The Philadelphia Eagles’ roster needs some work.
There are a number of positions that Howie Roseman could really afford to address and he’ll have the opportunity to do as much through this week’s 2020 NFL Draft.
Until then, here’s the definitive and indisputable ranking of the team’s biggest needs, with positional importance factored in.
1 - Wide receiver
The need at this position is truly dire.
The Eagles have employed arguably the league’s worst wide receiving corps for at least two out of Carson Wentz’s four seasons in the NFL. It’d be nice if they avoided making that three out of five.
Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, JJ Arcega-Whitside, and Greg Ward are Wentz’s current top four wide receivers. Signs point to Jeffery not returning for 2020. Even if he does, it’s irresponsible to merely count on him to have a major role. The 30-year-old is coming off the worst season of his career and a Lisfranc injury to boot (pun intended). Jackson could make an impact if healthy ... but that’s a big if. He’s missed an averaged of 5.2 games per season over the past five years. The idea that JJAW didn’t get a fair shake as a rookie just isn’t true. He played 42% of the team’s offensive snaps and only had just 10 receptions for 169 yards and one touchdown to show for it. Abysmal production. Greg Ward was a nice story late in the season but the competency he provided shouldn’t be mistaken for greatness. The former practice squad member finished the season with a mere 9.1 yards per reception mark.
The decision to completely bypass free agent options puts more pressure on the Eagles to find an instant contributor or two in the NFL Draft. History shows that’s a risky bet for any team but especially in the context of Roseman’s discouraging draft history at the position.
The Eagles must exit the draft with at least two receivers, preferably with two out of their top three picks being used at that spot.
2 - Linebacker
The Eagles’ current starters at linebacker are ... Nathan Gerry and T.J. Edwards.
Even for a team that doesn’t highly value the position, that’s just not ideal.
The Eagles added Jatavis Brown in free agency but his minimum veteran salary indicates he’s no lock to make the regular season roster. Duke Riley and Alex Singleton are the other linebackers under contract. They’re both set to be free agents after 2020, as is Gerry.
There’s some buzz the Eagles could add a linebacker with the No. 21 pick. If not then, it could/should happen on Day 2 or early Day 3.
3 - Safety
The Eagles are counting on moving Jalen Mills to safety to successfully replace Malcolm Jenkins’ old role. That’s, uh, a rather large assumption to make. Even if the Mills transition does go well, he’s only on a one-year deal. The same goes for free agent signing Will Parks. Rodney McLeod re-signed to a two-year contract but he’s turning 30 and is coming off a poor season in pass coverage.
The Eagles don’t have any young safeties in the pipeline, unless for some reason you’re counting fringe NFL roster talents Marcus Epps and Rudy Ford. The Eagles need to add a safety who has a chance to be a future contributor.
4 - Cornerback
You might think that corner should be higher on this list and that’s fair. Darius Slay is 29 and the Eagles can feasibly move on from him as soon as 2022. The starting corner job opposite of him is unsettled. Avonte Maddox is reportedly the favorite for that spot but he’s been up and down on the outside in the past. Maybe Sidney Jones can make a push ... but that’s assuming he stays healthy, which is never a given with him. Rasul Douglas could easily be traded as soon as this week; he’s not in the long-term plans. Nickel corners Nickell Robey-Coleman and Cre’Von LeBlanc will be free agents next offseason.
So, why did I put corner fourth? Well, you can at least talk yourself into Maddox or Jones being an answer. You can’t as reasonably do that with young guys at the top three positions on this list.
The Eagles could look to draft a corner who could potentially compete for a starting job as soon as this year. I think the more likely outcome is that they’ll take a developmental guy.
5 - Offensive line
I’m cheating here by lumping tackle and interior together but deal with it.
Assuming Jason Peters truly isn’t coming back, the Eagles will need a new swing tackle behind Andre Dillard and Lane Johnson. Halapoulivaati Vaitai isn’t around anymore to be that guy. Maybe Jordan Mailata can step up but that’s no sure bet.
Jason Kelce announced he’s returning for the 2020 season but it might be his last considering he’s previously weighed retirement and his contract contains no guaranteed salary for the 2021 season. Even if the Eagles view Isaac Seumalo — who’s had issues with snapping the ball — as his replacement, the team will need a new starting left guard.
The Eagles could look to add both a backup tackle and a backup guard/center type in this year’s draft. They need to come away with at least one of the two as their current starting offensive line continues to age.
6 - Defensive line
The Eagles are set when it comes to their starters but there’s always room for more defensive line depth.
The long-term outlook of the defensive tackle position must be considered with Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson both turning 30 this year.
Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham are locked in as the top two defensive ends for 2020. Still, the Eagles should be looking to add more pass rushers.
The Eagles could address their defensive line as early as Day 2.
7 - Running back
Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Elijah Holyfield are the only three running backs currently under contract. Sanders showed star potential as a rookie and Juice Lord stepped up down the stretch last year. Holyfield might be able to replace Jordan Howard’s physical running style but he might just be camp fodder instead.
The Eagles could look to add a Day 3 pick to their backfield.
8 - Quarterback
There’s an argument to be made a pick spent on a developmental quarterback would be a waste. That was certainly true in the case of Clayton Thorson last year.
That failure might not stop the Eagles from trying again. Nate Sudfeld is still unproven and he’s only signed to a one-year contract worth $2 million.
I’d prefer the Eagles sign a veteran (Joe Flacco?) and let Sudfeld and Kyle Lauletta duke it out for the third quarterback spot as opposed to using draft capital on a signal caller. Roseman might have other ideas.
9 - Tight end
Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert are both under contract for at least two more seasons. There’s clearly no immediate need here, especially if the Eagles re-sign Trey Burton to be the third tight end. The Eagles could opt for a younger, developmental tight end.
10 - Specialists
The Eagles are set with Jake Elliott, Cameron Johnston, and Rick Lovato in place.