The Philadelphia Eagles are caught in a bit of a funky situation.
They know they need to start dismantling the 2017 squad that won the Super Bowl, the team they tried to recreate in ‘18 and ‘19 when they re-upped much of the aging core and signed veterans in free agency that had suffered injuries the season before.
That strategy worked in 2017 and they rode it to a title, but didn’t have the same effect the last two seasons. It’s clear the team needs to get younger, faster and more dynamic. They have areas of big need — cornerback, wide receiver, linebacker and safety most specifically — and general manager Howie Roseman seems committed to using his 10 (projected) draft picks to restock the team with young talent.
So this offseason is more of a retooling than a rebuild. And while the Eagles do have some cap space to play with (about $41 million according to Over The Cap), that’s only 20th-most in the NFL. Sure, the Eagles can do some things to get a little further under the cap, but doing some of those things also increases their needs at certain positions.
It will be a delicate balancing act between fixing things in free agency and the draft, and some difficult decisions on what to do with some their existing players looms.
Given all that, here are 10 predictions for what Roseman will do this spring and summer.
The Eagles Make No Big Trades
There are a lot of rumors out there about Detroit cornerback Darius Slay and Minnesota wide receiver Stephon Diggs. Slay almost certainly will get dealt, while Diggs’ tenure with the Vikings is a bit murkier. However, both are elite players and would certainly help the Eagles at two of their biggest positions of need. I just don’t see the Eagles being a serious suitor for either of them.
The Eagles have had just 10 total draft picks the last two years. Carson Wentz’ big money deal means less money available to be allocated to other positions. Roseman needs cheap, young, talented players on this roster in the worst way, and the best avenue to acquire those players is through this year’s draft.
So sure, maybe they spend a 5th-rounder for a player they like, or maybe even a 4th-rounder. But I highly doubt they’re going to deal a first or second-day pick in this year’s draft for a player who’s either approaching 30 and/or waiting on a big payday.
Alshon Jeffery Is Cut Or Traded
This is one of the most important decisions of the offseason and it’s by no means a lock that it happens, but the winds seem to be drifting the cruise ship Alshon into another port. It’s going to cost the Eagles money, especially if they can’t find a trade partner, as noted by BLG in his most recent post.
If he’s cut, the Birds lose $10.7 million, $26.1 million in dead cap money. If they can find a trade partner, they’ll lose just under $750,000 and $16.2 in dead money. They’d also probably have to throw in a mid-round draft pick, but as Jimmy Kempski noted in the latest BGN Radio, the Eagles may have no choice.
JIMMY KEMPSKI: I’m already on the record over and over again saying that I think they’re going to cut Alshon Jeffery.
BLG: But why? Because I write this on BGN and people are like, ‘You’re crazy. It’s not going to happen.’
JIMMY KEMPSKI: Well, I think they just want him out of the building. And rightfully so. I mean, it’s two straight years he criticized the starting quarterback.
BLG: Yeah, but how do you know it was him?
JIMMY KEMPSKI: I can’t say that. But I’m extremely confident that it was him. And I think the Eagles know it was him. So, I think they’re going to want to get him out of the building. And I think they’re just going to take their medicine and take the cap hit.
The last thing Carson Wentz needs is for an aging malcontent whose best days are behind him to further erode the locker room’s trust in him. Young players like Greg Ward and Boston Scott really seemed to look to Wentz as a true leader, and eliminating cancers and creating a better chemistry among the groups should be a top priority this offseason as well.
Not only that, the team drafted JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the second round last year, a player whose skillset is supposed to be almost exactly what Jeffery brings to the table. JJAW under-performed in his rookie season, but Roseman is not simply going to punt a second rounder one year after drafting him, so it’s likely they’ll turn to him in some capacity to be that big-bodied, contested-catch receiving threat for Wentz. JJ and Alshon on the same team doesn’t make a lot of sense, long-term (which is what made the Jeffery restructuring so weird when it happened).
I think the Eagles will find a trade partner, sacrifice a 4th-round pick, and move Jeffery to another team.
Eagles Trade Up To Draft a Speed Wide Receiver
Roseman likes trading up in the first round to go get a player they like.
Something to consider when viewing Eagles mock drafts: since becoming GM in 2010, Howie Roseman has traded the Eagles first round pick 6 out of 9 times. 4 of those trades were to move up in the draft. Odds are they will do the same this year. pic.twitter.com/xlAy27lVpm— Patrick (@EaglesPMC) February 17, 2020
And so while a cornerback is certainly in play here, if they do move up, it’s likely to grab a player like Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy, should he fall farther than expected, or his teammate, Henry Ruggs III, if they need to jump up a spot or two. If the Eagles stand pat, there should be a couple solid corners to take in that spot, which makes a wide receiver in the second round a virtual lock.
Eagles Sign CB Byron Jones
The Eagles aren’t going to be able to draft an immediate starter at cornerback. Anyone they get will likely start the season as a back-up, so if they do spend big in free agency on a player this year, Dallas’ cornerback Byron Jones is the best option.
Now there’s no doubt the five-year vet is going to cost a bunch of cash ($16 million a year?), and lots of teams will be in the bidding. It’s also true that, like many of the corners that have worn Eagles green the last few years, Jones hasn’t created turnovers. Incredibly, he has just two INTs in his career, none the last two seasons. But he’s also given up just five touchdowns the last two years and the lack of INTs feels like more of a weird aberration than an inability to haul in the football. He’s also allowed a QBR of just 84.7 and 87.7, well worth whatever big money deal Roseman wants to throw at him.
This is going to be the Eagles’ big-money free agent this offseason.
Eagles Sign WR Breshad Perriman
There are a couple big names available, most notably Dallas wideout Amari Cooper. No doubt he’d be an upgrade over what they currently have, but he may be cost prohibitive. Robby Anderson has seemingly been linked to the Eagles forever, but his asking price could be higher than Roseman would lie, too. AJ Green and Emmanuel Sanders are both older vets, and the Eagles are looking to get younger.
That brings us to Breshad Perriman, who had a better-than-you-think season for the Tampa Bay Bucs this year. Perriman caught 36 balls for 645 yards (17.9 yards per catch) and six touchdowns in 14 games and, at 27 next year, should be hitting his prime right now. He has some size (6-foot-2, 215 pounds), and as the No. 3 receiver behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, didn’t really get a chance to shine. In his last three games of the season he caught five, seven and five balls for 113, 102 and 134 yards, with 4 TDs.
Eagles Sign LB Neville Hewitt
The Eagles are going to need an experienced linebacker to replace the departed Nigel Bradham, who was outstanding in 2017 but struggled to stay on the field and make plays the last two seasons. Nick Kwiatkoski, A.J. Klein, Blake Martinez, De’Vondre Campbell, Neville Hewitt, and Cory Littleton are all potential free agent additions that would make sense for the Eagles.
However, the Birds tend to go with guys who have ties to the coaching staff and, in this case, that would be Hewitt, who has played for new Eagles defensive line coach Matt Burke with the Dolphins. It always helps to know a guy.
Hewitt plays the inside and could naturally slide into Bradham’s role, will be just 27 next year and is coming off the best season of his career. He tallied three sacks and intercepted two passes in 12 starts for the Jets this season.
Last year, the Eagles invested in the linebacker position (L.J. Fort and Zach Brown) and then got rid of everybody before they could do anything. Hopefully this year will be different.
Eagles Sign QB Marcus Mariota
This would be hilarious, wouldn’t it? Josh McCown is unlikely to be back as the No. 2 behind Wentz again and sure, Nate Sudfeld could be back as a restricted free agent. That’s probably what happens. But if the Eagles want someone from outside the organization, Mariota is the most intriguing free agent.
Is he “good?” Not as a starter, but he might be a very capable back-up. He’s athletic and would seemingly be comfortable throwing in an RPO-based, west coast offense. Plus, as often as the Eagles were linked to him when he was coming out of Oregon, I just want this to happen for irony’s sake.
Jason Peters Returns - As A Backup
The scenario here is Peters either retires or comes back to the Eagles on another one year deal. And while I would be fine if the 37-year-old gives it one more year, it cannot be as the starter. Andre Dillard was drafted in the first round last year in order for him to be the starting left tackle in 2020, and he showed every reason to be bullish on his future in his cameo appearance at that position last year (we’ll forget he ever even lined up on the right side, right?).
Peters would be great insurance in case of injury and could continue to mentor the young kid, plus I don’t anticipate any other NFL team that would be willing to add Peters as a starter. Plus, given all the time he’s spent here, you wonder if he would even be willing to go anywhere else.
Malcolm Jenkins Signs An Extension
The Eagles are going to shake things up in a big way at cornerback this offseason, and safety Rodney McLeod probbaly won’t be back either. Jenkins, meanwhile, is the heart and soul of the defense and the team can’t afford to have too many changes in the defensive backfield. He isn’t the stud he once was, but Malcolm is still awfully good and losing him would be a major body blow to Schwartz’ unit. The two sides weren’t able to work out an extension during the season, which is a bit concerning, but it’s more likely than not they’ll figure something out this offseason. They really kind of have to.
Eagles Pick Up 5th Year Option On Derek Barnett
Do I wish Derek Barnett was a little more productive? Yeah, I do. He was tied for 52nd in the NFL in sacks (6.5), and you’d have liked to have seen more from your first round draft pick in his third NFL season, no doubt. But he was tied for 16th in QB hits (22), is going to be just 24 years old next year, and he improved from 2018 to ‘19, so the arrow is hopefully pointing up on the Birds’ young edge rusher. I know we’re all a bit gun-shy on the fifth-year option given how things went with Nelson Agholor last year, and there’s a similar risk here, but one that the Eagles should take.