The New England Patriots sent a conditional 2018 4th round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for 2015 2nd round pick DB Eric Rowe. The trade originally included OG Josh Kline, until it didn’t.
Here are the conditions that Rowe and the Patriots have to meet in order for the 2018 4th rounder to escalate into a 3rd round pick.
Conditions of Eric Rowe trade is 4th rder becomes 3d if he plays 50 pct of snaps in either 2016 or 2017, NFL source said.— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) September 7, 2016
So Rowe will have to play 50% of the snaps in either 2016 or 2017 in order for the draft pick to become a 3rd round pick. Rowe is a unique player that can play both cornerback and safety and he’ll likely take snaps at both places in the Patriots secondary.
Using 2015’s snap counts, we see that defensive backs accounted for 46.3% of the defensive snaps, or an average of 5.1 players. If we assume the likes of Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty, and Patrick Chung are locks as players that will remain on the field when healthy, then there is roughly 110% of a player left to fill.
Safety Duron Harmon accounted for 55% of defensive snaps in 2015, while cornerback Justin Coleman recorded 27% of the defensive snaps when he was available. If Rowe takes all the remaining snaps in the secondary in 2015 that went to the likes of Jordan Richards, Bradley Fletcher, Leonard Johnson, and Tavon Wilson, he wouldn’t even crack 30% of the defensive snaps.
Essentially, Rowe will have to have as much of a defensive impact as Harmon did in order for the pick to become a 2018 3rd rounder. It seems unlikely that Rowe will have this type of a role in 2016 since Harmon is still on the squad. The only way it would conceivably happen would be if Rowe became the nickel corner in week 1 and held it for the entire season. That’s not likely.
The real question is whether or not Rowe will crack 50% of defensive snaps in 2017. He will have to be the #5 defensive back on the depth chart, at a minimum, to exceed that mark and the door will be open with Harmon and Ryan likely to depart as free agents.
McCourty, Chung, and Butler will be locked into the lineup in 2017, but Rowe will have to prove that he is better than Coleman, 2016 2nd round pick Cyrus Jones, 2015 2nd round pick Jordan Richards, and whatever other defensive backs are added to the roster over the next year.
It is very possible- and I might even say probable- that Rowe hits the mark in 2017. A secondary with Butler and Jones at cornerback, McCourty and Chung at safety, and Rowe as a pivot between the two roles seems like a great group on paper. Rowe adds more size and athleticism than Richards, and a better pedigree than Coleman. It could happen.
In the end, a future 4th round pick is completely palatable for a #5 or #6 defensive back on the depth chart, and a future 3rd is absolutely worth trading if Rowe can become a starter in 2017 and 2018.