Winners and Losers of NFL's Blockbuster 49ers, Eagles, Dolphins TradesMarch 26, 2021
Winners and Losers of NFL's Blockbuster 49ers, Eagles, Dolphins Trades
The San Francisco 49ers decided they wanted a top quarterback in this year's draft class, but they needed help.
Chris Grier is a man of action. The Miami Dolphins general manager seized the opportunity, and the 49ers will now have a chance to select BYU's Zach Wilson, Ohio State's Justin Fields or North Dakota State's Trey Lance.
That wouldn't be possible had San Francisco stood pat at No. 12.
Instead, Grier and 49ers GM John Lynch orchestrated a blockbuster deal for the third overall pick. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, San Francisco sent the 12th overall selection, a 2021 third-round pick and '22 and '23 first-rounders for Miami's slot.
Grier turned around and sent the 12th and 123rd picks, plus a '22 first-rounder, to the Philadelphia Eagles for this year's sixth and 156th overall selections.
In a matter of moments, three organizations upended the top of April's draft.
On some level, each decision makes sense. Is it a rare win-win-win scenario for everyone involved? Not exactly, but close.
Winner: Miami Dolphins Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa
In October, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the Dolphins were going to audition 2020 fifth overall pick Tua Tagovailoa in order to make sure he could be the guy under center. Thanks to the Laremy Tunsil trade, the organization was holding the Houston Texans' first-round pick in 2021.
Lo and behold, Houston's deteriorating franchise "earned" this year's third overall pick and placed Miami in a position to select another top-flight quarterback. Grier showed support for Tagovailoa after the conclusion of the season, however:
"Tua, we're very happy with. He's our starting quarterback. He did a nice job this year coming in as a rookie with no offseason and the challenge in dealing with all that. Very happy with him and looking forward to watching him progress here over a [full] offseason going into next year. For us, not really talking about draft strategy, anything right now."
Who actually believes a team official when he says the organization likes a player? (More on that in a little bit.)
But by trading out of the third pick, the Dolphins made a statement that Tagovailoa is their quarterback. More importantly, Grier's move back into the top six will provide an opportunity for Miami to add an elite skill-position prospect.
Not only is Tagovailoa the guy, which should provide some relief after he had to assert himself this offseason, but the Dolphins can properly build around the 23-year-old signal-caller.
Loser: San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo
The clock toward Jimmy Garoppolo's eventual departure from the San Francisco 49ers has started. Whether a move happens sooner or later is inconsequential.
"Jimmy is here to stay. He's our guy this year," a 49ers source told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Friday.
Well, which is it? Is Garoppolo "here or stay," or is he their guy "this year?" The latter carries far more weight since teams often utter those words when they're considering their options.
The team doesn't seem to be in a rush to move Garoppolo. It has the salary-cap space to keep him. Besides, his $24.1 million base salary might be off-putting to potential suitors, and the organization may want a capable veteran in place until the future face of the franchise is ready to take over.
Considering this year's quarterback class has minimal starting experience, the idea of letting Garoppolo play out this season and then trading him next offseason is logical.
However, the 49ers wouldn't have traded up for No. 3, giving up multiple first-round picks in the process, if they were happy with their 29-year-old quarterback.
Garoppolo failed to bring home the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LIV and then had an injury-plagued 2020. He also missed most of 2018 with an ACL tear. He should end up somewhere else as he tries to establish himself as a franchise quarterback.
Winner: Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals did nothing while other franchises restructured the top of this year's draft class, yet they came out of the situation much better than expected.
Cincinnati owns this year's fifth overall pick. It doesn't need a quarterback after drafting Joe Burrow with last year's No. 1 selection.
Every team within the top four could, for the first time ever, draft a quarterback.
Clemson's Trevor Lawrence is basically a lock to go No. 1. The New York Jets could be enamored with BYU's Zach Wilson after Friday's pro-day workout, as general manager Joe Douglas, head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur were all in attendance, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB. The 49ers clearly made an aggressive move to obtain the third pick.
The Atlanta Falcons are somewhat of a wild card. But Matt Ryan turns 36 in May, and he carries a dead-cap charge of over $40 million in 2021 and '22.
The Bengals can watch the draft unfold with the idea that they're pretty much guaranteed either Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell or LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase.
Sewell would immediately upgrade an offensive line that's in desperate need of it, while Chase served as one of Burrow's favorite targets during the quarterback's final year for the Tigers.
A patient Cincinnati can land an elite talent at a position of need after everyone else did all of the work to set the organization up for success.
Loser: Philadelphia Eagles' Skill Positions
General manager Howie Roseman's decision to trade out of top 10 came as a surprise.
Obviously, the move created long-term flexibility and added capital as the Philadelphia Eagles enter what looks like a rebuild. At the same time, short-term consequences can't be overlooked.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen (via NBC Sports Philadelphia's Reuben Frank) reported earlier this month that Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie "wants to do everything he can to help Jalen Hurts be successful."
A trade out of the top 10 is counterproductive.
With the sixth overall pick, the Eagles could have landed multiple options in the receiving game to 1) drastically improve Philadelphia's skill positions and 2) create a much better surrounding cast for Hurts.
By moving down six spots, the Eagles could see offensive weapons Kyle Pitts, Ja'Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle come off the board before they're on the clock.
Once the top four (or even five) quarterbacks are taken, teams will have heavy interest in those touchdown-makers. The Bengals, Dolphins, Detroit Lions and New York Giants could all add another playmaker.
At that point, Philadelphia will be looking at the next tier of targets. To be fair, the incoming class is deep at wide receiver once again. Even so, a significant difference exists between landing an elite prospect at a position of need and settling for one later in the process.
Winner: Alabama Quarterback Mac Jones
The idea of Alabama's Mac Jones as a top-10 selection becomes closer to reality with each passing day.
At the offseason's onset, Jones was viewed as the fifth-best quarterback prospect in a top-heavy draft class. Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, BYU's Zach Wilson, Ohio State's Justin Fields and North Dakota State's Trey Lance all held top-10 grades, while Jones fit in another tier as a mid-to-late first-round option.
As the predraft process has played out, the reigning Davey O'Brien Award and Johnny Unitas Golden Award winner endeared himself to NFL scouts and coaches, and some believe he could be the third quarterback off the board.
NFL Network's Michael Silver tweeted that no one should "rule out" Jones as the 49ers' selection over Fields and Lance. NBC Sports' Chris Simms identified Jones as the target as well.
Normally, social media scuttlebutt doesn't hold much water. However, both Silver and Simms are well-connected within the 49ers organization.
Furthermore, The MMQB's Albert Breer didn't dismiss the possibility either, especially after the 49ers had a strong contingent at Alabama's pro day last week.
The Niners wouldn't have made this deal without liking a couple of prospects who could be available, but it's likely they have a specific individual in mind.
Could it be Jones?
Even if the 49ers don't choose Jones, the Carolina Panthers, whose staff coached the quarterback at the Senior Bowl, own this year's eighth pick, and they're looking for a quarterback upgrade as well.
Loser: Teams Left Off Quarterback Carousel
A few doors potentially opened for teams that are not selecting at the top of this year's draft yet are looking to address the quarterback position.
As previously discussed, the 49ers could move veteran Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason, though only six squads have more than enough space to take on his deal unless his contract is reworked as part of the trade.
Sam Darnold could become available as well considering the New York Jets' options.
"Draft starts at three. [BYU's Zach] Wilson going two [to the Jets]," an NFL scout texted The Athletic's Dane Brugler after the Cougars' pro day.
Darnold is only 23 years old, was the No. 3 overall selection in 2018 and has more than enough potential to drum up interest.
But the demand for quarterbacks is great. The New England Patriots, Washington Football Team, Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints don't have long-term solutions under center. Even if Garoppolo and Darnold are dealt, a few of these squads will be left out in the cold.
The idea of these teams entering the season with some of their current starting quarterback options is depressing, especially in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington.