NFL scouting combine week is typically a blur for everybody involved. Traditionally, it is viewed as the ultimate job interview for the 300-plus college players in attendance. The annual event in Indianapolis highlights the upcoming draft class, and provides prospects a vital platform to help boost their stock ahead of the NFL draft, which is scheduled to begin April 27.
Besides being precisely tested in measurements and on-field drills, prospects are also interviewed in more intimate settings with team representatives. It’ll be a busy week for coach Nick Sirianni, general manager Howie Roseman and the rest of the Eagles corps. As Roseman constructs the team’s draft board, he’ll incorporate and lean on different viewpoints from scouts and executives.
Let’s take a look at the team’s most pressing issues as NFL combine week begins.
At the conclusion of the season, Roseman expressed confidence in quarterback Jalen Hurts, labeling him as the team’s starter moving forward.
In his first year as QB1, Hurts showed glimpses of being able to handle the responsibilities and pressures that come with being an NFL starter.
Before he sustained a high ankle sprain in late November, which forced him to miss one game and limited his mobility over the final stretch of the season, Hurts maximized his athleticism and abilities as a dual-threat quarterback. He finished with a combined 3,928 yards and 26 total touchdowns, including a franchise-best 10 rushing touchdowns.
Hurts kept plays alive with his legs and forced defensive coordinators to adjust to the Eagles offense, which featured plenty of zone reads with Hurts as the main operator.
However, the 23-year-old lacked in multiple facets, especially in the passing game.
Hurts was agile and shifty outside the pocket, but he was too slow when it came to diagnosing through his progressions in real time. Those situations often resulted in him locking on to a single receiver and throwing into double coverage. Hurts’ arm strength was questioned at times, but his reluctance to remain in clean pockets has been detrimental to his growth.
There were spurts in which Hurts displayed maturation in trusting the team’s pass blocking and also in the receivers to make plays on difficult throws. But those moments were outnumbered by poor performances in clutch moments. Hurts completed just 53.5% of his passes with two interceptions in the season-ending loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC wild-card round.
If Roseman sticks to his word, Hurts would remain as the team’s starter when the regular season begins in early September. By sticking with Hurts — who still has two years remaining on his rookie contract — the team is afforded the opportunity to address other needs across the roster. There’s something to be said about stacking another year with Sirianni as his offensive play caller and building chemistry with top playmakers Dallas Goedert and DeVonta Smith.
Over 19 career starts, Hurts has proven he’s capable of being a serviceable quarterback in this league. But exactly how long will it take him to put it all together?
In today’s NFL, impatience and winning reigns above all. Quarterbacks are held to high expectations with arguably unfair timelines.
The Eagles possess enough draft capital to make a sudden change at the position. They could select a quarterback with one of their three first-round selections, although this year’s class is widely viewed as average — some good quarterbacks, but no one particularly stellar. They also could put together an intriguing package for an elite, unhappy, and embattled quarterback such as the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson.
If the Eagles stand pat, can they truly win because of Hurts rather than with him?
The affordability of Hurts creates flexibility for the Eagles. That should be enough for the team to stick with him under center for at least one more season.
With the offseason in full swing, the team will likely execute more moves in order to create additional cap space. The Eagles currently have around $18.5 million, which ranks them near the middle of the league in available cap space, according to OverTheCap.
Free agency is set to begin March 16. If the Eagles intend to attract some of the top-tier free agents, they’ll need to create more financial flexibility. Teams often create additional cap space via contract restructures, converting base salaries into signing bonuses.
Besides manipulating the cap number, teams can also release players with unattractive contracts.
The Eagles don’t have many cap-casualty candidates. One player the team might consider parting ways with is wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, whose release would create $1.1 million in cap savings. However, that’s not exactly a large number in potential savings and the coaching staff has shown value in Arcega-Whiteside’s blocking ability and his willingness to play on special teams.
How much extra cap space is created will ultimately depend on the team’s list of priorities. While Arcega-Whiteside’s physical traits as an enforcer can’t be ignored, neither can that he has registered only one touchdown in three seasons. If the team is rallying around Hurts, is that type of production deemed acceptable from a former second-round pick? What about the standard set by 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor?
Roseman has been viewed by multiple figures across the industry as a master at manipulating the cap number. But can he string together back-to-back solid draft classes, and make up for all of the misses in recent years?
One more cap-casualty scenario: Trading away offensive lineman Andre Dillard would create $2.2 million in cap savings.
The Eagles currently possess 10 total selections in the draft, including three picks in the first round:
First round, No. 15 overall (Dolphins, 2021 trade-down)
First round, No. 16 (Colts, Carson Wentz trade)
First round, No. 19
Fifth round (Commanders, 2021 trade for multiple picks)
Fifth round (Cardinals, Zach Ertz trade)
Sixth round (Colts, Matt Pryor trade)