Heading into the 2019 NFL season, there’s ample reason to feel good about the Philadelphia Eagles’ roster. It’s arguably one of the most talented squads in the league.
But the reality is that no NFL roster is perfect. Every team has a weakness somewhere. It’s the nature of a salary cap environment.
With that in mind, Football Outsiders came up with a list of the biggest roster holes for all 32 teams. Here’s what they said about the Eagles (via ESPN In$ider):
GUARD: The Eagles used their top pick on an offensive lineman, Washington State’s Andre Dillard. Dillard was a great value pick at No. 22 and projects as a potential replacement for Jason Peters, but he’s unlikely to help much in 2019. Between Peters and Lane Johnson, the Eagles are set at tackle for the short-term future; instead, it’s the interior of the line that has question marks. The Eagles let Stefen Wisniewski leave in free agency, and Brandon Brooks is still recovering from an Achilles tendon injury, leaving the Eagles very thin at guard. Isaac Seumalo would be better suited as a versatile backup rather than the every-day starter at left guard, and Matt Pryor has never played in a regular-season game. If Brooks isn’t ready to go by the start of the season, and if Seumalo’s struggles from early last season rear their heads again, Philadelphia will find itself regretting not adding more talent to the interior line during the draft.
This is a quality assessment. The Eagles have acknowledged a need for interior offensive line help with their actions. They showed interest in that position leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft and they signed three guards in undrafted free agency: Ryan Bates, Iosua Opeta, Nate Herbig.
Brooks seems to be progressing well in his recovery but the Eagles could afford to add more insurance behind him. Bleeding Green Nation recently discussed two free agent options that could interest the Eagles:
OG JEFF ALLEN
Allen is a player the Eagles were rumored to be interested in back in 2016. Philadelphia decided to sign Brandon Brooks away from the Texans instead. It’s safe to say the Eagles got that decision right. Brooks has been a Pro Bowl guard for the Eagles while Allen struggled to play well and dealt with injury issues after signing with Houston.
But with Brooks now recovering from an Achilles injury, the Eagles could afford to add some interior offensive line depth. Signing the 29-year-old Allen makes a lot of sense. He’s versatile and has experience playing at tackle, guard, and center. He’s also known for being a good locker room guy.
The Eagles have familiarity with Allen since he played for the Chiefs while Pederson was Kansas City’s offensive coordinator from 2013 through 2015.
OG STEFEN WISNIEWSKI
Back in March, the Eagles declined Wisniewski’s option for the 2019 season. He’s failed to receive strong interest on the market to this point but maybe they’ll change with teams no longer having to worry about him impacting their comp pick formula.
I’d think Wis doesn’t have a ton of interest in returning to the Eagles because he feels like he should be starting. He said that he felt like his 2018 benching wasn’t performance-related.
If Wis sees his market dry up, though, he could decide the Eagles are ultimately his best option in 2019. There could be an avenue to playing time, anyway, with Brooks recovering from injury and Isaac Seumalo subject to struggles.
If I was the Eagles, I’d consider placing the rarely-used May 7 tender (formerly the June 1 tender) on Wis. In short, this would allow the Eagles to 1) bring Wis back at a reasonable cost or 2) allow him to still count towards the Eagles’ comp pick formula if he signs with another team.
If the Eagles don’t sign a free agent blocker, Pryor appears to be the favorite to start if Brooks isn’t ready to play. Maybe the Eagles believe in their 2018 sixth-round pick enough to give him that shot. He did have some positive flashes last summer.
Some have wondered if the Eagles might move Jordan Mailata to guard. I don’t see it. That seems like a lot to ask from a guy who only started learning how to play football last year.
How about Dillard? He doesn’t have experience at guard, so that’s a big projection as well. I think the Eagles would prefer him getting tackle reps.
I think the Eagles’ best bet is to sign a veteran interior offensive lineman and have him compete with Pryor and the undrafted free agent signings. The winner of that battle gets to start at right guard until Brooks is ready to play.
Guard isn’t the only position on the Eagles’ roster that’s worth addressing before the season starts. Philadelphia’s defensive end situation isn’t looking so fearsome if Chris Long truly isn’t going to be back.
Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, and Vinny Curry combine to form a good trio of pass rushers. But the Eagles have ideally gone four deep at that spot. Look back to their rotation in 2017:
Brandon Graham — 64.6% defensive snaps
Vinny Curry — 56.1%
Chris Long — 48.1%
Derek Barnett — 41.1%
Steven Means — 5.1%
The Eagles only had three defensive ends they could really trust after Barnett got hurt early during the 2018 season:
Brandon Graham — 72.5% defensive snaps
Michael Bennett — 69.0%
Chris Long — 59.1%
Derek Barnett — 22.5%
Josh Sweat — 6.6%
Daeshon Hall — 1.5%
As it currently stands, the Eagles might have to go with another three man rotation. It’s hard to count on Sweat, Hall, Shareef Miller, or Joe Ostman suddenly becoming a huge part of the rotation. The Eagles could consider signing a veteran defensive end.
What do YOU think the Eagles’ biggest roster hole is?