next year’s draft. They’re positioned to be aggressive next season regardless of how Hurts progresses in 2022.
Several wide receiver contracts have reshaped the market at the position. Brown is the third wideout this offseason to earn a $100 million contract, and he is the only one under 28. The Eagles completed Brown’s deal while their division rival Commanders are still trying to extend star Terry McLaurin, who is also reportedly expected to hold out for a new deal this offseason. Brown’s deal likely gives McLaurin a baseline figure to seek—and possibly exceed.
The most tumultuous WR off-season in NFL history now has resulted in this, so far:— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 29, 2022
A.J. Brown is an Eagle.
Marquise Brown is a Cardinal.
Tyreek Hill is a Dolphin.
Davante Adams is a Raider.
Allen Robinson is a Ram.
Amari Cooper is a Brown.
Brown is a playmaker who makes the Eagles better. According to Pro Football Focus, he lined up in the slot on 34 percent of his snaps last season. His presence will allow Smith to be deployed primarily out wide (87 percent of his snaps).
Additionally, Brown’s acquisition gives Hurts another star-caliber receiver. With Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert already in tow, the Eagles will get a complete look at Hurts and assess whether he truly has what it takes to develop into a franchise QB ahead of the final year of his rookie deal—and before having to use one of their two 2023 first-round picks on a potential replacement from a draft that’s expected to tout Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young. Once again, the Eagles have shown an ability to balance prioritizing a long-term build and making immediate-impact transactions. Perhaps it won’t pay off in 2022, but Roseman clearly has a plan in place for Philadelphia to succeed.