The Eagles are set to enter the 2017 NFL offseason with a lot of roster holes. For the second year in a row, the Birds are coming off a 7-9 regular season record. There's clearly a lot of work to be done.
Philadelphia will have opportunities to upgrade their roster through NFL free agency and the 2017 NFL Draft. The Eagles are expected to clear up some significant cap space and the team owns eight draft selections. The question: what is the Eagles' biggest need? Which position do the Eagles need to upgrade the most?
The feeling here is the Eagles need to have a thematic approach to this offseason. The Eagles' mission statement should be simple as these three words: "Get Wentz Weapons." OK, so maybe they can come up with something less cheesy, but you get the point.
In case you missed it, the Eagles invested a lot of resources into Wentz last year. He's the franchise. They need to do everything they can to ensure he's put in the best position to succeed. The 2016 season made it crystal clear Wentz needs major talent upgrades at the skill positions. It's hard to fully evaluate him when he doesn't even have competent skill players to work with.
With this in mind, a lot of people will probably say wide receiver is the Eagles' biggest need. It's hard to argue otherwise. The Birds need IMMEDIATE help at the position. I'm not saying they shouldn't draft a pass catcher or two, but if that's the only thing they do, that's not good. The Eagles don't have luxury on relying projection alone at wide receiver. They need some proven NFL players at the position, so they'll need to spend money in free agency to get those guys.
However, I think there's a case that running back, and not receiver, could be the Eagles' biggest need. If you pay attention to my work, you've seen me write multiple articles about this subject. I've also ranted about it on BGN Radio way too many times. Thankfully Adam Hermann recently wrote an article advocating for an improved run game so it's not just me.
I'm not saying the Eagles need to spend a first round pick on a rusher or go spend a lot of money on a back in free agency. But they need to do something to address the position other than just adding, say, a seventh round pick in the draft. The Eagles really need to find a rusher who has lead back potential. None of their current running backs really possess that quality. Maybe Wendell Smallwood can be that guy, but I don't think it's likely and he certainly hasn't proven it yet.
People will say "the NFL is a passing league" and there's truth to that. But guess what? Running the ball efficiently makes life so much easier on passers because they don't have to carry the team as much with their arm. Again, look at Dak Prescott's rookie success. Ezekiel Elliott was a beast and, as a result, Prescott attempted the third fewest passes on any quarterback last year. Remember how Nick Foles went 27-2 in 2013? Yeah, LeSean McCoy led the league in rushing that year, and Foles attempted the sixth fewest passes. When the Cowboys almost went to the NFC Championship Game in 2014 (Dez dropped it), the success was due to DeMarco Murray being the NFL's leading rusher and making life easy on Tony Romo. The Cowboys attempted the second fewest passes that season.
In an offseason where it's impossible to fix everything, it's important to identify solutions that offer the most impact. My argument is that upgrading the running back position can have a wide-spread effect. For example, Wentz won't have to throw as much if the Eagles can run more. And if he doesn't have to throw as much, the Eagles don't have to rely on their wide receivers as much. Running the ball and controlling the clock will also take pressure off the defense.
Speaking of Jim Schwartz's unit, cornerback is another big need. The Eagles haven't had stability there in approximately forever. Free agency hasn't provided many solutions for the Eagles, so maybe it's finally time for the team to start drafting and developing defensive backs.
Improved cornerback play could really help Philadelphia's pass rush. If Schwartz only wants to rush four like he often does, then the Eagles' secondary needs to buy the defensive line some time to get the quarterback.
The Eagles' defense was far from perfect in 2016 but it showed the makings of a very good unit at times. Schwartz completely shut down some of best offenses in the NFL. Philadelphia held the Steelers to a mere three point and they caused the Falcons to have their worst offensive outing of the season. The problem is that cornerback was always a weakness. If they can just fix that spot, maybe that can push the Eagles' defense over the top to becoming an elite unit.
The Eagles have one of the oldest offensive lines in the NFL.
LT Jason Peters - 35
LG Allen Barbre - 33 in June
C Jason Kelce - 30 in November
RG Brandon Brooks - 28 in August
RT Lane Johnson - 27 in May
Changes could be coming to this unit, though. It's been reported that Kelce and Barbre aren't locks to return next season. If that's the case, one spot will open up for 2016 third round pick Isaac Seumalo (23 years old). But that still leaves one starting spot remaining on the interior. If the Eagles don't re-sign Stefen Wisniewski, they won't have any internal options for that position.
Offensive tackle is clearly a need moving forward as well. Peters could feasibly be playing his last season this year; he'll turn 36 next January. Maybe Halapoulivaati Vaitai can take over at right tackle when Johnson replaces Peters on the left, but Big V still has a ways to go in his development.
If the Eagles don't re-sign Bennie Logan, defensive tackles automatically becomes one of the biggest needs on the team. Even if you're a big believer in Beau Allen, the Eagles will need depth behind him.
Even if the Eagles do keep Logan, a team can never have enough pass rushers. And with Connor Barwin expected to be gone, Philadelphia will have room for more bodies at defensive end.
So, which position do you want to see the Eagles attack first and foremost? Vote in the poll below and debate in the comments.