In recent Eagles history, there hasn’t been as much uncertainty about the 53-man roster as there is this year.
The first 30 or so players are known. Most didn’t play in Friday night’s preseason finale. But of the remaining two dozen, there could be as many as 40 players on the current roster who may or may not make the cut before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.
That doesn’t speak well to the Eagles’ depth. In fact, it’s the opposite. Even if a player does survive, he isn’t guaranteed a spot, with general manager Howie Roseman sure to take advantage of the NFL’s waiver wire. The Eagles are sixth in line.
But there are other variables at play which could affect his and coach Nick Sirianni’s decision-making over the next 4 to 5 days. Case in point: Roseman traded for quarterback Gardner Minshew on Saturday morning.
The Eagles could also be on the other end of moving players. Tight end Zach Ertz and tackle Andre Dillard would be the most noteworthy names, but the market has made it increasingly unlikely that either leaves.
There are also judgements to be made on injured players. Safety Rodney McLeod and rookie offensive lineman Landon Dickerson might not be ready by the Sept. 12 opener. But if the Eagles were to keep either at their current injury designation, and save roster spots, they would have to wait at least six games before they were eligible to be active.
Similar thinking would apply to tight end Tyree Jackson, who recently suffered a back injury that is expected to sideline him for a few months. The NFL has loosened its restrictions on injured reserve, but Jackson would have to make the initial 53 if the Eagles were to place him on IR.
A vested veteran such as tight end Richard Rodgers could be collateral damage, but the Eagles would likely bring him back without having his salary guaranteed for the entire season.
There will be other tough calls to make. The Eagles have 11 third-day draft picks from the last two years on their current roster, but how many are really worth keeping? Luckily for the team, there is the practice squad, which for the second straight year has been expanded to 16.
Annual unknowns abound, compounded by the pandemic, but with a new coaching staff there is another proverbial wrench tossed into the exercise of predicting the 53-man roster. Without further ado, here is one beat reporter’s projection:
Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco, Gardner Minshew
Cut Saturday: Nick Mullens
Practice squad: None.
Flacco could be dealt after the Minshew trade, but his $3.5 million salary is guaranteed, which would make it difficult to move him. As far as Roseman tinkering more with his factory, a trade for Deshaun Watson was always unlikely, and more so as time has progressed.
Running backs (4)
Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott, Kenneth Gainwell
Cut: Jason Huntley, Elijah Holyfield
Practice squad: Huntley
Howard, who said he briefly considered retirement this offseason, seemed a long shot after Kerryon Johnson and Gainwell were added. But Johnson was waived injured, and the Eagles need a north-to-south runner for tough yards. Huntley flashed his speed before a rib injury, which should be enough to keep him on the taxi squad.
Wide receivers (6)
DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Greg Ward, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, John Hightower
Cut: Travis Fulgham, Marken Michel, Andre Patton, Michael Walker (injured reserve)
Practice squad: Fulgham, Patton.
The first three are locks, but Ward, Arcega-Whiteside and Hightower are guaranteed nil. The Eagles could easily replace all three with waiver-wire pickups. But Ward is a reliable jack-of-many-trades, Arcega-Whiteside has that second-round draft pick thing keeping him afloat, and Hightower gets in by default. Fulgham could supplant one of the last ones, but he appeared to regress under Sirianni’s watchful eye.
Tight ends (3)
Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Tyree Jackson
Cut: Richard Rodgers, Jason Croom (IR), Jack Stoll, Cary Angeline
Practice squad: Stol.
Jackson, a project, intrigued before the injury. Rodgers could slide in if the Eagles fear losing him, but he should be eligible for a later return if need be.
Offensive linemen (9)
Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo, Jordan Mailata, Andre Dillard, Jack Driscoll, Nate Herbig, Sua Opeta
Physically unable to perform list: Landon Dickerson
Cut: Matt Pryor, Brett Toth, Kayode Awosika, Ross Pierschbacher, Le’Raven Clark
Practice squad: Awosika, Toth, Pierschbacher
The guess here is that Dickerson’s knee injury won’t warrant an initial roster spot. He’ll still need time to get into shape and learn the system, and it’s not as if the Eagles need him right away — they hope. Dillard is expendable after losing the left tackle spot to Mailata. Even if he stays he might not be active on game days because he has shown that he can’t swing to the right. Pryor’s stock has dropped like an anvil. Toth may live another day.
Defensive linemen (9)
Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Javon Hargrave, Derek Barnett, Milton Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, Hassan Ridgeway, Tarron Jackson
Cut: T.Y. McGill, Marlon Tuipulotu, Raequan Williams, JaQuan Bailey, Matt Leo
Practice squad: McGill, Tuipulotu
Williams’ versatility should allow the Eagles to keep just three exclusive tackles. McGill has been more productive in the preseason, but Ridgeway has size the front lacks. Jackson is on the bubble.
Eric Wilson, Alex Singleton, Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley, T.J. Edwards, Genard Avery, JaCoby Stevens
Cut: Patrick Johnson, Rashad Smith
Practice squad: Johnson, Smith
Jonathan Gannon’s multiple-front defense has increased the possibilities at linebacker. Avery could survive as a hybrid edge rusher / strong-side linebacker. Johnson could fill that role as well. But do the Eagles need two at a position that isn’t likely to see the field much? He’d better be good at special teams. Edwards is a trade candidate. But Taylor has been hurt all camp, and Bradley has struggled. Stevens’ hamstring injury and his switch to a new position could make him a prime candidate to spend the season on IR.
Darius Slay, Steven Nelson, Avonte Maddox, Zech McPhearson, Craig James
Cut: Michael Jacquet, Josiah Scott, Kevon Seymour
Practice squad: Jacquet, Scott
The Eagles’ lack of depth in the secondary is an annual occurrence, but this may be their thinnest group in years. Roseman is likely to add one or two or maybe even three defensive backs in the next week. James has been hurt most of camp, but he’s the best of the remaining lot.
Anthony Harris, Rodney McLeod, K’Von Wallace, Marcus Epps
Cut: Andrew Adams, Grayland Arnold, Elijah Riley, Blake Countess
Practice squad: Arnold
McLeod has been ahead of Dickerson in his rehabilitation. He’s a veteran and savvy enough to step into Gannon’s scheme without much practice time. He may still miss the first few games, but the Eagles can’t afford to have other alternatives in his place for six games. Adams could sneak on. But the need here is so profound that Roseman may need to pick up the phone rather than wait for some other team’s discards.
Jake Elliott, Arryn Siposs, Rick Lovato
Practice squad: None
Elliott has been dealing with an ankle injury, but should be good to go in two weeks.