There are still six weeks before the NFL draft, three months before the offseason program concludes, and six months before a game that counts. So the Eagles’ roster remains incomplete and there’s still much time to address needs.
At the end of the first weekend of free agency in 2017, the Eagles did not yet have Nick Foles, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, LeGarrette Blount, Ronald Darby, or Jay Ajayi. The team building will continue, but with the first wave of free agency reaching shore, it’s a good time to take stock of the Eagles:
Carson Wentz is entrenched as the No. 1 quarterback, but it’s undetermined who will be the backup to replace Nick Foles, who signed with Jacksonville on Wednesday. The front-runner is Nate Sudfeld; the Eagles used a second-round restricted free-agent tender on Sudfeld, all but ensuring that he’ll be back next season. But Doug Pederson was adamant about wanting Sudfeld to compete for the job. There’s still time to add a veteran – Tyrod Taylor and Teddy Bridgewater have been the top two backup quarterbacks to sign – and the list of potential No. 2s includes Ryan Fitzpatrick and Blake Bortles. The Eagles could also draft a developmental quarterback.
This might be the biggest hole. The Eagles have Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams under contract; Darren Sproles must decide if he wants to play in 2019, and Jay Ajayi remains a free agent after tearing his ACL last season. It’s too early in the offseason to be concerned, but the Eagles did not add a running back during the first few days of free agency, when the top options all went off board. The top rushers still remaining include Ajayi, T.J. Yeldon, Isaiah Crowell, and Spencer Ware. The Eagles could also explore the trade market, where Chicago’s Jordan Howard and Cleveland’s Duke Johnson could be options. With three picks in the first two rounds, the Eagles have the draft capital to find a potential starting running back if they waited until then. But that comes with the risk of the board not falling as expected.
The top of the depth chart at wide receiver is solidified after the last week. Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson are the starting receivers on the outside; Nelson Agholor, whose contract is now guaranteed for 2019, will be the slot receiver. Golden Tate (Giants) and Jordan Matthews (49ers) have signed elsewhere. The Eagles will get Mack Hollins back after he missed all of last season with an injury – Hollins will even have a new number because he gave Jackson No. 10 – and the Eagles have a collection of roster hopefuls, including 2017 fifth-round pick Shelton Gibson. The Eagles could also look to draft a developmental receiver. Mike Wallace remains unsigned after playing only two games for the Eagles last season.
Perhaps no position was in better shape entering the offseason than tight end, where Zach Ertz is coming off the best season of his career and Dallas Goedert could take on a bigger role after showing promise as a rookie. The only question is the No. 3 tight end – don’t expect Richard Rodgers back in 2019 – but that’s not a top priority.
The Eagles re-signed Jason Peters on Monday just days after giving contract extensions to center Jason Kelce and left guard Isaac Seumalo. That ended any questions about the Eagles’ offensive line in 2019. They’ll return all five starters from the end of the season, as long as right guard Brandon Brooks recovers from a torn Achilles tendon. Brooks’ walking boot came off this past week. The Eagles declined the option of interior lineman Stefen Wisniewski, who started in the Super Bowl at left guard but lost his job to Seumalo last season. Halapoulivaati Vaitai returns as the swing tackle, and the Eagles have invested in the development of 2018 draft picks Matt Pryor and Jordan Mailata. They can continue to add depth, but those eight are safe for this season. Chance Warmack remains unsigned after two seasons with the Eagles.
The Eagles entered the offseason with a need at defensive tackle, and they filled it by signing veteran Malik Jackson to play next to Fletcher Cox. The Eagles did not pick up Tim Jernigan’s option and Haloti Ngata is a free agent, so the depth behind Cox and Jackson is unsettled. Look for the Eagles to address defensive tackle in the draft in a historically deep class. Treyvon Hester, who impressed at times last season, is also an option.
Brandon Graham re-signed to start at defensive end opposite Derek Barnett, who played only six games last season. The Eagles traded Michael Bennett to New England, though, weakening their defensive end rotation. Much depends on what Chris Long decides to do; he hasn’t made up his mind about whether he’ll return to the Eagles for a 12th season. Either way, the Eagles could use some youth at defensive end. They need Josh Sweat to get healthy and show improvement. They’ll likely add an edge rusher in the draft, too.
After letting Jordan Hicks leave in free agency, the Eagles have a hole at linebacker. They will likely use Nigel Bradham as their three-down linebacker, which they did when Hicks was injured the last two years and also late last season. But they still need a middle linebacker in the base defense and a second linebacker for the nickel. Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry can step into bigger roles, with Gerry the top option at middle linebacker. The Eagles signed veteran journeyman L.J. Fort, who will help on special teams and challenge for playing time on defense. The same is true about Paul Worrilow, who re-signed with the Eagles after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. The Eagles’ other reserve linebackers last season are all free agents and might not return. This is a position the Eagles can address during the next few weeks, whether it’s with a signing or a trade. The New York Jets are rumored to be shopping 2016 first-round pick Darron Lee. This is not an especially strong linebacker draft class, but the Eagles can try to find depth then, too.
The Eagles addressed cornerback on Friday by agreeing to a one-year deal with Ronald Darby, who returns to the team after tearing his ACL in November. Howie Roseman spent the last three years stacking their cupboard with promising cornerbacks the team must develop. The Eagles could go into the season with Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, and Cre’von LeBlanc as their top six cornerbacks. The Eagles should be comfortable with this group – as long as they develop as hoped. Mills is coming off an injury and entering the final year of his contract. Jones is full of potential but has spent more time injured than on the field. The Eagles are always searching for young talent at the position, but don’t expect cornerback to be a priority in the draft. They’ll pounce only if there’s value.
The Eagles addressed safety at the beginning of the offseason when they restructured Rodney McLeod’s deal. He’ll start with Malcolm Jenkins. McLeod must prove he can be the same player after suffering a season-ending knee injury. However, the third safety spot remains open. Corey Graham is a free agent, but the Eagles could look to upgrade. This was a deep free-agent class, and the top safeties were paid accordingly. There are still well-regarded safeties on the market, including Eric Berry and Tre Boston. The Eagles could also use Maddox at safety. Deiondre’ Hall and Tre Sullivan are still under contract, but this is a position the Eagles can address in the draft, too.