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What the Eagles should do at defensive end

Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Today we begin our Philadelphia Eagles roster outlook series by examining the defensive end position. We typically start with the offense but we’re getting wild and changing it up this year! Note that we’re assuming new Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon will be running a 4-3 defense in Philly, which is what he’s previously had experience with.

THE PLAYERS

BRANDON GRAHAM

STATS: 758 snaps, 46 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 forced fumble, 16 QB hits, 39 QB hurries

REVIEW: Brandon Lee Graham (the better BLG) was one of the very few bright spots from a lost season. Originally on pace to have a career year with seven sacks through his first eight games, it looked like Graham was finally going to hit his stated goal of notching double-digit sacks. Unfortunately, he only posted one more sack in his final eight games, but that didn’t prevent the 2010 first-round pick from earning his first career Pro Bowl berth. The achievement only helped to further cement his status as an all-time Eagle.

OUTLOOK: In an ideal world, the Eagles would trade Graham to a team that’s in more of a ‘win-now’ mode to do right by him, clear some cap space, and get an asset in return. But cutting or trading Graham only opens up $716,000 compared to over $17.2 million in dead money. So, BLG isn’t going anywhere. On the contrary, the Eagles might actually look to extend his contract or restructure his deal in order to lower the $17.9 million cap hit he’s carrying in 2021. Graham probably has some good seasons left in him. He’s coming off a year where he finished 18th out of 121 edge rushers in Pro Football Focus’s pass rush productivity stat. Even with the team looking to get younger, he’s a good veteran presence to have in the locker room.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Brandon Graham: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 96%
    Stay
    (4249 votes)
  • 3%
    Go
    (137 votes)
4386 votes total Vote Now

DEREK BARNETT

STATS: 535 snaps, 34 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 16 QB hits, 32 QB hurries

REVIEW: 2020 was supposed to be Barnett’s breakout year. He was finally set to enter a season healthy for the first time since being a rookie. But that didn’t happen. Barnett somehow entered training camp with an ankle injury that caused him to miss all of the team’s summer practices and Week 1 game. Barnett turned in a decent season after returning to the field; he finished with his second-highest sack total and ranked 36th out of 121 edge rushers in pash rush productivity. But the 2017 first-round pick didn’t make the leap to being a true difference-maker on the edge.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles have an interesting decision to make on Barnett this offseason. Having him play on his fifth-year option, valued at just over $10 million, doesn’t seem like a viable course of action for a team in Philly’s cap situation. The Eagles could look to sign the 24-year-old to an extension, perhaps in the Isaac Seumalo mold (team-friendly, betting on upside). Or maybe they’ll just cut him to clear that $10 million, especially now that Jim Schwartz — a fierce Barnett advocate — is now gone. The injury history is also a concern considering he’s missed one-third of the Eagles’ games over the last three years. Ultimately, the guess here is that the Eagles still have hope for Barnett’s future and will thus try to extend him.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Derek Barnett: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    Stay
    (2186 votes)
  • 48%
    Go
    (2032 votes)
4218 votes total Vote Now

JOSH SWEAT

STATS: 421 snaps, 38 tackles, 6 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 12 QB hits, 5 QB hurries, 2 pass deflections

REVIEW: Sweat had a stellar start to the season with three sacks, six quarterback hits, and one forced fumble in his first four games. But then he went cold with just one sack and four quarterback hits in his next eight games. Sweat bounced back with a big two-sack performance against the New Orleans Saints before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 15.

OUTLOOK: Sweat’s one of the very rare players on the Eagles’ roster who is both young (turns 24 in March) and good. I do think his 2020 season was a little overrated in that how he started the year overshadowed that dry spell he went on. Sweat only finished 79th out of 121 edge rushers in pass rush productivity. Still, the Eagles should probably try to sign Sweat, who will be a free agent after this season, to an extension since he showed the ability to be a nice long-term contributor. The question is: will Sweat be willing to sign if Barnett is potentially blocking his path to even more playing time?

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Josh Sweat: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 97%
    Stay
    (4065 votes)
  • 2%
    Go
    (88 votes)
4153 votes total Vote Now

VINNY CURRY

STATS: 310 snaps, 16 tackles, 3 sack, 0 forced fumbles, 10 QB hits, 14 QB hurries

REVIEW: Howie Roseman talked about needing to get younger right after the 2019 season but then brought back a 32-year-old Curry in training camp. Curry actually ranked tied for ninth (!) in pass rush productivity last season but he graded out as a liability in run defense.

OUTLOOK: Eagles fans will always have an appreciation for Curry but he doesn’t fit this team’s timeline anymore.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Vinny Curry: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Stay
    (465 votes)
  • 88%
    Go
    (3564 votes)
4029 votes total Vote Now

GENARD AVERY

STATS: 126 snaps, 12 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 7 QB hits, 2 QB hurries, 1 pass deflection

REVIEW: Roseman excused Avery not producing much for the Eagles in 2019 by saying he needed an offseason to get adjusted to Philly’s defense. Despite having a bad/invisible training camp, the Eagles kept Avery on the 53-man roster. He justified his spot with a nice game against the San Francisco 49ers but then never really stood out much after that. Avery was actually a healthy scratch a number of times in 2020, hardly justifying the 2021 fourth-round pick that Roseman questionably traded away to acquire him.

OUTLOOK: Maybe new Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon will find a way to better utilize Avery. Or maybe the 6-0, 250-pound defensive end doesn’t really have a place on this team. It’s worth noting that Eagles can clear just under $1 million in cap space by trading or releasing him. The guess here is that Avery will have a chance to compete for a roster spot in 2021.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Genard Avery: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Stay
    (793 votes)
  • 79%
    Go
    (3037 votes)
3830 votes total Vote Now

JOE OSTMAN

STATS: 29 snaps, 1 tackle

REVIEW: Ostman had a good training camp for the second year in a row but remained on the practice squad for most of the season. He did play sparingly after getting elevated to the game-day roster a few times. Unfortuantely for him, his most memorable moment was getting destroyed by a Nick Chubb stiff arm. On the bright side, he did get voted as the Eagles’ Ed Block Courage Award winner!

OUTLOOK: Ostman will try to compete for a spot on the 2021 roster in training camp this year. The odds could be against the 25-year-old depending on who else is added.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Joe Ostman: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Stay
    (1516 votes)
  • 57%
    Go
    (2027 votes)
3543 votes total Vote Now

CASEY TOOHILL

STATS: 22 snaps

REVIEW: When the Eagles drafted Toohill, many thought he would top out at making the practice squad as a rookie. He had an unexpectedly promising training camp, however, and earned his spot on the 53-man roster. And then the Eagles cut Toohill for no real good reason in October, only for him to get picked up by the Washington Football Team. Toohill might very well amount to nothing in the NFL but, again, there was no good reason for a team that so desperately needs young talent to carelessly cast him aside as the Eagles did.

MATT LEO

REVIEW: Leo spent the entire 2020 season as an exempt member of the Eagles’ practice squad, meaning he didn’t count against the 16-player limit. The trade-off is that he wasn’t eligible to play in any of their games. This was all because Leo was assigned to the Eagles as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles signed Leo to a futures contract. He’ll have the offseason to try and compete for a roster spot. It’ll be an uphill battle for Leo, who turns 29 this year despite being a rookie last season.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Matt Leo: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Stay
    (416 votes)
  • 83%
    Go
    (2146 votes)
2562 votes total Vote Now

FREE AGENCY OR TRADES

The Eagles are currently $53.5 million over the cap so they’re hardly in a position to be spending big money in free agency. Relying on re-signing homegrown talents like Barnett and Sweat could be their best bet.

NFL DRAFT OPTIONS

There isn’t an obvious elite edge rusher for the Eagles to take at No. 6 overall. Depending on what happens with Barnett and Sweat, though, the Eagles could be looking to take a defensive end as early as Round 2. They’ll probably add at least one through this year’s draft with Graham aging and Curry likely leaving.