The Eagles’ decision to trade a 2020 third-day pick for Bears running back Jordan Howard is another example of the value Philadelphia places on compensatory picks.
That’s because Howard is heading into the final year of his rookie contract. At first blush, it might seem like trading for a player in the final year of his contract is unwise, as he could just leave in free agency next year. But if he does, that would help the Eagles acquire compensatory picks.
The NFL’s compensatory pick formula gives teams additional draft picks when they lose more free agents than they acquire. That has been a key part of the Eagles’ strategy, and in 2020 they’re poised to lead the way in compensatory picks, as they should get a third-round compensatory pick for losing Nick Foles, and two fourth-rounders for losing Golden Tate and Jordan Hicks.
The Eagles traded a third-round pick for Tate last year even though he was in the final season of his contract and has now left in free agency. Some questioned the wisdom of that, but Tate was a valuable player for the Eagles last season — he scored the winning touchdown in their playoff victory over the Bears — and he’ll produce a fourth-round pick for them next year.
Howard may end up doing the same: He could play a valuable role on the Eagles in 2019, and if that convinces some other team to out-bid the Eagles for him in free agency next year, the Eagles would get a compensatory pick for his departure. The Eagles aren’t just planning for what Howard can bring to the team this season, they’re planning for several seasons down the road. That’s what smart teams do.