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Grading the Eagles' moves: Jordan Matthews traded to Bills

Grading the Eagles' moves: Jordan Matthews traded to Bills

Eagles get: CB Ronald Darby

Bills get: WR Jordan Matthews, 2018 third-round draft pick

There were reports the Eagles would be open to trading Jordan Matthews as far back as February, so it certainly comes as no surprise the club finally pulled the trigger. That being said, I’m not sure anybody could’ve anticipated quite this level of return.

A second-round draft pick from Florida State in 2015, Ronald Darby made 29 starts for the Bills in two NFL seasons. However, after a solid rookie campaign in which he was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team and Pro Football Focus’ Defensive Rookie of the Year, Darby regressed in 2016, apparently falling out of favor in Buffalo.

Darby went from a 78.3 opponents’ passer rating in coverage – 17th out of 79 qualifying players corners – to a 104.8 in ’16 – 69th out of 79. The Eagles are banking on a resurgence.

Cornerback was clearly the team’s greatest need, and there was a clamoring to do something. Darby is better than most, if not all of the suggested targets.

Darby is listed at 5-foot-11, 193 pounds. He has 137 tackles, 33 pass deflections and 2 interceptions in 29 games.

As for Matthews, there are many who were critical of the fourth-year wideout. He was miscast as a No. 1 receiver, dropped too many passes and was pushing Nelson Agholor down the depth chart. After the additions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, and with Mack Hollins and Marcus Johnson also having strong training camps, the Eagles could afford to part with somebody.

There’s no denying Matthews’ production – 225 receptions for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns in three seasons – or work ethic. Unfortunately, he was in the final year of his contract, and there was a logjam at the position.

From all of those perspectives, the trade makes sense. The fact that the Eagles had to throw in a third-round pick is where the deal loses some of its luster.

Darby is under contract for two more years, which is perhaps where the Bills get off asking for more out of the swap. Otherwise, they’re comparable talents – both former second-round choices, both stellar production early in their careers, and both coming off of down years. In that sense, you could make the case this should’ve been straight up.

The pick hurts the deal, but doesn’t ruin it. Of course, even a down year for Matthews was 73 receptions, 804 yards and 3 touchdowns, so he’ll likely continue to produce regardless. Whether it will have been worth it or not depends entirely on whether Darby rebounds and becomes a consistent starting cornerback for the Eagles.

If Darby does that, this grade could be substantially better – and nobody will care about that third-round pick.

Grade: B

Sixers put organization ahead of Mikal Bridges' feelings ... and that's okay

Sixers put organization ahead of Mikal Bridges' feelings ... and that's okay

Brett Brown sold me.

I agree with my colleague Andrew Kulp that the moment the news of the Sixers trading Mikal Bridges broke that I was flabbergasted. His mother works for the Sixers! Mikal was literally talking about how exited she was for him to be in Philly when the news broke. His poor mother! It was pretty much as rough as it gets in terms of optics. 

It looked awful from a PR perspective. There are tons of disappointed Villanova alums today.

But it's an unfortunate situation, in my opinion, not an organizational embarassment, as Kulp wrote.

An unprotected first round pick though? Damn. That's enticing.

Then Brett Brown came out after the first round ended and put my mind at ease that the Sixers made the right move.

They did what they believed to be best for the Sixers, a "Godfather offer" if you will. Here's Brett's, incredibly honest and thoughtful opening statement. You can watch it in full above. I think it's worth watching to realize how much thought Brett and his decision makers put into this one.

"We had 1A and 1B and when the 9th pick was selected you realize, we’re going to get one of our two, and we chose Mikal [Bridges]. And to see that play out knowing the history that he has had in this city and at Villanova, it was very much aligned and he was somebody that could come in a fit with what we had. And so it goes from that level of excitement in the extreme coincidence, given his history in this city, to a situation in between that the phones were active and we knocked back an incredible deal where we would lose him. We didn’t rate it to be a Godfather type of deal, something that really would impact the franchise to the level that it would have to in order to trade Mikal, who we valued very much."

"And then Phoenix came in and offered a 2021 unprotected plus our 1B in Zhaire [Smith], who we value very highly, and you’re in a position that you’re on the clock and you really have a decision to make. And for me, and all of us in that room, what also rules our day is a few things. First— and in this order—what is always best for the organization, I’m going into my sixth season with the Philadelphia 76ers and so what is best for the organization and how do you win a championship, how do you acquire things that can attract stars or develop stars? That pick might be the key to all of this, that pick might be the thing that links a possible trade, and we have our 1B in Zhaire."

The trade was jarring emotionally. There's no sugar coating that. Bridges is by all accounts a wonderful and thoughtful kid. Not to mention a hell of a basketball player who would absolutely help the Sixers in 2018.

Brown later added a line that should make you more comfortable with the Sixers moving on from him: "We are star hunting or we are star developing."

If the Sixers didn't believe that Mikal Bridges would be one of those stars, they added an incredibly valuable piece in the unprotected first that can help acquire a star. Either via trade or in a future draft. And they got their 1B on top of it.

Some very smart NBA people even believe that Zhaire Smith is a better prospect than Bridges. Only time will tell on those two players. But the Sixers did what they believed put them in the best position to land a star.

Isn't that what the Process is all about anyway?

"I'm here to win a championship," Brett Brown said at the introductory press conference for Smith this morning.

They pulled off this trade because they believe it helps them get closer to a championship. At the end of the day, are you worried more about one family's feelings or the Sixers winning a championship?

If you watched Mikal speak to the Phoenix media following the trade, he'll be just fine growing alongside DeAndre Ayton. That kid is a pro. And the Sixers put them in the position they believe best sets them up to land a star.

Now they just need to go out and do it.

No excuse for how Sixers handled draft night trade of Mikal Bridges

No excuse for how Sixers handled draft night trade of Mikal Bridges

To be perfectly honest, I can’t tell you a whole lot about Mikal Bridges, other than he’s a Villanova product and two-time national champion. I can’t tell you a thing about Zhaire Smith. And an unprotected first-round pick in 2021 is so far away, it could really be anything, or change hands three more times until then.

I don’t know if the Sixers were winners or losers at the NBA draft after trading Bridges to Phoenix for Smith and the Miami pick. Nobody knows that. We all have our opinions, but we don’t know.

The only thing anybody can say for certain is the organization should be embarrassed, no matter how this plays out on a basketball court.

The Sixers should be embarrassed, but not because the front office took a risk or made an unpopular decision. Love it or hate it, the trade was made with a clear vision, and it took courage for Brett Brown the interim general manager to give his OK, realizing it wasn’t necessarily the best move for Brett Brown the head coach in the immediate. Fortune sometimes favors the bold.

No, the Sixers should be embarrassed for pulling a bait-and-switch on Bridges, a 21-year-old kid and Philadelphia hero, while he was on live TV talking about how ecstatic his mom was he would be playing pro basketball in his hometown. Draft night trades are the norm in the NBA, so why would an NBA team put a young man and his family in that position less than 30 minutes after the selection was made?

Especially when, all the while, Brown was still fielding offers for Bridges.

“The phones were active and we knocked back an incredible deal where we would lose him,” Brown said after the conclusion of the first round. “We didn’t rate it to be a godfather type of deal, something that would impact the franchise to the level that it would have to in order to trade Mikal, who we valued very much.

“Then Phoenix came in and offered a 2021 unprotected [first-round pick], plus our 1B in Zhaire, who we valued very highly, and you’re in a position that you’re on the clock and you have a decision to make.”

The Sixers should be embarrassed by the latest in an increasingly long line of public relations blunders. If this were the only example of the organization’s ineptitude, it would be unfortunate, but forgivable. Instead, it was par for the course.

This is the same organization that took its sweet time ousting Bryan Colangelo amid a bizarre social media scandal mere weeks ago; that never convincingly explained the mysterious circumstances that led to Markelle Fultz sitting out most of his rookie season; that has frequently and publicly feuded with Joel Embiid over playing time; that was previously caught hiding major Embiid injury information from fans; that has a medical team constantly under fire for its inability to quickly and accurately diagnose injuries; that just endured years of bad PR for tanking, until it finally reached a point where the league allegedly stepped in and had to force Sam Hinkie out. Did we miss anything? Probably.

No, I don’t think we’re making too much about a press conference. Too often for far too long, the Sixers have come off as dysfunctional in far too many arenas, and it can't be endearing to the likes of LeBron James, other top-tier free agents and available veteran players or even the organization's own stars.

At least one person in the building seemed to understand how sensitive a situation this was.

“I live in this city with you all,” said Brown. “I watch Villanova. I love (Bridges’) mom. I love his college coach. There’s a human side of this that’s really kind of hard to explain.

“The emotion of what we have all been through has been painful, but what’s best for the organization and how do you win a championship? And since I’ve looked at you all, I haven’t pivoted out of that once. So, the torment of trying to do my job in the very limited role in the moment I have as general manager versus the role that I have as head coach of this program, it’s a toggle, and this is where we arrived.”

Too bad Brown apparently didn’t have a chance to convey that to members of the Sixers' staff before they prematurely started the victory parade.

“All of those emotions and all of those facts happened in a 20-, 25-minute window,” Brown said.

A 20-, 25-minute window is all the Sixers need to make an awkward situation worse. Brown, the fans and, most of all, Bridges and his family all deserved better on Thursday night.

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