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The way things could have been: A look at recent draft connections between Seahawks and Eagles

Super Bowl XLVIII - Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

In 2010, the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks each had new GMs. For the Eagles, that guy was Howie Roseman, an in-house promotion for a guy who had been with the team since 2000 and worked his way up from “salary cap staff counsel” to “general manager” in just 10 years. Roseman was only 34 when he got the job. For the Seahawks, that guy was John Schneider, himself only 38 at the time of being hired but also it’s no secret that Pete Carroll has plenty of say in personnel decisions.

Both sides were looking to rebuild in the 2010 draft, and they would be closely tied throughout.

Before any of that happened though, Schneider and Roseman agreed to a deal that sent Darryl Tapp to Philadelphia for Chris Clemons and a fourth round pick. Clemons had 38 sacks in the next four seasons, while Tapp had three sacks over the next two seasons and went to the Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions, and is currently playing for the New Orleans Saints.

Seattle had two picks in the first round that year thanks to a 2009 trade with the Denver Broncos. They took tackle Russell Okung with the sixth overall pick, but there was some talk that they would have taken safety Eric Berry if he hadn’t gone fifth overall to the Kansas City Chiefs. But because the Chiefs took Berry, the Seahawks still had a need for a safety when they were on the board again at 14, one pick after the Eagles selected defensive end Brandon Graham out of Michigan. Philly even traded up to get ahead of Seattle, leading many to believe that it would be for Thomas, since safety was a major need.

Including Thomas:

Thomas talked about watching the draft four years ago. "I remember it like it was yesterday," said Thomas. "Nobody forgets draft day, and how many teams passed up on you. I remember when the Eagles traded up, (and watching) the clock winding down, I think somebody was saying 'Earl Thomas is coming off the board right here,' but I think they picked Brandon Graham. After that, Seattle called."

Graham tore his ACL in 2010, missed basically all of 2011, was relegated to a backup role from 2012-2014, and then finally became fairly productive last season after signing a four-year, $26 million deal. He is the team’s leading sack-getter this year, arguably the best pass rush unit in the NFL, but overall his career is clearly nowhere near that of Thomas. (We can’t speculate that their careers would be the same if Philly drafted Thomas, or that the Seahawks would have drafted Graham, which doesn’t seem probable.) But it’s interesting that years later, many Eagles fans still wonder “what if?” with Thomas, though the focus used to be on “What if Jason Pierre-Paul?” who went 15th.

In the second round, Philly took defensive back Nate Allen, while Seattle picked Walter Thurmond in the fourth round. Allen is now a backup on the Oakland Raiders, while Thurmond retired following a short sting in Philadelphia; the Eagles also took corner Trevard Lindley six picks ahead of Thurmond. (Lindley lasted just one season.) The Seahawks took wide receiver Golden Tate in the second round while the Eagles took Riley Cooper in the fifth; Tate clearly the better of the two.

But Philadelphia then made three picks at the end of the fourth round: LB Keenan Clayton at 121, quarterback Mike Kafka at 122, and tight end Clay Harbor at 125. Seattle took safety Kam Chancellor at 133. Then the Eagles took defensive end Ricky Sapp at 134. (Seahawks took DE E.J. Wilson at 127.) Nobody danced around drafting Chancellor more than Philly did, but it didn’t happen obviously. Much like Thomas, would Chancellor have even fit in Andy Reid’s defense? It’s not the same as what they are doing for Carroll and it’s possible, if not probable, that they wouldn’t have been a match. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Thomas and Chancellor are great players.

Overall, it was a pretty unsuccessful first draft for Roseman; out of 13 players, only Graham is still with the team, and only Graham, Allen, and Kurt Coleman are still in the league. Coleman seems a great seventh round pick, but like it was mentioned with Thomas and Chancellor, didn’t fit with Philly’s defense and has had more success with the Carolina Panthers. And they were very close to having a draft like Seattle’s, which netted four players who have made a Pro Bowl, including Okung, Thomas, Chancellor, and Tate.

Still, the Eagles went 10-6 in 2010, while the Seahawks went 7-9 ... but Seattle picked after them in the 2011 draft because they won a playoff game.

Roseman’s next first round pick was 26-year-old guard Danny Watkins. He took Watkins over Cameron Jordan, James Carpenter, Jimmy Smith, Mark Ingram, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Cam Heyward, among others. The Seahawks needed the same thing and took tackle James Carpenter. While Carpenter has plenty of critics, he’s been a starter 65 times. Watkins famously had little passion for football (compared to most pros at least) and was on his way out of the league by 2013, officially retiring in 2014.

Seattle’s big coup in 2011 was fifth round pick RIchard Sherman. The Seahawks took him at pick 154, five picks after the Eagles selected running back Dion Lewis, and 35 picks after they took kicker Alex Henery. Philly also took a DB in both rounds two and three (Jaiquawn Jarrett, Curtis Marsh). It’s not about the “what if?” scenario for the Eagles, just that they could have very justifiably taken Sherman at any point and totally screwed up Seattle’s future. Roseman did get center Jason Kelce in round six, and he’s one of the best in the NFL at his position.

The Seahawks also got linebacker KJ Wright in round four, shortly after Philly picked Marsh, and Malcolm Smith in round seven. The Eagles picked three linebackers, so they could have definitely been looking at Wright and Smith, even if the systems are a bit different. (Philly’s defense didn’t change dramatically until a couple years later.)

The draft that changed everything for Seattle came in 2012, and they were quite directly tied to the Eagles and Roseman in the beginning of it. Coming off of a 6-10 season, Philadelphia traded up to 12 in a deal made with Schneider and the Seahawks, who moved down to 15. The Eagles went with Fletcher Cox while Seattle took a chance on Bruce Irvin and acquired picks in the fourth (Jaye Howard) and sixth (Jeremy Lane).

While the Seahawks should feel proud about drafting solid players in rounds four and six, it’s hard to deny that Cox doesn’t hold more value than Irvin, Howard, and Lane, even if Seattle did manage to hold onto Howard, which they didn’t.

In round two, things got even more closely tied together when the teams drafted linebackers back-to-back: The Eagles took Mychal Kendricks, the Seahawks went with Bobby Wagner. Kendricks is a fine player but nowhere near the level of Wagner. Seattle may have gotten a fine player with Kendricks, or they might have went in another direction entirely, but there’s another example of when the Eagles could have totally screwed the Seahawks and just missed.

But the biggest moment of all came in round three, when both teams were looking for a QB. Philly took Kafka in 2010 but he was soon out of the league. Last week, current head coach Doug Pedersen spoke about how much they admired Russell Wilson as a prospect that year (Pederson was the QB coach at the time) but they waited too long, opting to take defensive end Vinny Curry at 59 instead of Wilson. That moment, as well as quite a few others leading up to pick 75, helped Wilson land with the Seahawks. The Eagles took Nick Foles at pick 88 instead.

Cox has been a great player, Kendricks has been a good one, Curry, Foles, Brandon Boykin, and Bryce Brown had some nice moments, but few classes will ever compare to the one of Wilson, Wagner, Irvin, Lane, Howard, J.R. Sweezy, and Robert Turbin. And Philly was all around nearly every key pick.

In 2013, the Eagles made the transition from Reid to Chip Kelly (another former Pac-12 coach) and personnel decisions clearly took a turn in his direction despite many claims that Roseman was still in charge. And as Seattle began to rise up the NFL ranks because of the moves outlined here, they separated themselves from Philadelphia and their picks weren’t so closely tied anymore. The Eagles got some good players in 2013 — Lane Johnson, Bennie Logan, Zach Ertz — while the Seahawks’ best pick that year might have been Spencer Ware, who didn’t break out until he got to Kansas City.

But still, Seattle won the Super Bowl after that draft.

In 2014, the Eagles took Marcus Smith in round one (Smith has 2.5 sacks in three seasons, with zero starts) and the Seahawks traded down, opting to select Paul Richardson at pick 45. Philadelphia took receiver Jordan Matthews at pick 42, a player that many Seattle fans wanted; Matthews has been way more successful so far, of course. In 2015, when it’s believed that Kelly took full charge over Roseman, the Eagles took Nelson Agholor in round one, then cornerback Eric Rowe in round two, and outside linebacker Jordan Hicks in round three. In the draft that perhaps reinvigorated fan hopes that Schneider is the best prospect evaluator in the NFL (or close to it), the Seahawks took Frank Clark in round two and Tyler Lockett in round three. They also got starting left guard Mark Glowinski in round four.

The team fired Kelly with one game left to go in 2015, replacing him with Pedersen shortly after.

This year, there were still a few comparisons, as both teams selected guard/tackles (Germain Ifedi, Rees Odhiambo for Seattle, Isaac Seumalo, Halapoulivaati Vaital for Philadelphia) and running backs (CJ Prosise in round three, Alex Collins in round five, Zac Brooks in round seven for the Seahawks, Wendell Smallwood in round five for Eagles) as Philly looked to find their own Wilson with Carson Wentz at number two overall.

What can we conclude from all of this? Nothing more than a few pieces of interesting evidence that if they wanted to, the Eagles could have totally F’d over Carroll’s tenure with the team if they had only made a few small changes in draft/trade decisions since Roseman was hired in 2010. I mean, even in that case, is there a universe where they lure Schneider away from his Seattle offer in 2010, thereby opening an interview opportunity for Roseman with the Seahawks? Sure, but even more realistic is they could have drafted Earl Thomas. Or Kam Chancellor. Or Richard Sherman. Or Russell Wilson. And it’s not speculation of “what could have been,” it’s just a look back at what was and how close it was to not being what was.

Either way, the Eagles and Seahawks meet on Sunday as the top two teams in DVOA and maybe, for all we know, the top two teams in the NFL. To get to this point despite some bad drafts, Roseman’s clearly doing something right.

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Posted by Field Gulls: For Seattle Seahawks News and Analysis on Friday, November 18, 2016