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Should the Eagles pursue Deebo Samuel? Some thoughts originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
When news broke on Wednesday that 49ers star Deebo Samuel had requested a trade out of San Francisco, the questions began to flood in.
Should the Eagles go get him?
It’s a simple question without a simple answer. Because, yes, Deebo is a great player. He’s just 26 and is coming off a tremendous season in 2021, when he was a Pro Bowler, an All-Pro and one of the most unique and dangerous offensive weapons in the NFL.
So, yeah, you want that guy on your team. But the question about whether or not the Eagles — and other NFL teams — should go after Deebo is a deeper question about resource allocation as much as it’s about the potential to land a special player.
Here are some thoughts about the situation as we try to figure out whether or not the Eagles should get involved:
Would Deebo help?
Samuel is a great player. In 2021, he had an incredible season. He caught 77 passes for 1,405 yards with 6 receiving touchdowns. And then he also had 59 rushing attempts for 365 yards and another 8 touchdowns. Deebo is a yards-after-catch monster and YAC is a big part of what Nick Sirianni considers to be a staple of his offense. In 2021, Samuel was second in the NFL with 768 yards after contact and averaged an incredible 10.0 YAC per reception and also broke 13 tackles in 2021.
While 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan seems uniquely qualified to get the most out of Samuel, it’s not like those skills would evaporate in a different offensive system. In fact, those skills could potentially thrive with Sirianni in Philadelphia.
Since the news of Samuel’s trade request broke, we’ve heard that his usage in San Francisco is a big reason why he wants out. You can certainly understand that. As the 2021 season went on, Samuel saw his role flip from a receiver to a half receiver/half running back. We’ll get to what that means for his value in a bit, but after having just six carries through the first eight games last season, he had 53 over the final eight games. There has to be some middle ground here, right?
But it’s important to note that while Samuel’s ability as a runner really separates him from a lot of receivers throughout the league, it’s not like he wasn’t a great receiver before. In those eight games before the 49ers really began to give him carries, Samuel already had 49 catches for 882 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was averaging over 110 receiving yards per game during that stretch.
The one thing to note about Samuel is that to be at his best, either way, he needs touches. He had 136 in 2021 and that’s a ton. The Eagles have been pretty clear that their offense is designed — as is — to run through DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert, two players they think are still ascending and need to get the ball even more in 2022. If Samuel is on the team, he’s going to get his touches and there’s only one football to go around.
What would it cost?
The 49ers don’t want to trade Samuel — why would they? — but they are now in a tough spot with a public trade request. If the 49ers eventually decide to give in to this request, their asking price is going to be high and there’s already some framework out there. Last month, the Chiefs traded Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins for a haul.
Here’s what the Dolphins gave up: No. 29 in 2022, No. 50 in 2022, a fourth-round pick in 2022, fourth- and sixth-round picks in 2023.
Hill is a 1-of-1 player like Samuel, but his incredible speed might make him slightly more valuable. But I’m guessing the 49ers won’t see it like that. They’re going to ask for a ton.
Realistically, what would the Eagles have to give up? It would start with a first-round pick and they have two of them: Nos. 15 and 18. So let’s put together a package of No. 18, No. 83 (third round), and then a couple/few Day 3 picks in either 2022 or 2023. If you’re the Eagles, you’d try to hold on to No. 51 this year.
That’s what it would cost in terms of draft picks. But that’s not all it would cost.
Figuring out his value
Samuel is entering the final year of his rookie contract as a second-round pick and he’s going to get paid. You obviously don’t make this significant of a trade without paying the man and keeping him in town. Hill’s deal was a four-year, $120 million contract, which gives him an annual average salary of $30 million per season.
Even if Samuel’s contract doesn’t get to that level, he’s still going to get paid. There are three receivers in the NFL with AVYs over $25 million: Hill, Davante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins. It feels like a pretty safe bet that Samuel will join them. Call it $100 million over four seasons, which is a ton of dough on top of the draft picks you already gave up. The Eagles aren’t exactly flush with cap space, but they could still find creative ways to fit Samuel under the cap this year and, presumably, the cap will continue to rise in upcoming seasons.
But it’s not like it’s super easy to figure out Samuel’s value either. Of course, he’s worth a lot. Samuel is a special player. But how do you view his unique skillset? On one hand, you can argue that his versatility and ability as a runner makes him more valuable. But on the other hand, there’s a reason running backs don’t get paid. They take a beating and don’t have the same longevity. So it’s a bit of a quandary. Because the exact skill that makes Samuel so versatile puts him into the category of a position that doesn’t get paid all that well. Maybe that’s part of the reason he wants to be a receiver first. And Samuel has had just one elite season. He’s also had some injuries issues in the NFL and during his college career at South Carolina.
In any case, would the Eagles be willing to pay that much for Samuel — or any receiver? Eagles GM Howie Roseman on Wednesday talked about the “boom” of receiver contracts this offseason.
“It’s just you have to make a decision on what your priorities are on building the team, whether you're going to kind of go with the flow or you're going to kind of figure out what is the most important thing for your team and if there's some value in being different and figuring out what now is kind of the next area,” Roseman said.
“I think we spent a lot of time, Coach and I talk about this all the time, if we're going to be the same as everyone else, we're probably going to finish in the middle of the pack. Sometimes you have to take risks and you have to stand out there and do something different than everyone else.
“So that doesn't mean that there aren't right decisions to make at that position. But at the same time, if you're doing the same thing that everyone else is doing, you're probably a step late.”
Going to the draft
If the Eagles don’t trade for Samuel (or a different receiver) then their best bet is to draft one. If they use a first-round pick on a receiver, it would be the third time doing so in three years. But in an NFL where receiver contracts have gone crazy this offseason, drafting one in an early round is clearly a more cost efficient way to add a receiver. Of course, there are no guarantees in the draft, especially at this position, which Eagles fans know all too well.
It seems like they nailed the Smith pick last April but the Jalen Reagor and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside selections have been disasters. It’s the reason they still have a clear-cut need at the position in the first place.
For many years in the NFL, receiver was considered a position that wouldn’t have an immediate impact on the field. That has changed over the last decade, perhaps as a result of college programs going to more pro-style offenses. Of the 25 rookie receivers all-time to go over 1,000 yards, 10 of them have been in the last decade. Of those 10, eight were 1st-round picks, one was a 2nd and one was a 3rd. Just last season, Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle were 1st-round rookie receivers to go over 1,000 yards.
So those guys are out there. Whether or not you trust the Eagles to find them is another story.
And the debate on Samuel really comes down to this: Is it worth it to give up a ton of resources to get a proven star or are the Eagles better off using those resources in other ways? Samuel is a special player, but it seems more likely the Eagles opt for choice No. 2.
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