Good morning, Eagles fans. Here’s hoping you’re in the recovery process from Sunday by now. The Eagles players are officially in their offseason, so you should be, too. Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson will be meeting with reporters today at 10:30, so be sure to keep an eye out for updates.
Roseman’s work is just beginning. The Eagles are a team in need of a bit of an overhaul after this season, with the roster aging rapidly and a glaring lack of speed becoming apparent. More on that later.
— EJ Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Eagles go into this offseason with a few glaring needs and a handful of smaller ones. Below, I’ll list the team’s three biggest offensive needs and offer a few options both in the draft and free agency to remedy those issues.
1. Deep-threat wide receiver
DeSean Jackson will be back in the swing of things well before next summer’s training camp, but the Eagles would still be wise to invest in more speed at the position. Time will tell how much speed Jackson is able to regain after suffering a core muscle injury that required surgery, but he’ll still draw attention when he’s out there, at least for the beginning of the season. It’s going to take a lot of creativity and bold maneuvering to get Alshon Jeffery off the books, but let’s assume Roseman can find a way.
Even if the front office isn’t able to off-load Jeffery and his $15.696 million cap hit for 2020, taking a wide receiver in the first round of the NFL draft is a no-brainer. I’d even argue the team should trade up to get one that can make a difference on Day 1. If the Eagles were able to get a player like CeeDee Lamb from Oklahoma or Henry Ruggs from Alabama, they’d be a lot better off. Assuming Nelson Agholor will find a new team in free agency, the Eagles could have a wide receiving corps of Lamb/Ruggs, DeSean Jackson, Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and either Rob Davis or Deontay Burnett. There’s a belief in scouting that a team’s wide receiving corps should resemble a basketball team. You want some shifty playmakers, some power forwards, and a few guys versatile enough to do everything. The Eagles would have something like that with the group listed above. It wouldn’t be the league’s best, but it’s better than what they closed the season with.
Possible draft targets: CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma), Tee Higgins (Clemson), Henry Ruggs (Alabama).
Possible free-agency target: Robby Anderson.
2. Interior offensive line depth
The Eagles are pretty well established along the offensive line, but their organizational philosophy has almost always been to invest resources in the offensive and defensive fronts on a yearly basis. Jason Kelce has become a massive part of what the team does offensively with a screen game and zone-run scheme that capitalizes on an athletic, crafty center anchoring things. The team may have faith in 2019 undrafted lineman Nate Herbig to develop into that, but, at 6-foot-4, 334 pounds, he’s not the same body type as Kelce and isn’t likely to be chasing down middle linebackers in the open field.
At worst, the team can draft a young center/guard who can fill in when needed the way Andre Dillard did this season. If the Eagles didn’t have Dillard and Halapoulivaati Vaitai holding things down when starters Jason Peters and Lane Johnson got hurt, they wouldn’t have made the playoffs. Kelce didn’t miss a snap last season, and he’s still in his prime, but having a young player as a contingency plan for next season and a potential starter down the road would be wise.
Possible draft targets: Tyler Biadasz (Wisconsin), Nick Harris (Washington).
3. Backup quarterback
Before you even ask: No, I’m not saying this because I think Carson Wentz is injury prone after he suffered a head injury. But it’s always good to have a developmental quarterback, even if the Eagles already have their starter. Just about any team would be happy to have two starter-quality quarterbacks. If you can turn a third-round quarterback selection into a first-rounder in a trade, it’s a win.
With Josh McCown retiring, the Eagles have space on the roster. Whether they will bring back Nate Sudfeld isn’t clear, but the third quarterback spot would be perfect for a younger player who can be inactive during game days. If Sudfeld isn’t back, they might end up drafting a quarterback and signing one in free agency. Because of the uncertainty, the free-agency suggestions will be for true backups, the draft targets will be for the No. 3 spot.
Possible draft targets: K.J. Costello (Stanford), Kellen Mond (Texas A&M).
Possible free-agency targets: Brett Hundley, Chase Daniel again.
Why couldn’t Arcega-Whiteside make any kind of progression over the season? — Jade (@Outtahere22) via Twitter.
Thanks for the question, Jade. As a lifelong Harry Kalas appreciator, I’m a big fan of your Twitter handle. I understand the question, but would argue that J.J. Arcega-Whiteside did make some progress this year, just not as much as expected. He’s even admitted he would have liked to be more productive this season, so it’s easy to argue his rookie season did not go as anyone would have hoped. I’d attribute that mostly to him not making the jump from colleges to the pros as quickly as expected. He didn’t have the physical tools that guys like D.K. Metcalf or even A.J. Brown did coming out. His value in college came as a red-zone target and a physical receiver who could make contested catches. He showed flashes of that last season, but wasn’t effective enough overall to stay on the field. He also had a few costly drops, including a touchdown pass against Washington in Week 15.
I still think the jury is out on him as a player, though. It takes some guys time to become effective receivers, and Arcega-Whiteside has made catches that show you why he was drafted where he was. I think the team’s plan for him this season involved backing up Alshon Jeffery and learning the pros.