I’ve seen a lot of this over the last few weeks:
The Eagles traded for Jordan Howard. They don’t need to draft a running back early.
They signed Malik Jackson. They don’t need to draft a defensive tackle.
They brought back DeSean Jackson. No way they take a receiver.
The truth of the matter is this: Nothing the Eagles have done this offseason should significantly change their outlook when the NFL draft kicks off on April 25. In fact, they filled enough of their major holes, to the point where they shouldn’t feel the temptation to draft for need over best player available.
Good organizations don’t reach for need in the draft. That’s when you end up with Marcus Smith in the first round.
The key here is that, sure, the Eagles filled some holes in free agency, but they didn’t really commit a ton of money long-term to any player in free agency. And because many of the players they added or kept are aging (there’s a reason for that), there’s still a need to get younger at those very same positions. Howie Roseman talked about the importance of finding rotational players in the draft after these additions. That’s what the Eagles are going to do later this month.
Look at all the major contracts and acquisitions this offseason:
Defensive end: Sure, the Eagles signed the 30-year-old Brandon Graham to a three-year, $40 million contract extension, but the third year of that contract is an option year. And then the Eagles also brought back 30-year-old Vinny Curry to a modest one-year deal.
Verdict: Bringing back Curry is obviously a non-factor when it comes to the draft, but with the rotation the Eagles use at defensive end, Graham’s deal should be too. This is a big year for Derek Barnett, but it’s definitely not too early to draft Graham’s replacement or a backup plan if Barnett doesn’t work out the way the Eagles hope. With the Eagles’ rotation, if they draft an edge rusher in the first two rounds, that guy will play immediately as a rotational player and can grow into a starter.
Interior offensive line: The Eagles extended Jason Kelce and Isaac Seuamalo a year early. But Kelce is 31 and Seumalo has shown flashes but it still kind of unproven. And the Eagles also let Stefen Wisniewski walk and Brandon Brooks is coming off an Achilles surgery.
Verdict: The Eagles were right to lock up both Kelce and Seumalo, but drafting an interior lineman still makes a ton of sense. With Wiz gone and with Brooks’ coming back from injury, they could draft a player who can be a backup now and a guard/center of the future.
Defensive tackle: I think one of the best moves the Eagles made this offseason was signing Malik Jackson from Jacksonville. They filled an immediate need and didn’t really have to break the bank. It’s a confusing contract, but if it’s a disaster, the Eagles have an out after two years. Either way, the Eagles rotate on the interior of their defensive line and Jackson is already 29.
Verdict: I think it’s relatively likely the Eagles use their first-round pick on a defensive tackle. Similar to defensive end, a rookie could be a rotational player and earn more playing time as he goes.
Offensive tackle: The Eagles re-worked Jason Peters’ contract to keep the future Hall of Famer in 2019, but Peters is 37. This just has to be the last year here, right? The Eagles might have his future replacement in Jordan Mailata, but it’s just too early to tell.
Verdict: Bringing back a 37-year-old left tackle on a one-year deal can’t stop a team from drafting his replacement.
Wide receiver: The Eagles traded for DeSean Jackson to fill another pressing need of a speed receiver. But Jackson is 32 years old. And Nelson Agholor is back for 2019, but is on a one-year, $9.4 million contract.
Verdict: I don’t think we’ve talked enough about the possibility of the Eagles’ drafting receivers. But Jackson is aging and it might make some sense to draft an Agholor replacement if he’s not back for 2020. The Eagles also don’t have a ton of depth at receiver; their top backup is Mack Hollins. It would make sense for the Eagles to draft another rotational piece here.
Corner: Ronald Darby is back on a one-year contract with a pretty low cap number for 2019. But they brought him back to a room that’s pretty crowded with young talent.
Verdict: The only reason the Eagles might not draft a corner is because it would be hard to keep him on the roster. But that was probably the case even before Darby’s deal. The Eagles have Darby, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones and Cre’Von LeBlanc. Even keeping those six is pushing it.
Running back: The Eagles didn’t sign Mark Ingram or Tevin Coleman but they did trade for Jordan Howard, who has one year left on his rookie contract with a price tag just north of $2 million in 2019.
Verdict: As much as I thought the Eagles should have signed either Ingram or Coleman, trading for Howard shouldn’t affect their draft strategy as much. With just one year on his deal, the Eagles could draft a complementary player or a player to simply replace him and his role in 2020.
Safety: Andrew Sendejo is here on a one-year deal to compete for the third safety job since Corey Graham is gone. Rodney McLeod is back for one season and Malcolm Jenkins is on the wrong side of 30.
Verdict: If bringing in 31-year-old Andrew Sendejo prevents you from drafting a safety, your organizational plan is greatly flawed.
The Eagles still have a ton of pressure in the draft. With the moves they made this offseason, the draft is now the way the Eagles need to infuse the roster with young talent. That’s on Roseman, Joe Douglas and the scouting department. But these signings and trades also took away some pressure of finding immediate starters in this draft class.
It also took away the temptation of drafting for need. Now, the Eagles can simply put their best player available strategy to use. None of these moves should change that.
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