Yes, we are insanely early in the process. We’re not even in the infancy stage, more like the prenatal portion of the NFL’s 2018 league year and free agency period. So needless to say, a lot can and will be changing. So think of this more as a progress report than a final grade, but are the Eagles a better team now than the one that exited that dome in Minneapolis in a confetti-strewn, blaze of glory?
Additions (Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata)
Let’s start with the new faces.
The Eagles added to an already deep and talented defensive line with newcomers, Bennett and Ngata. Both are past their prime, Ngata more so than Bennett. But each can still contribute at a high level.
Assuming Vinny Curry is gone, Bennett, even at 32 years old, is a clear upgrade. Over the last six seasons, Curry has 22 sacks and 95 tackles. Bennett during the same time span, 48 sacks, 165 tackles. Ngata will fill the void left by Beau Allen.
Ngata, entering his 10th season, is 34, compared to Allen, who's just 26. This one is a little more difficult to quantify considering the position they play and what they're asked to do. Allen played well last season, especially when Tim Jernigan struggled with an ankle injury. He will be missed. But Ngata impacts games. Last season with Detroit, Ngata had two sacks in five games. And with him on the field, the Lions allowed 74.6 rushing yards per game. In 11 games without him, 129.7 yards. If healthy, he can still play. Slight lean to Ngata, short term.
Subtractions (Trey Burton, Beau Allen, Brent Celek, Torrey Smith)
We addressed Allen’s departure. The loss of Burton hurts. He improved steadily each of his four seasons with the Eagles. Last year, while getting just 27 percent of the snaps, he managed 23 catches for 248 yards and five touchdowns. He was also the third leading tackler on special teams.
As for Celek, he was the definition of a winner, a warrior and a team-first player. But he's at the end of his career and his $4 million salary was too high. Burton and Celek’s losses will be addressed via free agency or the draft. Perhaps, Martellus Bennett, Michael’s brother? Mike Gesicki out of Penn State?
Smith was a good guy in the locker room and solid playoff contributor, but $5 million was too steep for just that. Mack Hollins is ready to fill those shoes.
Staying put (Nigel Bradham, Nick Foles)
Not to be overlooked are the players who were thought to possibly be headed out the door who are staying. Many thought Bradham would be playing elsewhere next season. But as Howie Roseman always does, he came up with enough coin to re-up the linebacker. That’s a big-time re-signing when taking into account Jordan Hicks' injury history and the fact Mychal Kendricks could be dealt to create more cap space.
It'd have to be an offer too good to refuse to move Foles. And after seeing all the needy teams fill their quarterback voids, it’s looking like, barring an injury, Foles will be staying put. And that’s a good thing. Carson Wentz's return date is a huge question not to mention, we know Foles is not just a one or two game stop-gap. He can lead this team.
Overall when you compare additions versus subtractions and the fact that, at this point, the Eagles have only lost a starter. On the face, right now they are a better team.