Fletcher Cox

Eagles Mailbag: Trying to predict the team in five years

Eagles Mailbag: Trying to predict the team in five years

We got to the first batch of your questions (including my confidence level in Carson Wentz) Saturday (see story), but we have plenty more to get to.

Let’s hop in:

That means in February of 2024, so we’re through the 2023 season, which sounds like it’s about 50 years in the future. Will there be flying cars yet?

Anyway, here’s my answer: Carson Wentz, Derek Barnett, Fletcher Cox.

Wentz was the easiest one. He’s going to get a mega deal this offseason or next offseason and if he’s as good as the Eagles think he’s going to be, he’s not going anywhere for a long time. Don’t even worry about the contract. If he’s an MVP-level player, the Eagles will pay.

Barnett might be an interesting answer, but his contract runs through the 2020 season and since he was a first-round pick, he’ll have a fifth-year option for 2021. Then I’m kind of assuming the next contract extension would get him to this target date.

And Cox is under contract through the 2023 season, although he’d probably need to extend before then. He’s 28 but just had the best season of his NFL career in 2019. His cap number goes kind of crazy over the next three years, but the Eagles can’t afford to lose him.

(I thought about Zach Ertz or Dallas Goedert but decided to stay away from both of them because even though Ertz is suddenly on pace to possibly become a Hall of Famer, the Eagles might eventually have to choose between them. So I just stayed away from both.)

Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins are the ones I’m most confident in. I still think there’s a chance they bring back Mike Wallace on the cheap and then look for another free agent to pursue. Shelton Gibson is under contract, but he’s anything but a given. I don’t see Golden Tate or Jordan Matthews returning, but if I had to guess on one, I’d say Matthews because he’d be cheaper and has a connection with Wentz.

I got into this question in a little more depth earlier this offseason, when I listed five on defense (see story) and five on offense (see story).

I think the most likely position they’ll get in the offseason is a receiver. They need to round out that unit and they’ve been doing that for the last couple offseasons.

I think there’s a chance the Eagles sign a running back, but I don’t think either of those guys will be it for different reasons. I could see the Eagles bringing in a running back, but I can’t see them spending a ton of money to do it. It’s also possible they leave the draft with one in a mid-round.

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Breaking down where Eagles ranked on Pro Football Focus' top 101 list

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Breaking down where Eagles ranked on Pro Football Focus' top 101 list

The annual list of the 101 best NFL players came out in full this week from Pro Football Focus and four Eagles made the cut.

Some people love the evaluation site, some people hate it. But it’s still fun to take a look at how the Eagles ranked on the list. 

5. Fletcher Cox

What they said: There’s an argument to be made for Fletcher Cox having the very best, second-best season of all time, and more people would be talking about his 2018 campaign if it weren’t for the sheer domination of Aaron Donald. Cox ended the year ranked second among interior defenders with an overall grade of 92.5, and his 101 quarterback pressures were the most we’ve ever seen from a defensive tackle not named Donald.

My take: It’s nice to finally see Cox get his due. For years, he had been an underappreciated player in the NFL, but now everyone is noticing just how good he really is. The only defensive player ranked higher than him was Aaron Donald, who was again named the Defensive Player of the Year. That was Cox’s goal coming into this season and while he didn’t achieve it, he had a tremendous season, breaking double digits in sacks for the first time while playing with a revolving door of defensive tackles next to him. 

50. Brandon Graham 

What they said: Brandon Graham had yet another great year as the Eagles’ premier pass-rusher. He earned an overall grade of 88.1 last season, tying for ninth out of 113 edge defenders, while his 70 total pressures (56 hurries, nine hits, five sacks) were the fourth-most for an edge defender in 2018.

My take: I’ll be honest. I thought Graham was really hindered by that ankle injury early in the season. He just didn’t look like the same guy. Later in the year, he started to get the kind of pressure we’re more accustomed to. Still, I think Michael Bennett was, overall, the Eagles’ best defensive end in 2018. That doesn’t take anything away from Graham, who had a big season despite a low sack total of four. 

64. Jason Kelce

What they said: Kelce may very well be the best all-around center in the NFL, and his 2018 season further proved that point. The Cincinnati grad turned Philadelphia legend led all centers in run-blocking grade (80.6) while ranking second behind Oakland’s Rodney Hudson in pass-blocking grade (88.0).

My take: Kelce was the seventh offensive lineman on the list, but the first center. Kind of like Graham, I thought Kelce was visibly struggling while dealing with his knee injury early in the year. But once he got healthy, he was back to his normal, dynamic self. I think Kelce is the best center in the league and when he’s full-go the Eagles offense is tremendously better. 

91. Zach Ertz 

What they said: Ertz finished his record-setting 2018 season with the most ever receptions by a tight end, with 116 on 154 total targets. In his sixth season, he finished as the sixth-highest graded player at the position with an overall grade of 76.0 and a 79.5 receiving grade.

My take: Like in the All-Pro voting, Ertz finished behind George Kittle (13th) and Travis Kelce (23). Kelce was first-team All-Pro and Kittle was second-team. It’s just a shame two other tight ends had great seasons this year because it makes Ertz’s year seem less special; it wasn't. Simply put, Ertz put together one of the greatest seasons ever for a tight end and I’d certainly argue he should be much higher on this list. 

The snubs: Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Malcolm Jenkins, Michael Bennett

Everyone can’t make these lists, but these four players would have been deserving of spots too. Johnson is the best right tackle in football. Brooks was the Eagles’ most consistent OL and one of the best guards in the league. Jenkins never gets the respect he deserves as being one of the best and most versatile players in the league. And Bennett got great pressure at end and tackle after a slower-than-usual start.

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Eagles Mailbag: Top needs, Golden Tate, missing Super Bowl team

Eagles Mailbag: Top needs, Golden Tate, missing Super Bowl team

We’ve made it to the end of the week and the bottom of the mailbag barrel. 

On Wednesday, we answered your questions about Carson Wentz/Nick Foles, Sidney Jones and the defensive line (see story)

On Thursday, we answered your questions about Jordan Mailata, Brandon Graham and running backs (see story)

And today, we’ll finish out the mailbags. Thanks for all your great questions. If I didn’t get to yours, we’ll do more mailbags throughout the offseason. 

Earlier this offseason, I listed my top five Eagles needs for this offseason and didn’t even list cornerback. Here they are:

DE: If Brandon Graham is gone, the Eagles need to replace him. But even if he’s back, the Eagles need to get younger at that spot. This is a draft full of defensive line talent. 

OT: Even if Jason Peters is back, he’s 37 and the Eagles need to find his replacement. Maybe it’s Jordan Mailata, but it’s too early to know that for sure. 

DT: The spot next to Fletcher Cox in 2018 was a mess. Tim Jernigan won’t be back without a restructure, so maybe they simply draft someone to line up next to Cox. 

RB: This position was kind of a mess thanks to injuries in 2018. They need a feature back and bringing back Jay Ajayi isn’t enough for me. 

WR: I’ll admit receiver isn’t high on the list, but they need a field stretcher. That was supposed to be Mike Wallace in 2018. 

It’s not completely impossible, but I don’t think it would be wise for a few reasons. The most obvious one is the Eagles never truly realized how to utilize Tate this past season because he and Agholor play the same position. If they had figured out how to make it work, maybe. But the other part of this is financial. Alshon Jeffery’s cap hit for 2019 is over $14 million. If Agholor plays this upcoming season on his fifth-year option, he’s another $9-plus million. Can the Eagles really justify paying Tate what it would take to keep him and paying between $27-30 million for three players at one position? I don’t see it. 

I agree with you that McLeod’s cap hit is too high for this upcoming season, especially as he comes off an ACL tear. His hit is over $9.3 million and the Eagles could save over $5 million cap space by cutting him. I think it would be beneficial for both sides to find some common ground and work on a cheaper deal. It would keep McLeod on a team to prove he’s truly healthy and it would help the Eagles out from a cap standpoint. 

The Birds missed him on the field in 2018, but the emergence of Avonte Maddox as a possible replacement might make him more expendable. Although, I think the Eagles ought to try to keep McLeod first. 

I like this question; good job. I’ll go with Beau Allen and Patrick Robinson and that’s not to say I fault the Eagles for letting either of them go. 

But the DT spot next to Fletcher Cox gave the Eagles nothing for most of the year and they really could have used Allen. Destiny Vaeao began the season as the starter and he’s gone. Haloti Ngata came on late, but was injured throughout the year and wasn’t great. Treyvon Hester is a playoff special teams hero but didn’t do much defensively. If the Eagles had Allen, they would have just plugged him into that DT spot and they wouldn’t have missed Tim Jernigan nearly as much. 

The other one I’ll name is Patrick Robinson. I know P-Rob got hurt in New Orleans, but we don’t know if that would’ve happened here. What we do know was that until the Eagles got Cre’Von LeBlanc in there, that nickel corner spot was a mess. Remember Dexter McDougle? Yeah, that really happened this year.

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