The 2016 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles, which means Howie Roseman and new head coach Doug Pederson will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2015 roster. The team went 7-9 last season and improvement is clearly needed. By the time NFL free agency starts on March 9, the Eagles will have a good idea of which players they'll want to bring back for the 2016 season. Today we'll continue this offseason review series by looking at the defensive end position.
Numbers: 999 snaps, 9.5 sacks, 13 hits, 54 hurries, 50 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 passes deflected
Review: Cox was a beast yet again in 2015. Among 3-4 defensive ends, Cox ranked third in sacks, fourth in hits on the quarterback, and first overall in hurries. It was nice to see Cox finally get some much-deserved respect from the national media. He made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. He was also named second-team All-Pro, though he deserved to be first.
Cox is set to receive a contract extension from the Eagles. The team clearly wants him around for the long-term. Cox's new deal could over $100 million, according to reports. Is he worth all that money? Yes, easily. He's an impact player. Cox was a big reason the Eagles were able to beat the Patriots and the Bills late in the season despite the rest of the team not being so great. Cox only turned 25 in December and he might even be more dangerous as a defensive tackle in Jim Schwartz's 4-3 scheme. Cox is a star and the Eagles will do what it takes to keep him around for the long-run.
Numbers: 501 snaps, 1 sack, 1 hit, 12 hurries, 17 tackles, 1 pass deflected
Thornton's production declined in 2015. He was still a solid player, especially as a run defender. His fit with the team moving forward is in question, however. More on that below.
Numbers: 426 snaps, 3.5 sacks, 9 hits, 35 hurries, 9 tackles
Review: Curry played a career number of snaps in 2015. He certainly made the most of his playing time. Despite not being an ideal scheme fit, Curry finished 10th in hits and eighth in hurries among 3-4 defensive ends. Those rankings are especially impressive considering the players ahead of him played significantly more snaps. On a per snap basis, Curry had the second best "Pass Rush Productivity" in the NFL. Only J.J. Watt was ahead of him.
Curry probably wouldn't have been back with the Eagles if Chip Kelly was still around. Now he's moving back to 4-3 defensive end in Schwartz's scheme.
Numbers: 337 snaps, 1 hit, 2 hurries, 12 tackles
Review: After not playing at all as a rookie in 2014, Hart did little to impress last season. He graded out as the fourth worst 3-4 defensive end out of 57 players ranked by PFF. It's hard to remember anything positive that really stood out.
Numbers: 92 snaps, 2 hurries, 6 tackles, 3 passes deflected
Review: Bair probably deserved to play more than he did last season. He played pretty well early in the season before suffering an injury and then riding the bench for most of the rest of the year. In 2014, Bair was always kept active over Hart. That probably should have been the case last year as well. The Eagles went with youth over merit.
Review: Raciti signed with the team as an undrafted free agent. He spent most of the season on the practice squad.
Who Could Leave
Cox is under contract for the 2016 season. It's likely only a matter of time before the Eagles re-sign him. Curry was scheduled to be a free agent but recently received a contract extension.
Thornton is set to be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Thornton turns 28 this summer. This is his chance to get the most money he can. Cedric started his NFL career as a 4-3 defensive tackle but he's excelled as a 3-4 defensive end in recent years. A 3-4 team might value him more highly than the Eagles do.
Former Oregon Ducks Hart and Bair were brought in by Chip Kelly to play in the 3-4. They might not be great fits for the new scheme. Perhaps the 49ers would have interest in trading for at least one of them.
Who Could Sign
Now that the Eagles are moving back to the 4-3, a number of these players will be shifting to new positions. Cox and Bennie Logan will likely be the team's starting defensive tackles. The Eagles are set with starters but they could afford some more depth at the position.
Nick Fairley is a free agent. He excelled in a rotational role with the Rams last year. He might have interest in teaming up with his former head coach, Jim Schwartz.
NFL Draft Options
There are a number of intriguing interior defensive line prospects in this draft, including A'Shawn Robinson, Robert Nkemdiche, and Andrew Billings. The Eagles have young and talent on the inside so they certainly don't need to force a pick. They could afford to draft some depth, though.