The top storyline for Eagles fans this offseason is going to be the fate of Nick Foles and how he gets there, but there are a ton of other things for the Eagles to worry about.
They are about to have quite a bit of turnover on the roster and there are definitely some positions of need.
Here are the five I find to be most pressing:
Brandon Graham is set to be a free agent, Derek Barnett is coming off season-ending shoulder surgery, Chris Long might retire, Michael Bennett turned 33 in November and Josh Sweat barely played before his season ended on IR.
For a team that prioritizes getting to the quarterback without sending blitzes, the Eagles have a lot of questions at their main pass-rushing position. We’ll get to the DT position in a moment, but they need more edge rushers.
I think Bennett will be back in 2019. He got off to a slow start, but once he began playing more and feeling more comfortable, he was the Eagles’ best defensive end and had a legitimate case to be named a Pro Bowler. But if Graham doesn’t return and if Long retires, the Eagles are going to have some huge holes to fill. Barnett is a nice player and he was having a pretty consistent season before his injury, but we still don’t really know what kind of player he’s going to be.
You have to remember, the Eagles don’t just use two defensive ends. They need to be four deep at defensive end to rotate the way Jim Schwartz likes. The good news is Howie Roseman said this draft is “historical” for DL.
Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement both ended their seasons on IR and Darren Sproles missed most of the 2018 season, so it should be no surprise the Eagles struggled to consistently get their running game going. Now, Ajayi and Sproles are set to be free agents; Ajayi is coming off a torn ACL. And Clement is coming off a season-ending knee injury of his own.
Josh Adams, Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Boston Scott are under contract for the 2019 season. That’s not going to be enough.
Roseman has always been hesitant to pay big money or use top draft choices on the running back position, but it’s pretty clear the Eagles need a very real infusion of talent at running back. It’s a shame they missed on Donnel Pumphrey a couple years ago, but now they’re in the market for another running back.
There were already concerns about Ajayi’s knee before he tore his ACL, so bringing him back can’t be the only answer. And even if Sproles doesn’t retire, his possible return can’t prevent the Eagles from finding another talented running back they desperately need.
Lane Johnson is still an absolute stud at right tackle and as long as he stays healthy, the Eagles are set there. But Jason Peters is another story. He’ll be 37 soon and he really struggled to stay healthy in 2019. I just don’t know if the Eagles can go into another season just hoping every week that his aging body can hold up. What makes this hard is he actually played pretty well when he was able to stay on the field; heck, he just shut down Khalil Mack a couple weeks ago.
The real problem is I don’t think the Eagles can feel confident in Halapoulivaati Vaitai to be the guy if Peters isn’t here. And Jordan Mailata has all the makings of a great left tackle, but the guy just started playing American football a year ago. They can’t just insert him into the lineup because no one really knows what would happen. Maybe Mailata is Peters’ long-term replacement at left tackle; if so, great. But the Eagles seriously need to think about drafting an offensive tackle with one of their first picks this year.
When we talked about defensive ends, I mentioned that Roseman thought this draft is great for defensive linemen. There are two ways to look at that. One, you can wait longer to get one because there are so many. But on the flip side, there can be runs of players and you need to get the guy you really want.
Tim Jernigan came back late in this season and is under contract for 2019 but his cap hit is $13 million. He can't be back at that number. If he doesn’t want to restructure, he’ll be gone and the Eagles will need to find a replacement.
Fletcher Cox is an absolute monster and is one of the best defensive players in football. But the guy next to him this season was a constant revolving door until Jernigan came back. Remember, Destiny Vaeao actually began the 2018 season as the second DT starter; he didn’t make it through the season. And now Haloti Ngata is set to become a free agent. At least the Eagles found a nice depth piece in Treyvon Hester, but he’s not ready to be a starter.
Mike Wallace was supposed to be the Eagles’ speed guy. He was supposed to be the Torrey Smith replacement … heck, the Torrey Smith upgrade. But he got hurt in his second game and didn’t make a single catch last season. He’ll be 33 in August and is now a free agent. Maybe the Eagles bring him back on the cheap, but either way, they need to find some straight-line speed.
Golden Tate will also be a free agent as Nelson Agholor is set to play next season on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. The Eagles could theoretically elect to keep Tate over Agholor, but not sure why they would. Tate has said he wants to be back, but he’ll probably demand more on the open market and the Eagles need that speed guy. Agholor and Alshon Jeffery have speed in their own ways, but they’re not that cliched field-stretch.
If the Eagles finally find a player who can take the top off a defense, just think about what it could do for Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert and Agholor in the middle of the field.
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