Every year, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell comes up with a list of five offseason moves that each NFL team should make. Barnwell had some quality suggestions for the Philadelphia Eagles last year. Now let’s take a look at this year’s five-step plan.
1. Let Nick Foles leave in free agency.
This one is relatively simple.
The only way the Eagles should use the franchise tag on Foles is if they have 100% confidence in a deal lined up to trade him. And such a deal would need to net them a minimum of one third-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
If the Eagles aren’t perfectly sure they can trade Foles, they likely won’t risk carrying his 25+ million cap number on the tag. And that means he’ll be heading to free agency.
Philadelphia’s front office will hope Foles signs a big contract with another team so the Eagles can potentially earn a third-round compensatory pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
BLG verdict: Only tag Foles if there’s a deal in pace. Otherwise, let him walk.
2. Move on from Jason Peters, and negotiate a new deal with Timmy Jernigan.
Barnwell advocated for the Eagles moving on from Peters last year so it’s no surprise to see he’s doing it again this offseason.
I really don’t love the idea of moving on from JP. It’s tempting to want to save $10.5 million by not bringing him back in 2019 ... but who’s starting at left tackle if he isn’t back? Halapoulivaati Vaitai and/or a rookie protecting Carson Wentz’s blindside for 16 games is not a comforting prospect.
I think the Eagles should bring back JP for one more year. They should also draft a rookie who can potentially take over in 2020. Jordan Mailata also might be ready to make a meaningful impact by next year.
As for Jernigan, there’s a 0% chance the Eagles keep him on his current contract. He’ll need to take a straight up pay cut to remain with Philly and I honestly think that’s what’s best for both sides. Jernigan shouldn’t want to enter the free agent market after only playing 45 snaps last season. He should want to re-sign with the Eagles on a one-year deal that lets him rebuild his value and potentially test free agency next year. The Eagles should want Jernigan back because he can be a significant contributor to their defensive tackle rotation.
BLG verdict: Keep Peters and Jernigan.
3. Wait out the market on Brandon Graham and Jordan Hicks.
Barnwell mentions how the Eagles waited out the market on Nigel Bradham last year and it paid off. Bradham signed a team-friendly extension with Philly after failing to attract a ton of attention on the open market.
The Eagles probably aren’t in the position where they can make strong offers to Graham and Hicks that will deter them from entering the market. Philly’s best hope is for Graham and Hicks to struggle to find big offers before trying to bring them back on prices that work for the Eagles.
I don’t think it’s crazy to suggest Graham and Hicks could have cooler markets than expected. Graham turns 31 in April and is coming off a 4-sack season. The free agent defensive end class is LOADED and the 2019 NFL Draft boasts plenty of d-line talent as well. Hicks could fail to attract suitors if they’re scared by his injury history and the fact he doesn’t have a single forced fumble or interception is his past two seasons. Then again, all it takes is one team to make a strong offer.
Based on what I’ve heard, I don’t think the door is closed on Graham coming back to Philly. I would be more surprised if Hicks is back.
BLG verdict: Keep tabs on both players as they enter free agency and prioritize Graham over Hicks.
4. Find a new backup quarterback.
The Eagles already have their backup quarterback. His name is Nate Sudfeld (aka Nate Studfeld).
The only decision the Eagles have to make on Sudfeld, who is set to be a restricted free agent, is what tender level to offer him. It seems likely the Eagles will use the second-round tender on Sudfeld. Using the original-round tender would be a little less expensive but it would also mean that another team could sign Sudfeld to an offer sheet and only have to surrender a sixth-round pick if Philly doesn’t match it. I think the Eagles would rather keep Sudfeld than acquire a late Day 3 pick for him.
Sudfeld has shown enough to rightfully be Carson Wentz’s primary backup. He’s not incredibly battle tested, no, but he’s demonstrated legitimate NFL quarterback talent in limited opportunities (Week 17 of the 2017 season, training camp, 2018 preseason, Week 17 of the 2018 season).
The Eagles don’t have infinite resources. They should just stick with Sudfeld, who they’ve been grooming since September 2017, instead of going out and spending more money on the guys that Barnwell suggests (Ryan Tannehill, Blake Bortles, Case Keenum).
BLG verdict: Make Sudfeld the No. 2 to Wentz and draft a developmental quarterback on Day 3, if anything.
5. Acquire a starting running back.
As we’ve previously discussed, the Eagles are unlikely to ever invest heavily at the running back position. And that’s probably the smart thing to do.
But Philly has taken their running back investment reluctance too far to the extreme. There’s plenty of room for something that’s between 1) taking a running back in the first round and 2) creating a situation where you finish the season with Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood as your top two leading rushers.
The Eagles must improve their backfield options this offseason. There are some quality free agent options available such as Tevin Coleman or Spencer Ware. It wouldn’t hurt to take a running back at some point in the 2019 NFL Draft, either.
BLG verdict: Add a running back that people can actually feel good about.