The regular season is over and despite the Philadelphia Eagles making the playoffs, there are 8 Unrestricted Free Agents and 5 restricted free Agents that Howie has decisions to make regarding this offseason.
Give credit to Howie where it is due. He did a great job of locking up some key names in-season to big contracts. Franchise left tackle Jordan Mailata, franchise tight end and offensive weapon Dallas Goedert, nickel-corner Avonte Maddox, and defensive end Josh Sweat.
There are still decisions to be made as the Eagles have come out ahead in their re-tooling. Who has helped their case? Who is already out the door?
Who should stay and who should go?
Unrestricted Free Agents:
C Jason Kelce
Kelce is a hero in Philadelphia and a warrior on the field. This decision should land squarely on Kelces shoulders again this offseason.
If he feels healthy enough and still has the passion to play this game, Howie should let him play. No brainer.
If he feels at the ripe age of 34, after battling through the last couple of seasons with injuries, that it's time to retire. Then the Eagles should respect that.
Kelce is technically a 2023 free agent, the 2022 season is a dummy year. Simply meaning, if he was a 2022 free agent all his dead money, $15.082 million, would accelerate towards the 2022 salary cap. This dummy year allows the Eagles to designate a post-June 1 release and divide that dead money into 2 seasons of the salary cap. Ultimately, this decision isn't about a salary cap. It's about the major emotional toll it will have on Eagles fans losing this legend!
Verdict: Whatever Kelce decides
S Rodney McLeod/Anthony Harris
Whether McLeod or Harris, I think the Eagles need to bring back one of the veteran safeties. Beyond Marcus Epps, who really is more of a rotational safety, the Eagles have nothing established at the safety position for 2022. Safety, no matter who they bring back remains a high priority need.
McLeod came back in week 4 off the torn ACL he suffered last season. He's spent the last 6 years in Philly so he seems the most likely option to get a team friendly deal done to stay another year or two.
He's got 43 tackles plus 2 timely interceptions on the season. Otherwise, he's really been an average safety in a defensive scheme that requires more.
Lucky for him, Harris is nearly identical from a statistical standpoint. Harris is one year younger, but took significant steps back in his play over the last 2 seasons. The hope in bringing Harris in was that he'd somewhat return to 2019 form and be a steal for the Eagles. He sadly was equally average to McLeod.
Verdict: McLeod - Stay, Harris - Go
DE Derek Barnett
There is no more polarizing player within the Eagles roster than Barnett right now. He spent most of the season poorly timing snap counts leading to this telling number. Through 5 seasons in Philadelphia, over 2700 snaps, 25 total sacks, 27 total penalties. Even more frustrating, his 7 penalties to 2 sacks this season.
The Eagles picked up the 5th year option for this season because they needed one more look. They weren't sold through 4 years. Josh Sweat earned the big money defensive end contract and Barnett is likely out the door.
The former first-round pick, 14th overall, just hasn't lived up to expectations. If he was drafted at the end of day 2, start of day 3 we wouldn't be so disappointed. He'd be considered serviceable in a rotational role. The achilles injury for Graham going on age 34 and disappointment of Barnett's season has made the end opposite Sweat a need this offseason.
DE Ryan Kerrigan
No chance Kerrigan is an Eagle in 2022. His age was a known factor and drop-off was likely, but no buddy expected this quickly and this bad! He was brought in as a rotational piece and when Brandon Graham went down he had a chance to further step into his depth role.
Kerrigan, despite playing 30% of defensive snaps, finished the season with 3 total tackles, 1 for a loss, 0 sacks, and 10 pressures in 17 games. He had never had less than 5 sacks or 15 tackles in a season prior to this.
DE/LB Genard Avery
Avery is a dime-a-dozen type of player to me. Out of 100 random linebackers chosen, 90 of them can do what Avery does at a similar level. He's had some nice moments. He's also sometimes just there and you forget he's even on the team.
He's a depth linebacker who gets buried further down the chart as the young linebackers get healthy and the position is addressed through free agency and the draft.
He had a chance at edge, it didn't work out. He got a chance at linebacker. He's below average.
CB Steven Nelson
Eagles fans alike wanted Nelson so bad through the offseason as the team's CB2. Howie held out for a while due to his asking price, and eventually obliged and locked him up for 1 year at $3 million, half of it a signing bonus. A pretty fair contract for a team's #2 corner.
Per Pro Football Focus, it was his worst overall graded season and worst coverage grade season when playing at least 500 snaps, that's 6 seasons. Even the eye test would tell you he was OK. Gave up some plays here and some plays there, but nothing like the plays we have been gouged by in years past.
Nelson and Slay aren't getting any younger. Getting a younger, more sure thing CB2, that can eventually step into the CB1 role needs to be a focus over the next 2 seasons. There are 4 or 5 corners who the Eagles could look to with a first-round pick this year. Nelson could be valuable as someone to help the young guys, but he can't be in the way of them getting valuable work early.
DT Hassan Ridgeway
Ridgeway has been a solid rotational piece behind Hargrave and Cox for the last couple of seasons. That's all he seemingly will ever be, with little growth in his game and limited opportunity.
Howie seems to have something special in Milton Williams, who will likely garner the majority of DT3, rotational work going forward. He's also attempted to bring in some later-round defensive tackles to no real success.
With that in mind, I'd bring Ridgeway back as the team's 4th defensive tackle on another minimum deal. You can keep firing shots at tackle late on the position and it's limited dead money if someone beats Ridgeway out.
Restricted Free Agents:
Finally the restricted free agents. A quick crash course on RFA's before I quickly give my thoughts.
Restricted free agents are those whose contracts are expiring and have had 3 seasons of service time. To retain their services they must tender the player with an offer. Each tender carries with it a specific minimum salary and a specific type of compensation if a team lets that player leave to a different offer. Teams can then try and acquire the player with an offer sheet, but would then have to give compensation based on the level of tender they got.
For example, you can put a 1st round tender on an RFA. This comes with a salary of approximately $5.562 million. If a team chooses to match this, the Eagles would get 7 days to match the opposing teams offer. If they chose not to, the player would go to the other team and the Eagles would get a 1st round pick.
If they choose not to tender them they become an unrestricted Free agent and would still have the chance to re-acquire them.
The types of tenders and their estimated minimum salary are:
1st round tender: $5.562 million
2nd round render: $3.986 million
Low Tender (Receive draft compensation, equal to round player was drafted): $2.540 million
Right of First Refusal (Allows team to match an offer sheet with no draft compensation or for UDFAs): $2.433 million
Let's check out the Eagles RFA's and decide if they are worth a tender.
RB Boston Scott
The Eagles enter 2022 with 2 running backs, Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell. While the Eagles love Scott, he isn't worth the price of any tender as the teams likely third option or injury fill-in. Eagles could draft an RB or also look to bring back Huntley who was good in week 18, has shown some nice ability and can return punts. Plus, Jordan Howard can be brought back as well.
Let Scott become a UFA and negotiate from there.
WR Greg Ward
Ward is in a similar boat to Scott. While the Eagles enter 2022 with 4 wide receivers under contract, it's clear they will likely draft one at some point and head to free agency for a WR or two.
Ward likely could be used more and be fairly effective, but sadly he's way down the pecking order and not with one of the tender salaries. Let him hit free agency and you can bring him back cheaper if need be.
LB Alex Singleton
Singleton has been one of the driving forces behind exemplifying the need at linebacker. Yeah, he's a tackling machine. He also ranks top 3 in missed tackles and is a complete liability in coverage.
Linebacker is going to be added multiple times in the draft and will likely be visited during free agency as well. Singleton is only seeing time now because of the Davion Taylor injury. He will end up being LB5 or 6 next season if the Eagles bring him back during free agency. He's not worth a tender.
TE Jason Croom
This one is a simple verdict. Goedert is the guy. The Eagles seem to like Stoll and have some high expectations for Tyree Jackson, when healthy again. Rodgers also has a permanent home as the next man up in the tight end room. Croom's knee injury sucked as he may have had a chance to make the active roster. He could be added to the practice squad and get a closer look if the Eagles feel there is something.
G Nate Herbig
Now Herbig is the one that really needs to be given consideration. He has been a vital part of the depth along the offensive line, especially with his versatility. He's still very young, 23, and under Stoutland could continue to develop as a key backup guard.
The Eagles will likely move on from Brandon Brooks and Isaac Seumalo suddenly seems expandable with a significant contract and Driscoll likely getting the RG job. There are a lot of potential moving pieces in this offensive line room this offseason. Herbig likely draws interest from other teams on the open market.
Verdict: Stay, let him hit free agency, and negotiate a new deal.
Howie doesn't have much work left to do in-house it seems. He has a full roster of 51 guys under salary so it'll be about making some key cuts and restructuring players. Plus addressing the team's major needs in the draft and free agency.