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Eagles share Patriots team-building strategy and acquire Ravens DT Timmy Jernigan

The smart teams are watching how the Patriots are building their roster and following the same strategy.

It was only a matter of time before teams caught on to how the New England Patriots have been building out the depth of their roster with high-level contributors. The Patriots have reached the NFL’s final four in each of the past six seasons, have reached the Super Bowl three times, and have won it twice. It would make sense for teams to emulate New England in an attempt to capture their own success- and the Philadelphia Eagles have had a front row seat to the Patriots action over the years.

So it should come as no surprise that the Eagles have made a move that would make Patriots head coach Bill Belichick proud:

The Eagles have shipped their third round pick (#74) to the Baltimore Ravens for DT Timmy Jernigan and Baltimore’s third round pick (#99).

This sort of trade should sound familiar to Patriots fans since New England acquired former Carolina Panthers EDGE Kony Ealy and a third round pick (#72) in exchange for a second round pick (#64). This structure of giving up a pick in exchange for a player and a lesser pick is a way to maintain a high volume of draft picks, while also adding a proven NFL veteran.

Teams often overvalue draft picks with the hopes of winning the lottery, but think of it this way: how much better are the odds of hitting a home run with a pick at #64 than at #72? There’s not much of a difference and the Patriots were able to add Ealy, who has led the Panthers pass rushers in snaps over the past two years.

The Eagles lost DT Bennie Logan in free agency to the Kansas City Chiefs partially because they have DT Fletcher Cox signed to a 6-year, $103 million contract; it is difficult to sign multiple defensive tackles to big contracts. Jernigan has one year left on his contract and was a proven starter for the Ravens.

Baltimore receives a boost of 25 draft slots, which is much more noticeable than the 8 slots the Panthers received for Ealy. The Ravens just signed DT Brandon Williams to a 5-year, $54 million contract and have invested third and fourth round picks at the position over the past two drafts with Carl Davis, Willie Henry, and Bronson Kaufusi.

The Ravens have been preparing for Jernigan to leave and opted to receive draft capital a year before his free agency period in the same way that the Patriots received picks for EDGE Chandler Jones and LB Jamie Collins.

Belichick has been making these types of trades for years. The first trade I could find since 2000 that mimicked this style was in March of 2005 when the Patriots gave up a third and a fifth round pick for CB Duane Starks and a fifth round pick. But that was the lone example I could find by the Patriots until much later.

Here are all the times the Patriots have made these trades:

Patriots history of trading picks for players and picks

Year Patriots Give Partner Patriots Receive
Year Patriots Give Partner Patriots Receive
2005 2005 3rd, 2005 5th Cardinals CB Duane Starks, 2005 5th
2009 2009 5th Eagles WR Greg Lewis, 2010 7th
2009 DL Le Kevin Smith, 2010 7th Broncos 2010 5th
2010 2010 6th Eagles LB Tracy White, 2012 7th
2010 RB Laurence Maroney, 2011 6th Broncos 2011 4th
2010 WR Randy Moss, 2012 7th Vikings 2011 3rd
2012 2013 4th Buccaneers CB Aqib Talib, 2013 7th
2013 2014 5th Eagles DT Isaac Sopoaga, 2014 6th
2014 2015 6th Titans EDGE Akeem Ayers, 2015 7th
2014 2015 5th Buccaneers LB Jonathan Casillas, 2015 6th
2015 2016 5th Texans WR Keshawn Martin, 2016 6th
2016 2016 4th Bears TE Martellus Bennett, 2016 6th
2016 2017 6th Lions LB Kyle Van Noy, 2017 7th
2017 2017 4th Colts TE Dwayne Allen, 2017 6th
2017 2017 1st, 2017 3rd Saints WR Brandin Cooks, 2017 4th
2017 2017 2nd Panthers EDGE Kony Ealy, 2017 3rd
Patriots Draft Picks for Players

You can see a sharp uptick in these types of trades in 2012, and you’ll notice that the Patriots stopping being on the giving end of proven veterans (although they moved on from Maroney and Moss at the right time).

You’ll also note that the Eagles have been on the giving end of three of these trades with the Patriots, parting with WR Greg Lewis, LB Tracy White, and DT Isaac Sopoaga (and it could be argued that the Eagles got the better of the Patriots on two of those three trades).

2017 is the first year the Patriots have given up more than a day three pick for veteran players, which could mark a sharp change in the Patriots strategy, and it should be noted that most of these trades took place in the middle of the season. We’ll see how these players contribute with a full offseason to learn the playbook.

And we’ll see if more and more teams start to value draft picks like the Patriots and Eagles- as lottery tickets, with proven players holding more value.