How the Eagles can help themselves in the draft by beating the Saints in Week 17

PHILADELPHIA — Sunday’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints has implications that reach beyond this season thanks to a deal on draft night last April that sent New Orleans’ 2023 first-round pick to Philadelphia.

That first-rounder has a 71% chance to be a top-10 pick, according to ESPN Analytics. The results this week will not only help shape the playoff picture — Philly can clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win while a Saints upset would help keep their slim playoff chances alive — but help dictate where the selection ultimately lands. ESPN’s current projected draft order has the Eagles picking 10th.

Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said the focus is solely on the game, but added: “It will be sweet if we can go out there and get this win, and then once we’re making the draft pick later we can say to ourselves, ‘ Well, that really did help us out.'”

In the trade, the Saints received two 2022 first-round picks (No. 16 and No. 19) and a 2022 sixth-round pick (No. 194), while the Eagles received a 2022 first-round pick (No. 18) , a 2023 first-round pick and a 2024 second-round pick — plus a 2022 third-rounder (No. 101) and a seventh-round selection (No. 237).

The Eagles turned around and shipped the Nos. 18 and 101 picks to the Tennessee Titans for standout receiver AJ Brown.

The Saints struck a deal with the Washington Commanders to climb from No. 16 to No. 11 and selected Ohio State receiver Chris Olave, then took Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning 19th overall.

ESPN Saints reporter Katherine Terrell and Eagles reporter Tim McManus take a closer look at the early returns, and how the trade will impact each team’s draft plans for 2023.

Why did they make the deal in the first place?

Eagles: They held three first-round picks in the draft before the trade and wanted to spread the wealth out. There was some thought that they might use those assets to acquire a veteran quarterback, but nothing shook out. Feeling good about what Jalen Hurts showed them in his first full year as a starter, the front office was able to use some of their draft capital on players who could help immediately — they moved up to take Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis 13th overall and traded for Brown — while still setting themselves up well for the following draft.

“We’re excited about Jalen Hurts, and we’re going to support Jalen and want him to have a great career in Philly. This was about flexibility for our team and about making sure that we had resources to improve our team for not only this year’s draft, but next year’s draft going forward,” general manager Howie Roseman said. “We thought it made a lot of sense.”

Saints: The Saints went into the offseason feeling like they had another shot at the playoffs, even with former coach Sean Payton stepping down in January. They operated as they always had, pushing their salary cap issues back another season and re-signing quarterback Jameis Winston with the idea they could make another run. The Saints said repeatedly that it was not a rebuilding year and even retained almost the exact same staff as the year before.

They made the move for two reasons: Getting a receiver to pair with Michael Thomas (coveting Olave in particular) and snagging their left tackle of the future to replace Terron Armstead. Moving from No. 18 to No. 16 and No. 19 allowed them to move up again with another trade to get Olave, which was part of the “win now” idea they’ve operated on for several years. Being able to get Penning was just a bonus. It has become clear now the Saints also needed a quarterback, but nobody seemed to think much of the class at the time, as no quarterback went off the board until the Pittsburgh Steelers took Kenny Pickett — who was the only QB taken in the first two rounds — at 20.


How have the results of the trade played out for each side?

Eagles: Brown, selected to his second Pro Bowl this season, has helped take the Eagles offense to another level. Coming into Week 17, he ranks fourth in receiving yards (1,304), is tied for second in receiving touchdowns (10) and with 80 receptions, he is nine catches shy of a new single-season franchise mark.

His presence has helped boost the play of his good friend Hurts, who is averaging 10.35 yards per attempt with 10 touchdowns to two interceptions when throwing in Brown’s direction. The Eagles used the 237th overall pick acquired from the Saints as part of a package to move up and take linebacker/special teams contributor Kyron Johnson in the sixth round.

And now, all eyes are on the 2023 first-rounder.

Saints: Olave has more than proven why the Saints wanted him so badly. He has 63 receptions for 940 yards and three touchdowns despite missing two games, and he could be Thomas’ eventual replacement instead of playing next to him after Thomas missed most of the season. Penning’s development has been slower, as he spent most of the season on injured reserve and is now earning more playing time every week.

The problem is that neither helped the Saints (6-9) to a winning record, which shows how badly the Saints need to fill some other holes, including quarterback. That makes the loss of a first-round pick sting even more, and the Saints’ other trade with the Eagles in the preseason probably just makes things sting a bit more. New Orleans sent defensive back CJ Gardner-Johnson, whose six interceptions are tied for the NFL lead this season, and a 2025 seventh-round pick to Philadelphia for a 2023 fifth-round pick and a 2024 sixth-round pick.


How will the trade impact future drafts?

Eagles: Projected to hold a top-10 pick in what is considered a quarterback-rich draft class, Philadelphia could find itself in a high-leverage situation. There may be multiple teams looking to trade into the top 10 to try and get their signal-caller of the future. If that’s the case, the Eagles could get a sizable haul in return if they decide to trade out. The other option would be to sit tight and grab the best player available. Offensive and defensive line is always atop the priority list with this organization, while the defensive backfield could use some attention with cornerback James Bradberry and Gardner-Johnson both set to become free agents after the season.

Roseman has made it a practice of late to push assets into future drafts, and that may be in the cards again here as well. He already has an additional second-rounder in 2024 as a result of the pick swap with the Saints.

Saints: This is one of the worst years for the Saints to be missing a first-round pick considering they have no long-term solution at quarterback. Winston struggled before being sidelined with an injury before 35-year-old Andy Dalton replaced him. Dalton remained the starter even after Winston returned from his injury, but Dalton was signed in the offseason on a one-year deal. Their salary cap issues haven’t gone away either, giving them little capital to go find a long-term solution. That makes the quarterback position a huge problem without an answer, and unless another team gives up a first-round pick for the rights to hire Payton in the offseason, they might struggle to solve that issue anytime soon.

While it’s possible that Olave and Penning both go on to be key parts of the team in the years to come, it’s not going to matter much if they can’t find a quarterback and fix other problems on what’s becoming an aging roster on the defensive side.

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