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John McMullen: Look past the flashy names at the NFL trade deadline


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John McMullen: Look past the flashy names at the NFL trade deadline

Headshot - John McCullen
PhillyVoice Contributor

Panthers edge rusher Brian Burns

Former Eagles president Joe Banner calls it the "big-name trap” and the average Philadelphia fan doesn’t exactly need to be lured into it with any high-tech hunting gear.

Mention any familiar name in the lead-up to the NFL’s trade deadline on Nov. 1 and a spot in Carson Wentz’s den awaits the weakest of the herd.

Chemistry and affecting the core of the league’s only unbeaten team?

With prime real estate in the marmalade forest between the make-believe trees, salary caps don’t exist, chemistry is an elective, and Nick Sirianni’s devotion to connecting is white noise.

The only thing that matters is a name so familiar it fits like a comfortable shoe.

Sure, Miles Sanders entered Week 7 fourth in the league in rushing but San Francisco secured the ultra-talented but oft-injured Christian McCaffrey, a player the Eagles absolutely loved during the 2017 draft process by the way, for the low, low price of four draft picks.

GM Howie Roseman didn’t take much more than a cursory approach into McCaffrey this time, according to a league source. The reasons should be obvious: price tag, the steep draft capital it took to get CMC, and the belief in chemistry class as a requirement.

Remember, If you have a player like McCaffrey, who is the game’s best pass receiver out of the backfield when right, there is inherent pressure to get him the football.

The Eagles, in case you haven’t noticed, were ranked No. 3 in total offense entering their bye week with the passing attack built around A.J. Brown, Dallas Goedert, and DeVonta Smith.

Sure they can’t get Kenny Gainwell involved but Occam’s Razor manifests itself like a spooky specter this time of year with the simple question of why would you want to?

I’m reminded of Doug Pederson shaking his head at questions once upon a time over Mack Hollins’ traffic numbers.

"He’s the sixth option,” the current Jacksonville coach once deadpanned, the rare spit-take NFL moment for its comedic brilliance.

As far as efficacy goes, Pro Football Focus put Philadelphia as the No. 2 passing offense behind Kansas City, and the thought here is Shane Steichen could have run his self-described run-pass-run option with Jalen Hurts and Brown that put Micah Parsons in conflict 100 times in Week 6 against Dallas, one of the best defenses in the NFL, and it wouldn’t have been stopped.

This is all about maintaining not fixing what isn’t broken.

Odell Beckham, Jr. is another splashy name still out there who you don’t even have to trade for because he’s coming off a torn ACL in the Super Bowl back in February.

Only the medical professionals know when OBJ will be ready, but the typical nine-month rehab would be finished in early November and his camp has been trying to build on his personal relationship with Justin Jefferson to Jedi mind-trick his way into a perceived contender with no cap space.

A role simply doesn’t exist with the Eagles either for OBJ unless you believe a player with a reputation like that would be happy getting Quez Watkins-like touches as the WR3 in Philadelphia.

Maybe the most head-shaking aspect of this deadline, though, is a sudden love for Brian Burns, a good pass rusher not even available absent a king’s ransom for the rebooting Panthers, according to multiple sources around Carolina.

In a vacuum, Burns, 24, would be great. He’s young, healthy, and has been wildly productive with 30.5 sacks seven games into his fourth season as a pro.

From there everything comes off the rails.

You get even get out of Charlotte before this rumor is spiked. The Panthers already have multiple offers better than the late first-round pick (No. 31 as it stands today) many Eagles fans believe would be so enticing for Burns.

Think way higher in the first round plus extra draft capital on top of that. Some in Carolina even believe the Panthers' GM, Scott Fitterer, wouldn’t budge absent a package that starts with two first-round picks, something ESPN’s Adam Schefter confirmed on Sunday.


Then you have the contract with Burns currently in the fourth year of his rookie deal that has a fifth-round option at over $16 million. Any possible extension because of age and upside would far exceed what the Eagles gave Burns’ former teammate in Carolina, Haason Reddick, this offseason.


And remember Roseman understands the landscape that is approaching with his rapidly developing quarterback who could be able to command Kyler Murray-like money if the status quo is maintained.

The dumbest part of the Burns stuff, though, is the success of the Eagles’ pass rush to date.

There is a weird narrative that the Eagles "need more” when it comes to the pass rush, something that ignores all available context.

Entering their bye, the Eagles’ defense was No. 3 as a team in ESPN’s pass rush win-rate metic behind only Jacksonville and Dallas. The now 2-5 Panthers weren’t in the top 10 with Burns, something you can at least argue is due to his supporting cast.

Individually, however, the Eagles have two players in the top 10 on the metric: Josh Sweat at No. 6 and Reddick at No. 9. Brandon Graham, who has been the best of the Eagles’ edge defenders, albeit on a pitch count as Philadelphia tries to manage him at 34 while coming off an Achilles injury, would be even better.

Graham saved the vaunted secondary by whacking Cooper Rush in Week 6, stopping what would have been a long touchdown to CeeDee Lamb, with a pressure that turned into a Chauncey Gardner-Johnson interception.

If you like Pro Football Focus, Graham was its No. 4 edge rusher coming into Week 7, Reddick was No. 26, and Sweat No. 28. Burns, conversely, was 34th. As pass rushers, Reddick was No. 7, Graham at 10, Sweat No. 41, and Burns a step behind that at 42.

Those numbers might change a bit this week because Burns was so good in a 21-3 Panthers upset of Tampa Bay on Sunday, but his ascension doesn’t change how effective the Eagles’ players have been.

As for the collecting stars for depth crowd, injuries are always the biggest equalizer in the NFL but you can’t legislate them and you certainly can’t spend on big names to put them in mothballs in case of emergency

For those interested, yes, Roseman has contacted Carolina about Burns.

The Eagles are always interested in really good players and even more so, pride themselves on understanding the market better than anyone else. The organization does its due diligence on anyone of value.

Roseman is always open for business and, at 6-0, he’s more apt to buy than sell. He may make a move but the smart money is on the Genard Avery-level player rather than a Jay Ajayi-type, never mind a splash like Burns.

Think a third safety who would be an upgrade over K’Von Wallace for potential big nickel work, a bigger threat than Jack Stoll at tight end to make 12 personnel even more effective, a returner, or even a situational edge player.

Whatever happens, Nov. 1 can’t come soon enough.


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I don't think any team is going to make a big splash because I think there are too many teams still in the mix. There are a lot of teams right now who know 1 win could really get them back on track. Even a team like Carolina (having picked up a good win on Sunday) must feel if they can get on a bit of a run they can really get in to the mix in the South.

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