Remember last season, when Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz noted that his defensive tackles had been dropping like Spinal Tap drummers? Remember when the Eagles signed Bruce Hector, Albert Huggins and Anthony Rush in the same week and then needed to play all three on Sunday? Remember Akeem Spence?
The Eagles do.
They remember all of it.
So, sure, the Eagles’ bringing in Javon Hargrave on a three-year, $39 million deal might have been a slight surprise on Monday night. But the Eagles value their defensive line, particularly their interior defensive line. And they saw how much it can hurt when they have subpar play at the DT spot next to Fletcher Cox.
There’s real value in beefing up interior defensive lines in the modern NFL, getting guys who get quarterbacks off their spots.
Text from personnel exec- No surprise to see all of the smart teams loading up on DL— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 17, 2020
Would the Eagles have been better off using that money to try to sign a cornerback? Or a receiver? Perhaps. You could certainly make the case that the Hargrave signing seems like more of a luxury compared to signings that would fill glaring holes.
But when you think about it, this move is far less surprising than it first seemed.
1. Howie Roseman told us he wanted to get younger. And he told us he wanted to get back to free agent signings like the ones he pulled off in 2016, when he signed Brandon Brooks and Rodney McLeod — young players coming off their rookie deals — instead of rentals. Well, Hargrave is 27 and is four years into a career in which he’s missed just one game.
2. The Eagles always prioritized their lines, specifically defensive line, specifically interior defensive line. And now they’re loaded.
Think about a defensive line that will have Cox, Hargrave, Malik Jackson, Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett. My guess is that Jackson’s versatility is what will make this work. The Eagles have three of the top six highest-paid 4-3 defensive tackles in the league, but Jackson (if healthy) will be able to play defensive end quite a bit. And even Cox can slide outside for a different look on occasion.
In recent years, the Eagles have moved defensive ends (Graham and Vinny Curry) inside to rush the passer on passing downs. Now, it can kind of be the opposite. Jackson will be able to play outside on early downs and give a guy like Barnett or an aging Graham a chance to get more pure pass-rush downs.
Oh, one more thing about Hargrave … he’s really good. Here’s a sampling if you haven’t seen him play much before:
Eagles sign former Steelers DT Javon Hargrave.— Thomas R. Petersen 🦅 (@thomasrp93) March 17, 2020
- 27 years old
- 13 mil/year in 3 years
- 17 sacks, 90 run stops, and 94 (!!!) QB hurries in 4 years
- Is #79 in the clip below 👀#Eagles pic.twitter.com/mrf6n8XWTO
While he comes from a 3-4 defensive in Pittsburgh where he was technically a “nose tackle,” don’t let that term fool you. He’s not some 350-pound, two-gapping, space eater. And when you see he was able to pick up 14 1/2 sacks in a 3-4, you begin to realize how much pass-rush potential he’ll have in Schwartz’s aggressive 4-3 front, especially considering how many double teams Cox draws.
In 2019, Hargrave was ProFootballFocus’s eighth-highest rated interior defensive lineman and now he’ll be in a defense that is probably better suited to what he does best.
At the very least, he’s with a team that definitely values the position he plays.
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