I’ll be blunt. I haven’t liked this Eagles’ off-season.
Armed with a little over $40 million in cap space coming into this off-season, general manager Howie Roseman chose to trade for a top flight cornerback and then pay him big money rather than just sign a high priced corner, drafted a back-up QB with their second round pick who likely will not play a single snap in 2020, didn’t sign a single free agent wide receiver, and added a third high-priced defensive tackle to the defensive line rather than an edge rusher.
And yet, there is a very real scenario where this could all work out really well. I could look like an idiot. I probably will. And of course, the off-season isn’t only used to help the coming year, there’s also a long game to consider. I understand all that.
But so many decisions were head-scratchers, from the decision not to appoint an actual offensive coordinator to drafting a QB in the second round of the draft. What does it all mean for 2020? Here’s my ranking of Eagles’ most impactful moves this off-season, 22 by my count, for this season alone, understanding of course that more moves to improve the roster could still be forthcoming.
22. Selected WR Quez Watkins with the 200th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
21. Selected WR John Hightower with the 168th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
20. Selected T Prince Tega Wanogho with the 210th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Hightower was taken in the fifth round and Watkins in the sixth round of April’s NFL draft and, while they do provide more speed at wide receiver, it’s hard to see how they ever get on the field in 2020. If Alshon Jeffery is still on the roster, DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward would all be ahead of them on the depth chart. And even if they weren’t buried on the roster, either of these players turning out to be anything more than a No. 4 wide receiver during any point of their careers would be a big surprise. It’s just the nature of Day 3 picks.
Tega Wanogho has a ton of upside and many believe the Birds got a steal when they selected him late in the sixth round, but it’s also unlikely he sees the field much, if at all, in 2020. But he is an intriguing prospect.
19. Released LB Nigel Bradham
Look, Nigel Bradham wasn’t very good last year but, without him, the Birds’ current starters at linebacker would be cover guy Nate Gerry and undrafted second year player T.J. Edwards. There are some players below who might help, but it’s currently a very thin group, especially with no Kamu Grugier-Hill in the fold either. Cutting Bradham saved the Eagles $4.5 million under the cap, but he remains unsigned and could return to Philadelphia on a cheap deal. If he does, his acquisition moves way up the list. As for now, his departure leaves a bit of a hole, even if he wasn’t productive in 2019.
18. Exercised DE Derek Barnett’s 5th-year option
Derek Barnett was going to be a major part of the 2020 season anyway, so exercising the fifth-year option for 2021 doesn’t really affect this year very much. But it perhaps does give Barnett a little comfort, knowing he’s not playing for his job. Is that a good thing? A bad thing? Still just 23 years old (he turns 24 later this month), there’s still lots of time for Barnett improve, and hopefully not having to worry about becoming a free agent after this season unlocks a breakout campaign for the former first round pick.
17. Selected LB Shaun Bradley with the 196th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft
16. Selected Davion Taylor with the with the 103rd pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
15. Agreed to terms with LB Jatavis Brown on a one-year contract
I mentioned how thin the Eagles’ linebacking corps is and, while defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz doesn’t value the position all that much and the Eagles only play in a “conventional” alignment about 20% of the time, you still need some good players in there. Taylor was taken in the third round and you’d ideally like to see a third round pick hit the field for significant snaps that season, but it’s more likely he’ll be a guy that gets real playing time in 2021. Same for Bradley, who was taken in the sixth round, although the fact he has more actual football under his belt could give him a leg up in the competition for reps over Taylor. They’ll have to battle the veteran Brown, who is also an undersized, athletic player who played mostly on special teams for the Chargers last year, and incumbent Duke Riley, currently the favorite for the No. 3 spot. That’s a lot of bodies for a position that won’t see the field much in 2020.
14. Signed RB Corey Clement to a one-year deal
The Super Bowl 52 hero has been unable to stay on the field the last two seasons due to a rash of injuries, and if they don’t sign a veteran free agent over the next few months (Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy are both rumored as potential additions), Clement will enter the season as the team’s third running back, the same position he held during 2017’s glorious run to the Super Bowl. Perhaps he’s the veteran running back the team will need in 2020.
13. Acquired WR Marquise Goodwin and pick No. 210 in the 2020 NFL Draft from San Francisco in exchange for pick No. 190.
The Eagles tried to corner the market on speed wide receivers during the NFL draft and, on day three, traded for the veteran Goodwin, who has speed to burn but not a lot of production to show for it. He was hurt most of last year and his best season was in 2017 when he caught 56 balls for 962 yards, although he only hauled in 53.3% of his targets. He’s just as likely to get cut in training camp as he is to be the team’s No. 4 starter this year.
12. Selected QB Jalen Hurts with the 53rd pick in the 2020 NFL Draft
National media members tried to convince us that Hurts is going to play a lot in 2020 as some kind of hybrid Taysom Hill-style player, but it’s more likely he rides the pine and tries to learn the ropes of being an NFL QB as the team’s third-string QB. The hope is he doesn’t play a single snap at that position this season, unless it’s as part of some Doug Pederson mad scientist trickery.
11. Agreed to terms with DT Hassan Ridgeway on a one-year contract
The Eagles have a glut of defensive tackles, but given the rotation they use, their No. 4 guy, Hassan Ridgeway, will see a bunch of snaps this season. Given how injuries have decimated this group the last couple of years, having Ridgeway in the fold will be important.
10. Agreed to terms with QB Nate Sudfeld on a one-year contract
If we’re talking about actual impact for 2020, Nate Sudfeld, currently the back-up QB, has more of a chance of impacting this coming Eagles season than Jalen Hurts.
9. Agreed to terms with CB Nickell Robey-Coleman on a one-year contract.
Robey-Coleman will provide depth and experience to a cornerback crew that lost Jalen Mills to safety and Ronald Darby... because the Eagles wanted to say goodbye to Ronald Darby. He was an outstanding value add and could see a significant amount of playing time in 2020.
8. Agreed with S Will Parks on a one-year contract.
Same with Will Parks, who will help make up for the gargantuan loss of Malcolm Jenkins. Parks is versatile and provides important depth at a position that is relying on numbers rather than stars to be productive.
7. Selected T Jack Driscoll with the 145th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Driscoll was drafted to play both tackle and guard on the Eagles’ offensive line and, should Andre Dillard struggle at left tackle, could be forced into action if an O-line shuffle is needed. He probably won’t be a star, but it’s hoped he’ll be the next Big V for the Eagles.
6. Selected S K’Von Wallace with their 4th-round pick
Outside of their first round selection, fourth-rounder K’Von Wallace has the best chance to make an impact for the Eagles as a rookie this season. He’s a downfield, run-stopping safety in the image of Jenkins, although he clearly won’t be as good as the Birds’ legend was, at least not yet. But he’s got a ton of talent and was a very productive player in college.
5. Agreed to terms with S Rodney McLeod on a two-year contract and DB Jalen Mills on a one-year contract.
McLeod is not a great player, but you know what you’re getting with him. Mills, however, is the wild card. Will the transition to safety work? Will he be forced to go back to corner? We’ll see, but it’s a big deal whatever happens.
4. Hired Marty Mornhinweg as senior offensive consultant, Hired Rich Scangarello as senior offensive assistant; Named Press Taylor passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach; Named Matt Burke run game coordinator/defensive line coach; Hired Marquand Manuel as defensive backs coach; Hired Aaron Moorehead as wide receivers coach; Hired Andrew Breiner as pass game analyst; Named T.J. Paganetti assistant run game coordinator/assistant running backs coach; Named Dino Vasso assistant coordinator/defense; Named Marty Mornhinweg special assistant to Doug Pederson.
Aside from the additions of speed at wide receiver, all the new voices on offense could either greatly help Doug Pederson, or hinder the process. Scangarello is expected to bring elements from San Francisco that Kyle Shanahan implemented with great success, and Press Taylor is seen as an up-and-coming offensive mind. Aaron Moorehead will be given the task of trying to end the merry-go-round of wide receiver coaches and actually get something out of Arcega-Whiteside and the rookies the team brought in. I’m not quite sure what Mornhinweg is going to help out with but I’m sure it’s going to be great.
3. Agreed to terms on a three-year contract with DT Javon Hargrave.
If Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson are both healthy, imagine what Hargrave is going to add to that defensive tackle mix. My goodness.
“We gotta double Fletcher Cox.”— Tyler Steege (@TSteegeNFL) March 17, 2020
Javon Hargrave: “lmao, bet.” pic.twitter.com/1lOtuTg02j
2. Selected WR Jalen Reagor with the 21st pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
This is the off-season move that should have the most impact on the Birds’ offense this season. No one knows what we’re going to get with DeSean Jackson. Alshon Jeffery may not even be on the team in training camp and, if he is, he’s not going to start the season healthy. JJ Arcega-Whiteside was last year’s second round pick who had one of the worst rookie seasons by an Eagle in franchise history. And the Eagles passed up on trading for DeAndre Hopkins and didn’t sign a veteran wideout. They need Reagor to literally hit the ground running and provide the type of season for them that Terry McLaurin did for Washington last year.
1. Agreed to terms on a trade with the Detroit Lions to acquire CB Darius Slay in exchange for a 2020 third-round (No. 85 overall) draft pick and a 2020 fifth-round (No. 166 overall) draft pick
The Eagles desperately needed a No. 1 cornerback and they got one, and in a vacuum, the compensation was great. Sure, they also then had to pay him on top of that, a three-year extension, and it would have made more sense to simply sign Byron Jones to a free agent deal, but perhaps Roseman never got the chance to make a final offer. Regardless, having Slay lock down opposing teams’ No. 1 receivers will give the Eagles something they haven’t had since Asante Samuel, and should make life easier for Schwartz and the entire defense. It was a huge move for the Eagles that will be the most impactful of any made this off-season.