The NFL’s 2021 league year and the start of free agency begin in less than three weeks.
While the Eagles still have more moves to make to become cap compliant, they do have several candidates to get extensions this offseason, including a few members of the 2018 draft class.
Let’s take a look at several players who might be in line:
Dallas Goedert: After playing three seasons in the NFL, the members of the Eagles’ 2018 draft class are now eligible to sign extensions. After winning the Super Bowl in 2017, the Eagles traded out of the first round (they shipped No. 32 to the Ravens, who took Lamar Jackson) and eventually drafted Goedert at No. 49. In three seasons, he’s shown off his potential and has become an immediate impact player as a receiver and as a blocker. In 2019, he caught 58 passes for 607 yards and 5 touchdowns. In 2020, he played in just 11 games so his numbers dropped but he still caught 46 passes for 524 yards and 3 touchdowns. And let’s not lose sight of his ability as a blocker; he makes a real difference there.
Goedert is a really good player and with Zach Ertz likely gone in 2021, he figures to be a major part of the Eagles’ offense this season. So there’s a chance Goedert would rather just bet on himself this season because of his expected role in the Eagles’ offense. That’s a gamble of course, but if he has a big season he’d be worth way more on the open market in a year. Ertz gambled on himself and lost; but Goedert is still just 26. It might make sense for the Eagles to try to extend him now at a discount but I’m not so sure Goedert would or should go for that.
Josh Sweat: Like Goedert, Sweat was a member of that 2018 class and is now eligible for an extension. Sweat has come a long way in his first three seasons. As a rookie, he desperately needed to add strength and even though he played in nine games, he wasn’t much of a contributor. The Eagles even put him on IR with an injury that didn’t really warrant it. But in the last two years, he’s put in a lot of work and has become a big part of the rotation. In 2019, he played in 16 games and 35% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps, finishing with 4.0 sacks. In 2020, he played in just 14 games but 38% of the team’s snaps and had 6.0 sacks. Sweat is clearly an ascending player.
So the Eagles might want to get an extension done and Sweat as a fourth-round pick hasn’t made much money in the NFL yet. If Derek Barnett isn’t back in 2021 and Sweat becomes a starter, he could theoretically have a big season and hit the free agent market to make better money. But there’s also no guarantee that happens. Sweat has been very good in his role as a rotational player but unlike Goedert, it’s probably less of a sure thing that he’ll be able to step into a starter’s role and do the same thing. This one might make sense for both parties.
Jordan Mailata: Mailata is the last member of the 2018 draft class we’ll put on this list. The other I considered was Avonte Maddox, but he’s too much of a question mark going into his fourth season. I already know Mailata is a guy the Eagles should want on their team moving forward, whether he’s the starter in 2021 or the backup behind Andre Dillard, who isn’t eligible for an extension until after the 2021 season. Mailata played in 15 games in 2020 and started 10. He was inconsistent at times, but that’s to be expected for a guy who didn’t begin playing American football until a few years ago. But make no mistake, Mailata played well and has a ton of potential.
This one is a little different because as long as OL coach Jeff Stoutland is in Philly, it’s probably in Mailata’s best interest to stay here. That’s not to say that if he becomes a starter in 2021 and then has a crazy offer to go elsewhere as a free agent next year he shouldn’t take it. But the best thing for his continued development is to stick with Stout. The Eagles took a chance on Mailata with a 7th-round pick back in 2018 and it has already worked out. They can try to extend him now to make sure the experiment keeps going.
Derek Barnett: Barnett was the 1st-round pick in 2017 so his rookie contract is up and as things stand now, he’s in line to play the 2021 season on his fifth-year option. The problem with that is the fifth-year option comes with a price tag of over $10 million with a cap hit to match. The Eagles are in a tough salary cap situation and that’s not going to fly. So something has to give. Either they cut Barnett and move on before that option year becomes guaranteed (that happens at the start of the league year on March 17) or they try to extend him to a modest deal. Because Barnett still has plenty of upside but he’s not worth $10 mil.
Barnett came into the league young so he won’t even turn 25 until June. Has he become a star worthy of the No. 14 pick? No. From that standpoint, Barnett has been disappointing. But he’s probably better than most people think and he’s certainly not a bust. He has struggled with injuries at times but when he’s been on the field, he’s been moderately productive, picking up 12 sacks in 27 games over the last two seasons. If the Eagles can reach terms on a modest extension, it would probably be worth it. It will be interesting to see if Barnett’s and Sweat’s futures are tied to each other this offseason.
Fletcher Cox: Unlike all the other guys on this list, Cox is a veteran and he’s over 30. He has two years left on his current contract and the obvious reason to extend him would be to get his $23+ million cap hit down in 2021. This upcoming season he has a base salary of $15 million and his base salary in 2022 is over $16 million.
This is a tough one to figure out because the Eagles are working to get younger and Cox will turn 32 during the 2022 season. So there’s some projecting here. Maybe Cox has slowed down a tad but he’s still one of the best interior defenders in the NFL and there’s a good chance he will still be that for the next few seasons. The Eagles will have to figure out what kind of extension they want to give him and Cox has to weigh his options too. He’s made a ton of money in the NFL; does he want to try to finish his career in Philly or would he rather let his deal play out and explore his options then?
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