The fascinating thing about this upcoming free agency period for the Eagles isn’t that they have a ton of free agents.
It’s that they have multiple pairs of pending free agents at the same positions.
And because of that, the Eagles have to not only try to anticipate the markets their own free agents will create but they’ll have to be ready to adjust based on it. And with multiple pairs of free agents at the same position, it might increase the likelihood of signing a player if his teammate at the same position gets a bigger deal elsewhere.
If the Eagles want to bring back some of these players, they’ll have options.
These examples are all over the roster.
Can’t afford Javon Hargrave, who might hit around $20 million APY as the top DT on the market?
Then maybe it makes more sense to bring back Fletcher Cox.
Cox played the 2022 season on a one-year, $14 million contract. If that's his price in 2023, that's probably out of the Eagles' range. But Cox did have a good season with 7.0 sacks, his most since his All-Pro year in 2018. And with how much the Eagles' value defensive line play and interior pass rush, it's hard to imagine them letting both starting DTs go this offseason. They still have Jordan Davis and Milton Williams under contract but that might not be enough.
Is C.J. Gardner-Johnson about to cash in as a safety?
Then Marcus Epps is a more affordable option to bring back.
Gardner-Johnson could end up getting north of $13 million per season, which would likely put him out of the Eagles' price range. CJGJ earlier this week even posted a thank you to Philadelphia, seemingly as a goodbye. That at least means he'll test the market and see what he can get. While Epps isn't the same type of playmaker, he's a really solid and smart player. Chances are that new DC Sean Desai will value those attributes similarly to how Jonathan Gannon did.
Does T.J. Edwards get overpaid on the open market?
Kyzir White will be the cheaper linebacker option to plug in next to Nakobe Dean.
If Edwards commands over $10 million APY, the Eagles probably aren't going to pay that to a linebacker, even one who is homegrown. While White didn't have a flashy season, he was at least solid. And Dean might be a better fit at the MIKE spot, so maybe it would just be easier to plug White in next to him at the WILL.
Will running back Miles Sanders get that big deal elsewhere?
You can probably bring back Boston Scott for around league minimum and pair him with Kenny Gainwell and a player to be named later.
We'll see what the market will end up being for Sanders but, like linebacker, running back is a position the Eagles don't normally like to pay. And if Sanders is around $6 million APY that might be too much for the Birds. Now there's a chance that Sanders doesn't get a big deal and then settles and comes back. But it won't cost much to keep Scott around and he's been a really solid piece of the rotation for years.
Does longtime center Jason Kelce decide to retire?
Then maybe the Eagles can funnel that money toward keeping Isaac Seumalo.
Seumalo might end up being the top interior lineman on the free agent market this season but if the Eagles were budgeting around $14 million to pay Kelce, then they could pivot. And in the event that Kelce retires, Cam Jurgens would step in to play center and then it would be a bigger deal to keep Seumalo at right guard. If Kelce comes back then Jurgens is the likely right guard.
Of course, the timing of everything makes this all a little bit trickier too. There’s no guarantee that the signings happen in an order that’s advantageous for the Eagles and they know that’s sometimes the case. A few years ago when the wide receiver market exploded, they redirected that money toward the defensive line. Eventually, the receiver market came back down but the Eagles had already spent. It happens.
It was a little atypical for the Eagles during the 2022 season when they didn’t sign a single player to an extension. That wasn’t by accident.
General manager Howie Roseman at the combine earlier this month explained why.
“I think just obviously we took a little bit of a different tactic this year,” Roseman said. “Usually, we like to sign guys early and sign guys during the season, and because of how hot we started, how well we did, and how many free agents we had, we thought it would create a different dynamic if we started to pick one guy and not another guy.
“We understood that could cost us in the end, but we felt like it was worthwhile because of the opportunity to potentially win a championship. Unfortunately, we came up short.”
It seems likely that this unique situation, having pairs of free agents at the same position, played even more into that decision to not extend anyone.
That was probably the right move during the season but the closer any player is to free agency, there’s added incentive to hit the open market and test it. Now the Eagles have a ton of players ready to do that.
And you’d have to think if any of those A options above (Hargrave, Gardner-Johnson, Edwards, Sanders, Kelce) get a deal elsewhere soon after free agency begins, then the likelihood of the Eagles’ bringing back their corresponding B option (Cox, Epps, White, Scott, Seumalo) increases.
All that makes for a fascinating free agency period for a team that isn’t expected to be a major player.
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