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What the Eagles should do at defensive end

Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

NFL: Super Bowl LII-Philadelphia Eagles vs New England Patriots Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles, which means Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2018 roster. It’s time to start figuring out what this team needs to do to get back to the Super Bowl. Today we’ll continue this roster outlook series by looking at the defensive end position.

THE PLAYERS

BRANDON GRAHAM

Regular season stats: 754 snaps, 39 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 9 QB hits, 56 QB hurries, 2 pass deflections

Playoff stats: 122 snaps, 2 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 0 QB hits, 5 QB hurries

Review: Graham missed most of the 2018 offseason as he recovered from an ankle surgery that took place in May. He didn’t appear to be 100% for most of the regular season but he did come on strong towards the end of the year. Graham finished the 2018 season with the most quarterback hurries of any edge rusher, according to Pro Football Focus. He also ranked 27th out of 109 edge rushers in PFF’s pressure rate.

Outlook: Graham is set to be a free agent this offseason and it’s very possible the Eagles might not be able to retain him. Spotrac projects Graham to receive a contract worth $80 million over five years. That’s a lot of money to be investing in a 30-year-old pass rusher, especially for a cap-strapped team like Philly. The feeling here is that the Eagles should try their best to keep Graham around. His game should age well as he’s more of a power rusher than a speed rusher. He also doesn’t have as much tread on his tires since he only started 13 games in the first five years of his career. Graham is a great locker room presence and he also just happened to make the biggest play in Eagles history by strip-sacking Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII. Graham slayed the dragon in a situation where Brady is typically unstoppable. It’ll be impossible to blame Graham if he leaves for a big offer in free agency; he deserves to make as much money as he can. But losing him will be a big loss for the Eagles. It’ll be really sad to see him go.

Poll

Brandon Graham: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    Stay
    (1928 votes)
  • 40%
    Go
    (1287 votes)
3215 votes total Vote Now

MICHAEL BENNETT

Regular season stats: 716 snaps, 34 tackles, 9 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 20 QB hits, 37 QB hurries, 1 pass deflection

Playoff stats: 115 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QB hits, 7 QB hurries

Review: Howie Roseman shocked everyone last year by acquiring Bennett from the Seahawks for the mere cost of Marcus Johnson and a swap of Day 3 draft picks. Trading for Bennett was easily Roseman’s best 2018 offseason move. The veteran pass rusher proved to be very effective for Philadelphia as he ranked 21st out of 109 edge defenders in PFF’s pressure rate.

Outlook: The 33-year-old Bennett is under contract for two more seasons; he has a $7 million cap figure in 2019 and $8 million cap figure in 2020. He’s due zero guaranteed money in that span. The Eagles should definitely want to have him back. It remains to be seen if Bennett will face legal punishment and/or league punishment for an alleged incident that took place back in 2017.

Poll

Michael Bennett: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 96%
    Stay
    (3087 votes)
  • 3%
    Go
    (128 votes)
3215 votes total Vote Now

CHRIS LONG

Regular season stats: 612 snaps, 23 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 15 QB hits, 30 QB hurries

Playoff stats: 73 snaps, 2 tackles, 0.5 sack, 3 QB hits, 5 QB hurries

Review: The Eagles revised Long’s contract last offseason in order to convince him not to retire. The decision was well worth it as Long had another productive season for Philly as a pass rusher off the bench. Long finished the 2018 season with his most sacks since 2013. He also ranked sixth in the league in quarterback hits. Long ranked 35th out of 109 edge rushers in PFF’s pressure rate.

Outlook: Long is currently under contract for the 2019 season at a $5.6 million cap hit. If he retires (or gets cut or traded), the Eagles will save $5.3 million ... but they’ll also down another good pass rusher. The Eagles will likely hope the 33-year-old Long has at least one more season in him. For what it’s worth, he did make it sound like he has interest in playing in 2019.

Poll

Chris Long: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    Stay
    (2767 votes)
  • 12%
    Go
    (404 votes)
3171 votes total Vote Now

DEREK BARNETT

Regular season stats: 234 snaps, 16 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 QB hits, 9 QB hurries

Review: Barnett officially started all six games he played in 2018 before suffering a torn rotator cuff that ultimately ended his season. Barnett’s season highlight was coming up with a crucial red zone sack that helped Philly clinch a Week 3 win over the Colts. Barnett was only solid as a pass rusher but his improved run defense really stood out.

Outlook: The Eagles will hope their 2017 first-round pick can continue to improve as a pass rush threat. Maybe 2019 is the year where Barnett, who turns 23 in June, takes a significant leap forward. The opportunity for him to step up is going to be there.

Poll

Derek Barnett: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 98%
    Stay
    (3100 votes)
  • 1%
    Go
    (47 votes)
3147 votes total Vote Now

JOSH SWEAT

Regular season stats: 68 snaps, 1 tackle, 1 QB hit

Review: Fans were excited to see the Eagles land Sweat as a potential “massive steal” in the fourth-round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Sweat never really did anything in 2018 to warrant any kind of hype, however. The coaching staff clearly didn’t trust him to play much even when the Eagles were down to just three defensive ends; they usually they like to go four deep.

Outlook: Sweat only turns 22 in March. There’s ample reason to be excited about his potential but he still has a lot to prove, including that he can stay healthy. He’s probably the team’s fourth or fifth defensive end in 2019.

Poll

Josh Sweat: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    Stay
    (2593 votes)
  • 12%
    Go
    (377 votes)
2970 votes total Vote Now

DAESHON HALL

Regular season stats: 16 snaps, 3 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 QB hurry

Review: With Sweat going on IR, the Eagles signed Hall to their roster on December 11. The 23-year-old contributed sparingly as a fourth defensive end but he did have a few flashes.

Outlook: Hall is signed to a non-guaranteed deal through 2021. He’ll spend the 2019 offseason competing for a backup defensive end spot on the 53-man roster. There might be some untapped upside here with this 2017 third-round pick.

Poll

Daeshon Hall: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Stay
    (1006 votes)
  • 59%
    Go
    (1495 votes)
2501 votes total Vote Now

JOE OSTMAN

Review: Ostman signed with the Eagles as a rookie free agent following the 2018 NFL Draft. He got waived in final cuts but signed back to Philly’s practice squad. Ostman was actually the only original member of the practice squad to remain on it for the entire 2018 season. The coaching staff went out of their way to praise Ostman for really challenging the Eagles’ offensive linemen in practice and getting them ready to play at a high level on game day. The Eagles signed Ostman to a reserve/future contract earlier this month.

Outlook: Ostman will try to make the 2019 roster as a fifth or sixth defensive end who can play special teams. If he dosen’t make the 53-man, maybe he spends another year on the practice squad.

Poll

Joe Ostman: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Stay
    (1292 votes)
  • 46%
    Go
    (1140 votes)
2432 votes total Vote Now

FREE AGENCY OR TRADES

The Eagles are rumored to be interested in top free agent pass rushers. Maybe that means re-signing Graham but it’s unclear if that’s the case.

There’s certainly no shortage of edge rusher talent in free agency: Graham, DeMarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney, Frank Clark, Dee Ford, Preston Smith, Trey Flowers, Za’Darius Smith, Ezekiel Ansah, Clay Matthews, Shane Ray, Dante Flower, and Terrell Suggs are among the top names currently projected to be on the market.

Smith, a former Ravens draft pick, is worth monitoring since he has connections to Joe Douglas. Ansah was drafted No. 5 overall in Jim Schwartz’s last year as Lions head coach in 2013.

Perhaps the fact that there are so many available pass rushers could hurt Graham’s leverage and make it more likely he returns to Philly. If not, the Eagles will have free agent options to replace him.

NFL DRAFT OPTIONS

Roseman called the 2019 NFL Draft historically great at both defensive end and defensive tackle. It’s very possible the Eagles could take a pass rusher at No. 25 overall. Jachai Polite and Montez Sweat have been linked to Philly in mock drafts. Between free agency and this year’s draft class, the Eagles will have a lot of options to restock their defensive end position.

For more draft options, CLICK HERE.