Eagles

Eagles

How fast does free agency move in the NFL? One hour, you're patting the Eagles on the back for signing some low-cost depth at defensive tackle; the next, the club is plunking down $13 million per year for Javon Hargrave. 

Make no mistake, Hargrave is worth every bit of his three-year, $39 million contract -- heck, that could turn out to be a bargain. He's only 27, and excellent both against the run or rushing the passer with 109 tackles and 10.5 sacks over the last two seasons with the Steelers. Those are very good numbers for an interior lineman. 

The stats don't begin to tell the full story. Turn on the tape and watch Hargrave either manhandle blockers or run right around them at 6-foot-2, 305 pounds. 

Hargrave is a Pro Bowl-caliber talent joining an Eagles defense that will put him on the attack. 

So, what's the problem? 

Well, the reason re-signing Hassan Ridgeway made so much sense is the Eagles already have two of the highest-paid tackles in the NFL in Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson -- and last I checked, usually there are only two on the field at a time. 

Meanwhile, the Eagles need multiple defensive backs, at least one wide receiver, a backup quarterback, a running back, maybe a linebacker ... you get the idea. 

Defensive tackle is one of the most important positions on the field, arguably underrated by most fans. Edge rushers tend to rack up more sacks, yet there's nothing a quarterback likes less than pressure at his feet and in his face. A straight line also happens to be the most immediate route to the passer. 

 

The Eagles clearly understand this. Cox has been a dominant force for years, but the club has long sought help, trading for Tim Jernigan in 2017, then signing Haloti Ngata in '18. Jackson was supposed to put that search to rest upon signing a three-year, $30 million deal last offseason -- so naturally he suffered a season-ending injury Week 1. 

Cox was banged up and had a down year too, while Jernigan and Ridgeway joined Jackson on injured reserve. From that standpoint, you can understand why the Eagles felt inclined to invest more money in the position. 

You can also appreciate why injecting more money into the position comes across as something between overkill and panic. 

Keep in mind, the Eagles were projected to have around $40 million in space under the salary cap. 

Granted, Cox and Jackson both have the ability to line up on the outside situationally. That means there's more snaps to spread between the trio. It also lessens the demand for another defensive end to rotate in with Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat. 

The structure of Hargrave's contract seems relevant here, too. Cox will be 30 next year and count for $22 million against the cap. Jackson will be 31 with a $13 million cap hit. Moving on from either player's contract early would be costly, but it's something the Eagles should anticipate is possible, especially given the injury histories here. 

Full financial details were not immediately available, though if Hargrave's contract is backloaded, the largest sum could theoretically come due when Cox, Jackson or both are gone. 

Very little of which has anything to do with Hargrave's impact on a football field. The bottom line is he appears to be a great player at a reasonable price. 

Free agency isn't the NFL draft though, and you don't often see teams going "best player available," so to speak, where the opportunity to acquire a young, ascending prospect supersedes actual roster need. 

That almost feels like what happened here. The Eagles didn't need Hargrave in 2020 as much as, say, Byron Jones or Amari Cooper. That's not to say another quality defensive tackle doesn't make the team better. At the very least, it's simply a questionable allocation of resources. 

Grade: C+

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