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On the Eagles and the No. 4 pick

3/14/2013

Without much (anything?) happening in free agency in the NFC East, maybe we should be thinking about next month's draft. The Philadelphia Eagles hold the No. 4 pick, and based on the early signs they've shown since Tuesday afternoon, people are jumping to the conclusion that they are targeting Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner with that pick. There are good, sensible reasons to jump to that particular conclusion.

Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock draftInsider had Milliner mocked to the Eagles and called it "not a tough pick," since the crop of available free-agent cornerbacks isn't strong enough to deter the Eagles from addressing the position in the draft. The Eagles need two starting cornerbacks and so far have only signed Bradley Fletcher, who may or may not be one. They have indicated an intent to address the offensive and defensive lines in free agency, as much of the still-way-early speculation has the draft's top two offensive tackles going with the first two picks. There are a lot of ways to put clues together and convince yourself Milliner will be the pick. And if he is, it'll be hard to criticize them for it.

But I'd be surprised if it were already a done deal in the minds of the Eagles' decision-makers, and yes, the fact that they've been poking around West Virginia this week about quarterback Geno Smith is an example of why. Yes, the Eagles need cornerback help desperately. But they also need a franchise quarterback, and as the Redskins showed last year, NFL teams believe that that's worth sacrificing other plans. Michael Vick is no long-term solution. Nick Foles hasn't shown anything to make anybody feel confident that he is either. Dennis Dixon is a career backup. Arizona quarterback Matt Scott is apparently someone they're looking into as well, but he's obviously a wild card. If Smith is opening the Eagles' eyes, or if team owner Jeffrey Lurie (who attended that private workout in Morgantown) is insisting they look at a quarterback with that No. 4 pick, then things get very interesting around the Eagles and the draft.

Thing is, they're not going to clue us or anyone else in about the true depth of their interest in Smith or Matt Barkley or any of the other quarterbacks who are likely to shoot up projected draft boards in the next month. That No. 4 pick is a valuable asset, and the Eagles are wise to consider all of their options with it for as long as they can. It may be the best thing for their franchise to just stay put and take Milliner, or the best offensive or defensive linemen available there. It may be the best for them to take Smith, if they believe in him as their future at the most important position, and let him sit behind Vick for a year. (Or half a year, or whatever.) It may be that they're trying to shake up the whole landscape, get other teams wondering what they'll do and maybe dupe someone who desperately wants a quarterback (or I guess Milliner) into trading with them for that pick.

My point is, while I think it's sensible to think they're looking at Milliner, I think the people running the Eagles are smart enough to know they have something of great value with that No. 4 pick. And to have already decided what to do with it would be foolish. I expect things to stay very interesting around the Eagles and their draft plans for quite a while.