By Kip Earlywine
Darryl Tapp was traded this afternoon for Chris Clemons and a 4th round pick. The Eagles had two 4th rounders, last I've heard, we're getting the latter of the two (#124. If this is wrong and we get the 1st, that's #118). For my thoughts on this, click "read more."
Tapp did not produce many sacks the last two years, but in a sense, sacks are kind of like the RBI stat of the NFL, because sacks usually tend to be a team statistic. Ichiro does not hit many RBI's, but that doesn't change the fact that he's one of the best leadoff hitters of his generation. That's because Ichiro bats leadoff and the #7, #8 and #9 hitters have to get on base to give him RBI opportunities, which they rarely do.
In the NFL, sacks are the end result of a process. A DE probably won't get many sacks if a QB can unload the ball to an open receiver in 2 seconds with consistency. This is why you hear about "coverage sacks" on NFL broadcasts. A DE also could struggle to get sacks if the interior DTs and LBs fail to generate interior pressure, meaning a QB can simply step up in the pocket to avoid a good pass rush attempt from the outside. The last two years, the Seahawks have had a horrible secondary and in 2009, a horrible interior pass rush. Its not surprising then that Tapp's sack totals dropped in those seasons.
Tapp did not gain many sacks, but last year he was near the top of the league in QB hits- which is about the closest metric I can give you for what a "near-sack" looks like. With a good secondary and good interior pressure, some of those 13 QB hits turn into sacks and forced fumbles. And suddenly, you're looking at a guy with 5-10 sacks and 2-3 FF. In a tough year that even saw Brandon Mebane decline somewhat, Tapp was still very disruptive and aggressive after every snap. He's also 25, and DE's tend to mature and hit their stride right around that age.
I think it was in one of my earliest posts here that I complimented Carroll for noticing Tapp on film. But it looks like I may have praised Carroll too soon. According to Eagles fans, Clemons is not that great and probably the lesser half of this trade. Tapp is worth more than a 4th rounder and a backup. I hate to say it, but most likely, the Seahawks got hosed on this one. I personally wouldn't have traded Tapp for anything less than an early 2nd.
I can't tell you much about Clemons. He's 28. He once had an ACL injury. He had 8 sacks in 2007. He once destroyed Tavaris Jackson. And he had a nice fumble recovery TD late last year against Dallas. Clemons is probably a big downgrade longterm and a modest downgrade short-term, but if there is something merciful about this trade, at least we didn't lose DE depth. A 4th round pick could be decently valuable if given to Gibbs to use on a lineman or running back.
What this trade means, as far as the draft is concerned- we now have an extra mid-round pick, and we now have a substantial need at defensive end. Does this make us more likely to draft Derrick Morgan? Probably. But when I researched Morgan, I noticed he seems to perform much better at LDE than RDE, and if we gave him Tapp's job, that would probably mean he'd play most snaps on the right side. I'm not a fan of that arrangement.
One player this could put on our radar is Brandon Graham, who is Tapp+. I'm a huge fan of Graham, but he won't last til #40 and taking him at #14 is a big reach. However, if the Seahawks end up finding a way to take Brandon Graham, it wouldn't shock me. Graham is a natural RDE and arguably the best pass rushing DE in the draft.
Edit: Now that I think about it, this move may also signal an interest in Everson Griffen. Griffen played mostly at RDE and of course is a USC player. I'm not a big fan of Griffen- but- this Tapp trade does remind me a little of the JP trade last year because it came out of the blue and ultimately opened up a spot for a player our GM badly wanted. Trading Tapp really doesn't make any sense by itself, which means its probably to open the door for someone in the draft.