Philadelphia Eagles 2022 Offseason Previewby Alex Kielar February 17, 2022 0 comments
The Philadelphia Eagles were able to sneak into the playoffs as the seven-seed in the NFC. They would ultimately fall to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card round, which wound up being Brady’s last NFL game. It was a tale of two seasons, as the Eagles handled their business against lowly teams (9-2), but went 0-7 against playoff teams. The Eagles have a lot of holes to fill and questions to answer going into this offseason. It is going to be a crucial step in the rebuild. Despite interviewing for the Minnesota Vikings’ and Houston Texans’ head coach positions, defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon remains. The rest of the coaching staff is carrying over into next season.
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Pending Free Agents
According to Over the Cap, the Eagles will have a projected $21.5 million in cap space to work with. They also have 14 players set to hit free agency, including five that played at least 60 percent of the snaps. All five of those players are at positions that are the team’s biggest needs. With them leaving, it opens up big holes. The Eagles haven’t been too keen on re-signing players the last few years unless they are a really key piece. They did, however, sign third-string tight end Richard Rodgers to a reserve/future contract. Philadelphia did do a good job of locking up four key players from the 2018 draft class on contract extensions. Those players are Dallas Goedert, Josh Sweat, Avonte Maddox, and Jordan Mailata, who all had great 2021 seasons.
The Eagles signed Nelson to a one-year $4 million last offseason after he spent the previous two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Darius Slay has already stated that he is hopeful Nelson will return to play opposite him once again. In 16 games started, the 29-year old recorded 50 total tackles, one interception, and seven pass deflections. While Slay was the leader of the defense, Nelson flew under the radar on the opposite side. He would be a key return if he is willing to take a team discount.
Harris had a bounce-back season with the Eagles in 2021 after having a rough final season with the Minnesota Vikings. He allowed just one touchdown and a passer rating of 68.7 while missing just 2.7 percent of tackles. Because of the improvements, his value has gone up, so he will be looking to make bank on the open market. The Eagles’ other starting safety, Rodney McLeod, is also 30 like Harris, and they need to get younger. It would make the most sense to let them both walk and target other options.
Barnett has fallen off the deep end with the organization after they drafted him 14th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. The first couple of years were a bit of a honeymoon phase, including the edge rusher recovering the strip-sack of Brady in Super Bowl 52. But the last year or two, the 25-year old has struggled and hasn’t been able to develop into a difference-maker. Barnett has been inconsistent and committed a number of questionable penalties this past season. That on top of Sweat earning a big extension means that the Tennessee alum’s days in Philadelphia are over.
Potential Cap Casualties
The Eagles are in a fairly solid situation cap-wise, with $21.5 million in cap space according to Over the Cap. They do have four players with a cap hit of over $14 million for next season, but the rest are all under $10 million. Slay has the largest cap hit at over $22 million and is obviously not going anywhere after an All-Pro season. The Eagles don’t really have many options here to save money, as most of the potential candidates would pack a large amount of dead money. In the case of this exercise, though, let’s look at the three who would make the most sense.
Rick Lovato ($1.1 Million Saved)
Lovato has been a pretty valuable long snapper for the Eagles after signing with them in 2016. But saving over $1 million for a fairly easy position to replace could make sense. They could get a cheaper option either on the free-agent market or an undrafted free agent.
Gardner Minshew ($2.5 Million Saved)
As far as cut candidates go, there really aren’t too many options. Minshew was the backup to Jalen Hurts last season and filled in well when the former was injured. The Eagles could look to trade him to a team in need of a serviceable starter. Along with saving $2.5 million, they would be able to get a couple of draft picks in return.
Andre Dillard ($2.2 Million Saved)
Dillard has been very underwhelming since being a first-round selection in 2019. In three years, he has made just nine starts and missed the 2020 season with a biceps injury. He is now firmly behind Lane Johnson and Mailata on the depth chart, which means the Eagles need to explore trade options. On top of that, he has a projected $3.9 million cap hit and 2022 will also be his final year on his rookie contract. This would be a sell-low situation, so the Eagles could get a late-round pick for Dillard.
Open Market Free Agent Targets
There are a number of positions the Eagles will need to target this offseason. The biggest needs are at defensive end, safety, cornerback, and receiver. The Eagles have the cap space to sign a big free agent and some mid-level ones. They need to improve their depth on both sides of the ball as well as get real playmakers. Their positions of need have solid options hitting the open market.
Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
Robinson had an ugly end to his Bears tenure as he had his worst statistical year. But Chicago cycled through three quarterbacks this season, so he wasn’t able to develop a real rapport with anyone. The Eagles need to add a veteran receiver to help bolster their corps, while Robinson turns 29 before the season. The former Penn State receiver had two straight 1,000-yard seasons with at least six touchdowns in 2019 and 2020. While Hurts isn’t an incredible quarterback, Robinson doesn’t need a superstar throwing to him to succeed. He would be a very welcome option next to DeVonta Smith and the big-bodied receiver the team needs.
Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints
Williams will be a top safety target in free agency, so he will pack a big price tag. But with some room to spend, the Eagles can hash out the money for a big position of need. Williams recorded 15 interceptions and 38 pass deflections in five seasons with the Saints at the free safety position. With a need at both starting safety positions, the Eagles could be willing to get into a bidding war for the 25-year old.
J.C. Jackson, New England Patriots
Jackson has had an impressive four years to begin his NFL career with the Patriots and now will get the bag in free agency. He is the top cornerback entering the market and would be a tremendous CB2 next to Darius Slay. The 26-year old has great ball skills and would immediately give the Eagles a huge upgrade at the position. If they can make some maneuvers with their cap space, they will have enough to dish out the money for him.
Previewing the 2022 NFL Draft
The draft will be a huge key to the Eagles’ offseason, as they have three first-round picks and 10 picks overall. The question is whether or not they will keep all of them or make a major move for one of the big quarterbacks on the market. But for now, let’s look at what they could and should potentially do with their first five picks. The order of positions doesn’t much matter. It will be clearer when free agency is over as to what positions they should attack first.
Round 1, Pick 15: Edge Rusher
This is an obvious position of need for the Eagles and one that they value very highly. They locked up Josh Sweat long-term, but need dire help outside of him. This is a very good edge rush class with several prospects receiving first-round grades. While Aidan Hutchinson obviously won’t be in this range, his former teammate David Ojabo could be available. Other potential options are Jermaine Johnson and George Karlaftis.
Round 1, Pick 16: Safety
Even if the Eagles bring back at least one of their soon-to-be free-agent safeties, they need a young playmaker at the position. There are options in free agency as well, which has been what the Eagles have looked to for the position in the past. But even if they sign a big free agent, they always need depth and need two starters. They have never drafted a safety in the first round, but this safety class isn’t very deep. Potential options here are Daxton Hill, Jaquan Brisker, and Jalen Pitre.
Round 1, Pick 19: Wide Receiver
Whoever the quarterback is, he needs more weapons than just Smith. The free-agent receiver class is very strong, as well as trade options (Calvin Ridley). But this team needs more than just one more playmaker on offense. The receiver class in the draft is fairly deep and the Eagles can snag a premier weapon in the first round. Some possible options at this pick would be Jameson Williams, Chris Olave, and Treylon Burks.
Round 2, Pick 51: Linebacker
The Eagles’ linebacking corp was far from their weakest position in 2022, as T.J. Edwards really came into his own to solidify the group. But Alex Singleton, who had an up and down year, is a restricted free agent along with Genard Avery. Davion Taylor showed promise in his second year but ended the season on the injured reserve. Linebacker isn’t a position the Eagles usually attack early, but there should be solid options in the second. Some options could be Brian Asamoah II, Darrian Beavers, and Quay Walker.
Round 3, Pick 83: Cornerback
Whether or not they retain Nelson, the Eagles need young depth alongside Slay. While it is certainly a position they can attack out on the open market, they have grown accustomed to drafting cornerback depth as well. Zech McPhearson had some good moments as a rookie, but he looks far from a starting-caliber corner. Potential options here are Roger McCreary, Coby Bryant, and Tariq Woolen.
Early 2022 Expectations
It is very hard to garner expectations for this team right now. If they can make the correct moves in the offseason, that will drastically change their chances of going deeper into the playoffs. But as the team is right now, they are just a bubble team. This will be a huge offseason for Howie Roseman and co. as they can really build this team up for future success. There have already been reports that the Eagles will be in the market to trade for a top quarterback. Add Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson to this team as well as have a successful draft and free agency period, and the expectations will skyrocket.
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