Former Eagles president Joe Banner is doing a weekly Q&A with Inquirer Eagles reporter EJ Smith. In part two of this week’s discussion, the two explore the team’s biggest priorities going into the offseason, the looming decisions surrounding a handful of players, and the buzz surrounding Jonathan Gannon’s head coaching candidacy.

EJ: What do you think the Eagles’ top priorities are this offseason?

JB: It’s a very easy answer. They have to get back to having a dominant defensive line. Not a good defensive line, not a “better than this year” defensive line. To me, Fletcher Cox is clearly descending and he’s incredibly expensive. Javon Hargrave played poorly last year, played really well at the beginning of this year and then just OK in the second half of the year. [Derek] Barnett’s not coming back, so they’re really building a defensive line almost from scratch. A couple of young guys that maybe can be good as part of a rotation, maybe they’re a little better than that, but that’s all we’ve seen so far.

For me it’s not even close. I would be shocked, if they use all three of those first-round picks, if they’re not focused on defensive linemen. Or between the first and second round if they don’t make some significant attempts to address it.

The Eagles, what they believe and their priorities, are very open. Their actions tell you very loud and clear. Based on that, combined with kind of their history even from back when I was there, they believe the teams that win big all have the ability, even against really good teams with good offensive lines, to get pressure. The success that they’ve had both when I was there and since, that’s been a huge part of it. They’ve got to put major assets into getting to the point where they have a dominant — not a good, but a dominant — defensive line.

EJ: What do you think is the next-biggest area of need?

JB: The corners will be dramatically helped if they can build a dominant defensive line, but they’re still not good enough. They’ve been kind of flailing away and trying all kinds of different things at this position for years. Now they’ve only got [Darius] Slay under contract for one more year, he’s 31 years old, they really have to fix the secondary.

I think there were problems with the scheme, I wish it was more aggressive. I think the defensive line wasn’t dominant. Even considering all of that, I don’t think the secondary was good enough to beat good teams. That would be the next priority.

They also need to find a right guard somewhere along the line. Who knows how much longer Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson will play, so those are the next priorities. I put the other two things ahead of it for the moment, though. Right now, they can’t play effective defense against good, smart offenses. That just leaves you really exposed to having a really bad season. It’s also the pieces to the puzzle that lead to long-term success, too, so it serves the short-term and the long-term interest to develop a dominant defensive linemen.

» READ MORE: Eagles NFL draft: If Howie Roseman builds around Jalen Hurts, which prospects fit best?

EJ: Under Howie Roseman, the Eagles have drafted corners and signed corners with spotty results. They’ve also invested a significant amount in wide receivers with several draft misses. These seem like blind spots for the Eagles’ front office. Is that a common thing around the league?

JB: You’re asking a good question and one that not enough people in the league ask. My answer is emphatically yes. All the people I worked with, including myself, by the way, they are better at evaluating some positions than others. Andy Reid, who I consider to be an excellent evaluator, was better at some positions than others.

Like you said, it’s not like they haven’t put resources into trying to get better in the secondary. Maybe it’s a position that Howie isn’t as good at as he is at some other positions, or whoever is driving the decisions or contributing to the decisions.

I actually know way more scouts, even good ones, who have a position or two that they’re not quite as good at as they are in general. If you can recognize that when you’re making the decision so you know who to listen to on what, that can really be helpful. On the other hand, if you’re kind of blind to the fact that you actually have a really good scout, but he’s bad at “X,” that’s very valuable insight. I don’t think enough people in the league really think about that and they should. Everyone I worked with, including excellent evaluators, were not the same in their ability to evaluate successfully at every position that they had to look at.

EJ: Do you think Jalen Reagor will be on the Eagles next year? What did you make of what happened with him this season?

JB: I think he should go, and I think he will go. I don’t think he’s ever going to be even close to what they hoped for when they drafted him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get to the point of being a contributing player. He should be a good punt returner, but you can’t trust him. If he got a fresh start somewhere, could he develop into being a valuable asset? He shouldn’t be unable to contribute for the most part as a wide receiver, but that’s not where we’re at.

I don’t know why they kept playing him as much as they did, quite frankly, but they did. That should be a question with Nick Sirianni. He was flexible in changing scheme, but there were a couple of things that didn’t indicate he was great at evaluating the players. I still can’t believe, from everything I’ve heard or know, that based on Nick’s decision, Kenny Gainwell was the starting running back on this team [early in the season.] I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Gainwell, but that’s not his role and you did that while Miles Sanders is sitting there and healthy.

But Reagor should be gone, and I believe he will be gone. They need to replace him with someone better or at least more dependable and he needs to get to a space where he’s not prejudged by the history and the fact that he was a first-round draft pick.

EJ: What do you think the return is for a guy like Reagor at this point?

JB: It’s anywhere from nothing to a late pick. I personally would tell you, even if they got to the point where they couldn’t get anything for Reagor, I would cut him. I just don’t think the environment gives him a fair chance to succeed. In fact, it gives them a more compelling explanation for why he’s failed. That’s not his fault, by the way. Some of the expectations were unrealistic because of where he was drafted, and some of it was his own ability to not live up to the moment.

I don’t think he has consequential trade value and I’m not even sure he has any at this point. If he gets anything for him, it’s going to be a sixth- or seventh-round type of thing. It’s not going to be more than that.

» READ MORE: ‘That’s on us to continue to build’: Eagles GM Howie Roseman assesses Jalen Reagor, wide receiver corps

EJ: What about Fletcher Cox? The Eagles don’t get much cap relief by cutting or trading him and he indicated that he’d like to remain on the team when talking to reporters last Monday. What do you think happens?

JB: I don’t really know whether he really wants to stay or not. I agree that what he said indicated that, but he probably knows that if he wants to be moved, his best chance of being moved is to keep himself as a desirable, content player instead of devaluing himself by saying he wants to get out.

He’s not played well the last two years. He’s had some games that you can kind of see the old Fletcher. It’s not clear if it’s the normal wear and tear that every NFL player hits or whether he’s not got the same kind of passion and drive that he had early in his career. But what’s not debatable is that the outcome is that he’s had some good games, but if you give him an overall rating, he’s not playing well. If they think they have a chance to win short-term and they can’t replace him with anything even close to what he is, then they may keep him. I’d be looking for a way to move on, and my best guess is they will be, too.

EJ: What do you think the return in a trade would be for Cox?

JB: They actually have some chance of getting a consequential return for him. There’s a lot of guys that, first of all, they’ll get swept up in the name. They’ll find a way to rationalize the recent tape. They find some way to think the defensive line coach didn’t have him do this or that … teams find ways to rationalize, especially when you get a guy with a big name like that who has played as well as he did for most of his career. He’s been part of winning and perceived to be an asset in leadership.

I think there’s a chance they could get as high as a second-rounder, probably a little lower than that. Now, again, the contract will come into very big play. You’re not just evaluating his play, you’re evaluating everything that comes with it. There is at least a chance there, based on the history of his career. You can put on the tape of even this year and watch a couple games and say, “If I can just get that out of him every week, wow, would that help us.”

EJ: You mentioned right guard earlier, what about Brandon Brooks?

JB: Just trying to make a football decision from a distance, I don’t mean this to be personal, but everybody who watched the team when I was running it knows I’m reluctant to take risks on players that have started to get hurt frequently and are older. I really wanted to have people I can count on, I wanted to lead the league in least games missed by injury, which I do think correlates at least in part to age and past history.

I would probably be looking to replace him. There’s just too much question mark for the price.

EJ: Jonathan Gannon has gained a lot of traction as a head coaching candidate since we last discussed his prospects. What do you make of his progress in that area?

JB: I guess the good news is when I talked early in the season about how hopeful I was about him and how many teams were interested in him and how respected he was, that part was correct.

I’m just frankly shocked to see him get these interviews, although the reason he’s was in demand is because he is a very smart guy and he is a very highly respected guy. He is thought of by people, at some point in his career, as someone who would be a head coach. But based on his relative inexperience, the relatively poor performance as a defense — the whole notion that they had four or five games where they didn’t give up 18 points, that was a joke. They were playing second- and third-string quarterbacks. They were playing terrible offenses. They were losing to the Giants or barely beating them. The Giants were even playing their backup quarterback and they were actually trailing in that game, same thing with Washington.

I’m not able to just say, “Oh look, his defense played well, they had five games where they gave up fewer than 18 points,” I think the defense played poorly and I don’t think he coached them to get the maximum out of them.

The interviews you’re seeing are a reflection of the fact that people who know him well, the people who have worked with him hold him in high regard. He is, by all accounts, a really likable guy, a leader, a smart guy. So he’s drawing interest that, at least from my perspective, is very premature. We have to watch him over a few years to see if it’s in the right direction, but it’s at least in my mind extremely premature. I mean, if the Eagles announced at the end of the season they were changing coordinators, I would have only been slightly surprised or moderately surprised. To me, it was not completely out of the question. Unlikely, but possible. Next thing you know, he’s got three interviews as a head coaching candidate.

EJ: Have you seen a coordinator with a defense performing this way get so much buzz as a head coaching candidate, especially after one year as a coordinator?

JB: No, I’ve never seen this. I’ve never seen a guy who’s this young and has been a coordinator for one year and — let’s just give him the benefit of the doubt — did an average job and then was suddenly in the mix as a head coaching candidate. I don’t remember ever seeing that and I’m extremely surprised by it.

EJ: He does seem to have some of the personality traits teams look for in a head coach, which probably helped get his name mentioned early on lists of rising candidates. Do owners put stock in those lists?

JB: There are owners that will see right through it and couldn’t care less, but there are also owners who don’t really know that well and don’t have complete faith in the general manager and they’re absolutely influenced by those names. It’s almost subconscious. There are owners that don’t know enough to kind of get beyond that.

It’s one of the reasons why we see so many times the top offensive coordinator gets the next head coaching job. It’s a totally, totally different job description. It shouldn’t really matter much. It’s not irrelevant, but it shouldn’t really matter much. We hired Andy Reid when he’d never run any unit, he was in the quarterback room with four people, the tight end room with four people or the offensive line room with nine people. Most owners don’t do that, they’re going to the obvious.

That’s what makes Gannon unusual. He doesn’t even have on his resume yet that he’s even run one side of the ball really well. Maybe it’s a good sign, actually, that people are realizing that isn’t the important criteria and they see what you’re describing, he’s smart, he’s likable, he’s hardworking, you see the macro picture.

So those lists do matter, they absolutely have importance even though they absolutely shouldn’t mean anything. They should only have value if they’re interesting or entertaining to the reader. As far as running a football team, they should mean absolutely nothing.