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NFL Rumors: Are the Eagles planning to sign one of the top free agent pass rushers?

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There will be no shortage of options.

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NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive end is arguably the Philadelphia Eagles’ biggest need heading into the 2019 NFL offseason.

Brandon Graham, who turns 31 in April, is going to be a free agent. Chris Long, who turns 34 in March, might retire. Michael Bennett, who turns 34 in November, is also under contract for 2019 but he’s hardly a long-term fixture at the position.

Given how important pass rushers are in Jim Schwartz’s attacking scheme (and, really, in general), you can bet the Eagles will invest serious resources in this area. Howie Roseman might even spend big in free agency. At least, that’s what Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com seemed to suggest in a recent appearance on the Birds With Friends podcast (featuring Bo Wulf and Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic):

“I think the Eagles will address their pass rush needs in free agency. I’m not going to release any names here but just keep your eye on when free agency opens, and some of the bigger [name] pass rushers. We’ll see what happens with the Eagles.”

Pauline offered up this information on his own; he wasn’t asked. It sounded like he knows something about the Eagles’ intentions.

It’s not crazy to think Pauline would have some inside information. He helps provide draft coverage for the Eagles’ official website. He’s also offered up some Eagles rumors in the past, including how Philadelphia was considered to be the “front runners” for Byron Maxwell. Sure enough, the Eagles signed Maxwell to a big contract later that offseason.

So, assuming Pauline is correct, who could the Eagles be after? Here’s an extensive list of free agent pass rushers, via Rotoworld’s Evan Silva:

DeMarcus Lawrence (26)

Jadeveon Clowney (26)

Frank Clark (25)

Dee Ford (28)

Preston Smith (26)

Trey Flowers (25)

Za’Darius Smith (26)

Ezekiel Ansah (29)

Brandon Graham (31)

Shane Ray (25)

Clay Matthews (32)

Dante Fowler (24)

Shaq Barrett (26)

Derrick Morgan (30)

Markus Golden (28)

Terrell Suggs (36)

Julius Peppers (39)

Cameron Wake (37)

John Simon (28)

Benson Mayowa (27)

Dion Jordan (29)

Aaron Lynch (26)

William Hayes (33)

Alex Okafor (28)

Bruce Irvin (31)

Pernell McPhee (30)

Derrick Shelby (30)

Steven Means (29)

Brandon Copeland (27)

Kony Ealy (27)

Wes Horton (29)

Matt Longacre (27)

Anthony Chickillo (26)

Geneo Grissom (26)

Eli Harold (25)

Frank Zombo (32)

Jerry Attaochu (26)

Michael Johnson (32)

Frostee Rucker (35)

Josh Martin (27)

This list will be trimmed down by contract extensions, franchise tags, etc. It’ll also potentially grow with cap causalities. For now, the list paints a clear picture how there are a ton of quality pass rushers available this offseason. And that’s not even accounting for a 2019 NFL Draft that’s said to be “historically” loaded with defensive line talent.

The depth at defensive end could help the Eagles when it comes to re-signing Graham. The bevy of alternative options hurts his leverage.

But it didn’t seem like Pauline was talking about Graham. The way he phrased what he said, it seemed like he was talking about other players on the market. If that’s the case, could the Eagles make a run at top Cowboys pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence? That would require spending a lot of money. How about former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, who did a lot of damage against the Eagles in Week 16?

Perhaps Za’Darius Smith, selected by the Ravens in the 2015 NFL Draft, is a name to watch given Joe Douglas’ #BaltimoreBias.

Maybe the Eagles get crazy by re-signing Graham and then bringing in another top pass rusher.

Again, the Eagles aren’t going to skimp at defensive end. Philadelphia believes in building through the trenches and Schwartz prefers having a deep rotation at the position. In 2017, the Eagles heavily utilized the quarter of Graham, Long, Vinny Curry, and Derek Barnett. Philadelphia led the league in total pressures that season and it ultimately helped them win a Super Bowl with Graham strip-sacking Tom Brady at an incredibly clutch moment.

It won’t be surprising to see the Eagles try to further bolster their pass rush this offseason.