Howie Roseman and Nick Sirianni have the Philadelphia Eagles positioned far better than fans and analysts alike thought after Sirianni's introductory press conference. In what some felt would be the beginning of a re-build and others who felt would be a quick re-tooling, the Eagles have some interesting pieces in place.
The draft capital, 3 1st round picks, and 10 total, plus with some restructuring and cuts, north of $25 million in the salary cap. Eagles fans should be excited at the prospect of what's in place and the potential of what this offseason could bring.
You can already begin to see where the picks and money need to go. The Eagles have some major positions of need and some potential free agency or retirement departures to consider. Let's dive into the 5 biggest needs!
2022 Under Contract: Marcus Epps, K'Von Wallace
The knee-jerk reaction of Eagles fans in early mock drafts and discussion about needs has almost denied the biggest need. Safety.
The Eagles are likely to bring back McLeod. He will be more open to a team-friendly deal given his history with the team. Plus he hasn't really regressed, he's just an average safety. Harris was brought in in hopes of a return to 2019 form on a potential steal of a deal. The deal ended up being exactly what he was worth. He was underwhelming and for the second season in a row, his play arguably regressed.
The fan base wants Jonathan Gannons head on a stake and is ready to let him leave for any job he wants that gets him out of the city. However, his cover 2 scheme requires skill at two positions the Eagles have chosen to almost completely ignore for the last few seasons, linebacker and safety.
An athletic, hard-hitting safety with good football IQ, who can handle the third level of the defense is an absolute must! Heading into 2022 with Epps, who was decent, but is stronger as a rotational safety, and Wallace who has struggled with injuries and hasn't exactly developed like the team hoped is a mess waiting to happen.
2022 Under Contract: TJ Edwards, Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley, Patrick Johnson
Tell me how many times you have heard this before. The Eagles need linebacker help. I think there is help, now we need the do-it-all linebacker who can be trusted to, you know, do it! One of the Eagles' biggest weaknesses was opponents' ability to gauge the second level of the defense, especially in the passing game.
TJ Edwards had a good season and has proven he deserves to start as a strong-side linebacker. The team seems to be pretty high on Davion Taylor, who suffered an injury just as he was taking over Singleton's job. He presumably takes on the weak side with his athleticism. He did play a lot of MIKE this season, but given how raw he is, his play was very spotty. That leaves the all-important MIKE position open. A void we really haven't been able to fill since Jordan Hicks.
Beyond those two, Singleton is subject to restricted free agency, but it's clear even if he is brought back, he's a liability and should be used in primarily special teams and depth LB role. Nice downhill thumper, sure, but tops in the NFL in both tackles and missed tackles. And a complete mess in coverage. Shaun Bradley and Patrick Johnson are developmental pieces as well.
I think it's time Howie faces the music and actually puts some value on the linebacker position on day one or early day two of the draft. It's clearly become a major need, not just in Gannon's scheme, but for the defense as a whole. Stop looking at developmental athletes with upside and get yourself a true three down back who can wear the green dot and lead the defense.
2022 Under Contract: Jason Kelce (Dummy/Void Year)
Since the Eagles won the Super Bowl Jason Kelce has played cat and mouse with the prospect of retirement. For the second year in a row, the iron man started every game and played banged up. One has to assume there is very serious consideration going into retirement and taking care of his body.
Last season, Howie picked Landon Dickerson in the 2nd round as a versatile offensive lineman who could eventually take over for Kelce. Well, Dickerson stepped into and successfully found a nice home at left guard and I don't think there is any moving him. Mailata and Dickerson have their left side of the OL locked down for years to come.
Looks like it'll be back to the drawing board for Howie at the center position. Kelce, Roseman, and Sirianni haven't indicated anything yet regarding his future in football. Even if Kelce opts to return again, Howie needs to make sure he comes out of the draft with a center to put behind Kelce and be prepared for anything.
No matter what this is an emotional rollercoaster for fans and tears will be shed if Kelce decides to call it a career.
2022 Under Contract: Devonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Quez Watkins
Sirianni identifying Quez Watkins as the WR2 in the season-ending press conference tells you all you need to know about the wide receiver room in Philadelphia. A stud in Smith. First-round and 2nd round busts in Jalen Reagor and JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Plus a developing, speedster in the slot, more suitable to a WR3 role in Watkins. That's the current state of the WR situation heading into 2022.
There is a good chance JJAW could finally have his ties cut with the Eagles. While many fans want Reagor out, having him on the roster as a likely WR4 isn't the worst-case giving the dead money. Reagor could be leveraged in trades potentially. That really leaves us staring down a one, two punch of Smith and Watkins. So clearly landing multiple receivers in free agency and the draft is a major priority.
By now, you have heard the names the Eagles could land if they open their wallet: Mike Williams, Michael Gallup, Allen Robinson, and DJ Chark. It's a good free-agent class for receivers from alphas down to secondary and depth options. Landing a big-name veteran for this young receiving corps and filling out the depth would be a major benefit to Hurts and the offense plus the receivers in the house who are continuing to grow and mature.
Lots of mock drafts have the Eagles going WR in the first round again this year. Despite the 3 1sts I'd be shocked to see Howie invest 3 straight years at receiver in the first round. I expect he will draft at least one receiver, just not on day one.
5. Defensive End
2022 Under Contract: Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Tarron Jackson, Joe Ostman
The Eagles finished 2021 31st in sacks, 29 total, and 22nd in pressure percentage, generating pressure on 24% of dropbacks. This is really bad and perhaps no position disappointed more in this category than the defensive ends.
Derek Barnett was disappointing in a big contract year. Brandon Graham tore his Achilles. Josh Sweat got paid but proved inconsistent getting after the quarterback. And Ryan Kerrigan was pretty much non-existent in the worst year of his career.
We know Howie loves the trenches and will pay a premium for guys who get after the quarterback and protect his quarterback. The top of this draft class carries a few big-name pass rushers in Hutchinson, Thibodeaux, and Ojabo. So there is a chance to splash and find the EDGE to put across from Sweat for years to come. It's just a matter of will Howie has to move up to get that guy.
There are some free agents of potential interest, but Howie rarely spends significantly at DE. They like to draft and develop in-house like Brandon Graham and Josh Sweat. But don't count Howie out to sniff around especially with a big fish like Emmanuel Ogbah out there.
Gannon's defense relies on front four pressure getting to the quarterback with limited blitz support. Expect Howie to draft and add free agent depth across the defensive line in the 2022 offseason.
There are some significant holes on this Eagles roster. However, last year worked out perfectly. The Eagles overachieved with a roster many felt was in a rebuild. And the needs were made crystal clear.
There is a good chance this is a re-tooling and that in 2022 the Eagles have a chance to regain the NFC East and make a run in the playoffs.