The Eagles and Cowboys made a big draft night trade on Thursday night.
The trade allowed The Eagles to draft wide receiver Devonta Smith, whom the Giants were eyeing.
Giants head coach Joe Judge had an appropriate response when asked about the trade.
The New York Giants, who were scheduled to pick 11th overall in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, were reportedly looking to pick Alabama wide receiver and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, according to ESPN.
But then the Cowboys, who were set to pick 10th overall, and the Eagles, who had the 12th pick, made a last-minute deal to swap picks while the Giants watched helplessly in the middle.
Philadelphia used Dallas’ 10th pick to take Smith, denying the Giants their preferred target.
For Giants head coach Joe Judge, the trade prevented him from acquiring a top-ranked wide receiver groomed by his former boss, Alabama head coach Nick Saban. In the post-draft press conference, Judge acknowledged what the probable thinking behind the agreement between the two rivals was.
“Trades happen a lot. Normally, it doesn’t happen within the division, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Judge told reporters when asked about the trade.
The Cowboys moved down two spots and used the Eagles’ 12th pick to select Penn State linebacker, Micah Parsons. Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones admitted that he considered trading down further but still wanted to draft Parsons.
“He was our highest-rated defensive player on our board,” Jones said of Parsons in the Cowboys’ post-draft press conference. “We didn’t have the stomach to risk losing him relative to our evaluation.”
The Cowboys risked missing out on Parsons by not just taking him with the 10th pick and only netted a third-round pick from the Eagles in exchange for that risk. In addition to risking their claim to Parsons, Dallas still allowed Smith into their division and to a rival that has caused more problems than the Giants.
Preventing the Giants from drafting Smith did make sense from a competitive standpoint for the Cowboys as it relates to that rivalry, but they didn’t escape the prospect of facing Smith twice a year on a team that has been a bigger rival, no less.
The Eagles and Cowboys have finished in the top half of the division in five out of the last seven seasons, making a combined seven playoff appearances. The upstart Giants have lost seven of their last eight contests against The Cowboys and eight of their last nine against The Eagles and haven’t won the NFC East title since 2011.
But the Cowboys and Eagles’ willingness to cooperate may indicate that the Giants have emerged as a bigger threat in the division going forward. The two clubs regressed in 2020, going a combined 10-21-1, their worst combined record since 1963 when they combined to go 6-20-2 in a 14-game season.
The Giants made a modest improvement from 4-12 in 2019 to a 6-10 team that contended for first place in the league’s worst division in 2020. New York then added wide receiver Kenny Golladay and cornerback Adoree Jackson in free agency, while the Eagles and Cowboys remained relatively quiet in terms of signings.
But even if the Eagles and Cowboys were looking to weaken the threatening Giants to secure their own holds on the division, it may have helped put New York in a position to be even better in the long term.
After missing out on Smith, Judge and Giants general manager Dave Gettleman made a trade of their own, swapping picks with the Chicago Bears, who made a move up to No. 11 to take Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. In exchange, the Giants netted Chicago’s fifth-rounder this year and a first and fourth-rounder in 2022.
The Giants even got themselves a wide receiver in Florida’s Kadarius Toney with Chicago’s 20th pick. Toney was rated well below Smith by most draft experts, But the Giants still accomplished their goal of adding a talented young wide receiver while getting even more high-value draft assets.
“They made a move that worked for them, and it was a good business move. We’re pleased the way it turned out. We added a good player and some assets for the future,” Judge said.
But no matter how the division shapes up in 2021 and beyond, the first night of this year’s draft is sure to be a defining moment in the history of The NFC East and its many iconic rivalries for years to come.
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