As we head into the first weekend of NFL free agency, with just about all the big-money deals done, what stands out when you look at the Eagles’ remaining needs?
More to the point, is there a hole that likely can’t be addressed in the April 23-25 draft, assuming there is an April 23-25 draft?
- Eagles’ Darius Slay happy to land in Philadelphia, even happier to leave Matt Patricia’s Lions: ‘I had to get out’
- NFL free agency: Tom Brady, Buccaneers make it official after finalizing two-year contract
- After Eagles trade for cornerback Darius Slay, NFL players and analysts explain why he’s one of the best
Looking at the roster as it stands, wide receiver and safety are the thinnest positions, given their importance, and right after that would be linebacker, a grouping the team does not prioritize. There also is the matter of a third quarterback, behind Carson Wentz and Nate Sudfeld, or maybe between Wentz and Sudfeld, ultimately.
They don’t need to do much more on either line, or at tight end. They’ll add another running back somehow, maybe through the draft, but Miles Sanders is the top dog there and Boston Scott certainly should be able to fill a niche role. The guy (or two) they add will be for depth.
The Eagles made solid moves on the interior defensive line, signing Javon Hargrave, and at corner, trading for and signing to a new deal Darius Slay.
The loss of Malcolm Jenkins, which the Eagles really didn’t do much to prevent, leaves a gaping hole, even with Rodney McLeod back on board. Still, the Eagles didn’t do anything here in the first wave of free agency. Penciling in Jalen Mills as Jenkins’ replacement is one of those things that looks OK on paper, in March. We’ll see if that’s really the plan, or if there is a trade out there we hadn’t considered.
The problem with a trade now is, most trades involve draft picks. The Eagles’ stock of picks went down from 10 to eight in the Slay trade. I’m not sure Howie Roseman wants it to dwindle further before draft weekend.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see safety addressed before cornerback in the draft, say in the second or third round, if the top pick is a wideout, as expected. And there are always those safety/special teams guys out there you can still sign for depth.
It isn’t surprising that the Eagles didn’t sign a wide receiver this week. There wasn’t much top-shelf talent available, and the draft class is said to be so good, teams are looking at the mid-level WRs available in free agency — the Robby Andersons, and a notch below that, the Taylor Gabriels and the Demarcus Robinsons — and saying, "Meh, I can get that same guy in the fourth round this year for a lot less money.”
We’ve figured all along that the Eagles would look to the draft to fix their wideout corps. There was a wrinkle this week, though, with both DeAndre Hopkins and Stefon Diggs getting traded. The Diggs compensation was beyond what the Eagles were willing to do, given how much restocking they hope to achieve through this draft. Minnesota got a first, a fifth, a sixth and a fourth next year from Buffalo for Diggs and a seventh.
With Hopkins, the issue wasn’t the compensation, but the fact that he wanted a new, top-of-the-market contract, with three years left on the deal he had. This wasn’t a problem for the rebuilding Cardinals. The Eagles had their shot, but their cap situation the next two years is tricky, and apparently they were worried that key veterans on the team making big money would decide they should get adjustments to take them to the very top of the market for their positions, as well.
Adding Hopkins might have gotten the Eagles back to the Super Bowl this coming season (again, if there is a season). It’s hard not to think they could have finessed this with the other stars, somehow, and that they might have missed a big opportunity here.
Five, ten years ago, we used to talk about how the Eagles never draft a linebacker in the first round (Jerry Robinson, 1979, the last one). Now, they’re in nickel or dime packages most of the time and they REALLY don’t value linebacking. The position right now consists of T.J. Edwards, Nate Gerry, Duke Riley, and Alex Singleton. So expect multiple signings (of guys you might not necessarily have heard of) and at least one draft pick spent on a linebacker, which absolutely will not be in the first round.
Nate Sudfeld, brought back this week on another one-year deal, is now enough of a veteran that you don’t necessarily need a “veteran backup” in the QB room with him. This goes for Wentz, as well.
Still, that is where I expect the Eagles will find their third QB. For one thing, several such guys, with decent appeal, remain on the market. For another, last year the Eagles had just five draft picks, for the second year in a row. They really needed to make every shot count. But they quoted that old Ron Wolf maxim, about how you should draft a quarterback every year, and they took Clayton Thorson in the fifth round. Totally wasted the pick. They won’t do that again.