The offseason is officially underway. It ceremonially kicked off with the release of Leodis McKelvin, and there will be more moves between now and March. We’ve even seen changes right here on BGN as Supreme Leader BLG has returned. It’s exciting, it’s frightening, it’s everything in between.
1 I expect wide receiver to be addressed early in March, not late in April
Each week I scan the mock drafts, and each week I see people giving the Eagles Corey Davis. The thought of adding a 1st round talent WR to grow with Wentz—to go along with the other 1st round WR on the roster—is exciting, as is it being Corey Davis. I’m still thinking about that touchdown vs Wisconsin. But WRs are rarely impact players as rookies, and the Eagles can’t afford to rely on developmental players at the position in 2017. They’ve got to add veteran help to give Wentz polished, though not necessarily shiny, targets. Not just one, but two wide receivers, and specifically two who can play on the outside, allowing Jordan Matthews to play in the slot where he’s best used. The obvious solution would be to add a speedster to open up the field, whether it be Kenny Stills, who at 25 when the season starts would be more than a stopgap, or a reunion with DeSean Jackson; and pair that player with a possession-type guy such as Kenny Britt, Robert Woods or Pierre Garcon, just to name a few.
I’d compare it to when Andy Reid took over the Eagles, the team added veteran WRs Torrance Small and Charles Johnson. They weren’t game changers, and they were only two year stop gaps, but there was value in not having to develop so many major parts of your passing game at once. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see the Eagles take a late round WR (say, Taywan Taylor), but at this point I would be surprised to see them take one in the 1st round.
2 I have a Pavlovian fear of what they’ll do at cornerback
The Eagles have to sign a corner in free agency. Duh. But that’s scary. They’ve been piss poor at it since signing Asante Samuel in 2008, which was a lifetime ago in the NFL. Twice they’ve signed the top corner on the market, and twice they’ve got burned. In fairness, Howie Roseman didn’t have final say on either of those. But Roseman has added stopgaps and had to replug those holes all over again, and they’ll have to do so again in March and April.
And they should draft two of them given the depth and the need. But it’s not like their draft track record in the draft has been any inspiration. Since Roseman was elevated to GM in 2010, and for the first two years he didn’t have nearly as much control as the title suggests, the best DB, let alone CB, that the team drafted has been.... Nate Allen? The best CB taken was Brandon Boykin. Not a lot of confidence there.
Joe Douglas is going to have a big say in both free agency and the draft, but he doesn’t have much positive history at the position either. How much credit you want to give the Ravens National Scout from 2012-2015 is up to you, but five of the six DBs drafted during that time aren’t on the team any more (safe to say Douglas had some say in the Eagles claiming 2014 draft pick Terrance Brooks off waivers), and the one who is, Matt Elam, lost his starting job. No matter what percentage of credit you want to dish out to Douglas, there isn’t a lot to give to begin with.
All that can change in a single draft, but I’m not filled with hope.
3 I think defense will be the first pick ... and maybe the second too
With the expectation that WR will be taken care of in free agency, and taking a running back in the first round being a bad plan, the Eagles’ draft needs suddenly shift to defense. There will be an opening at cornerback because the Eagles won’t have the cap space to sign two starting WRs, two starting CBs, a starting DT, and potentially a guard, and then defensive end is a draft need too. At this point, I’m expecting either of those to be the top pick. I’m all for getting Wentz potential playmakers early, but I don’t see the draft playing out that way this year. Rebuilding through the draft means taking a longer view, and that means that non-starting needs are very much in play for the early rounds.
4 There will be trades
Nobody makes more trades than Howie Roseman, who kept at it last year by making five trades, four of which included players. There’s every reason to expect more. Connor Barwin and Mychal Kendricks should be able to be traded in a pick swap if not acquired straight up for picks. With pick swaps moving the Eagles up in the middle of the draft or additional picks there gained, I’d then expect some draft day wheeling and dealing, and it wouldn’t at all surprise me to see them move up in the 1st round. Roseman has moved up twice in the draft and got his building blocks on both sides of the ball in Carson Wentz and Fletcher Cox. Giving up a 4th round pick has moved teams up from the middle of the first into the back of the top 10. It wouldn’t be a heavy price to pay. That the draft is in Philly this year shouldn’t matter, but it’s human nature to want to put on a little bit of a show to the home crowd. The Flyers tried to trade up when they hosted the draft in 2014. Trading up in the NFL is a lot easier.
5 I think it’ll be another busy offseason
All this—and more, such as releasing Jason Kelce, potentially letting Allen Barbre go and having to fill that spot, filling Bennie Logan’s starting job (either with Logan or with someone else), and who knows what else is in store—means that despite the Eagles trying to be a rebuilding team the 2017 offseason could be another hectic one. The Cowboys are going to lose so many starters and key contributors because they’re screwed on the cap that they are bound to regress. The Giants defense went from one of the worst in history to one of the best in 2016, that is going to regress and the offense is already a mess. The Redskins are on the verge of falling apart at the seams—they’ll either need a QB or being paying Kirk Cousins so much they have to skimp elsewhere, and already there are tensions in the front office, which always works well. There’s blood in the water in the NFC East, and their four divisional losses being by one score, the Eagles might convince themselves that with another strong offseason they can turn the table on the division. And maybe they can.
At some point we’ll tire of it. Perhaps we already have. We’ll find out.