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Weapon X Mailbag: How many Eagles starters are still here the next time they compete?

Plus: what can the Eagles get back in a Zach Ertz trade?

NFL: DEC 13 Saints at Eagles Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

ONE MORE WEEK. How we handling things? Sleepless nights? Ready to spontaneously combust? Preparing for a complete franchise disaster? Any emotional state right now is valid.

Let’s get to this week’s mailbag questions:

@lolarsystem: How many starters are still here the next time we compete?

Great question from friend of the mailbag Lolar. In the best-case scenario, the Eagles are looking at a situation where they can compete with an influx of high draft picks and a better cap situation in 2022. To get there though, they’re going to need to succeed in this year’s draft and that’s a tall task for Howie Roseman. Let’s be a tad more conservative and look at 2023 as a potential contention season.

According to Over the Cap, the Eagles have 25 players under contract to various degrees for the 2023 season. That number is a bit of a misnomer, as some players will be cut before then and even let go in the 2023 offseason. Off that list alone, here are some players I’d consider starting-caliber who have an even somewhat realistic chance of still being here:

Darius Slay, Fletcher Cox, Jalen Hurts, Isaac Seumalo, Brandon Brooks, Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson, Jalen Reagor, Javon Hargrave, Lane Johnson, Jack Driscoll, Jalen Reagor

Based on age, it’s hard to think a good chunk of them will remain in Philly. It’ll be Slay’s age-32 season and cutting him would save $12.9 million against the cap. It’ll be Cox’s age-33 season. Graham? 35. Brooks and Johnson? 34 and 33, respectively, and their injury problems are only going to get worse.

I’d throw a small wager on Seumalo being the team’s starting center by then and I’m rather high on Driscoll, so let’s say he slides into one of the guard spots. Reagor will be on the fourth year of his rookie deal and perhaps by necessity rather than ability, he’ll be one of the Birds’ three starting wideouts. It’ll be the last year of Hurts’ rookie deal and I’m going to operate under the assumption that he will be here then and thriving.

So, for the young-ish guys under contract currently for 2023, I’m going Hurts, Hargrave, Driscoll, Reagor, and Seumalo. I’ll say Lane too in the Jason Peters-esque role as an oft-injured, star veteran who grits out starts whenever he can manage to take the field.

As for guys whose contracts expire before 2023, there are certainly some candidates too:

Miles Sanders, Dallas Goedert, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Andre Dillard, Jordan Mailata, Alex Singleton

I don’t see the Eagles giving a second contract to any running back who could command decent money on the market, so I’m saying no on Sanders. In an ideal world, Goedert breaks out as a real starter this year and looks like a top-five tight end, so I’m going to pencil him in.

As for Barnett and Sweat, it’s going to be a toss up between the two in my mind given they both play the same position. Thinking it over, it could be Sweat because I believe he’ll come cheaper. One of Dillard and Mailata could be the left tackle. I’m a Mailata believer. Throw him in there!

Singleton was a competent starter in 2020, but he turns 28 in December and the franchise cycles through linebackers too quickly for him to have true staying power.

Where does that leave us?

Hurts, Driscoll, Hargave, Seumalo, Johnson, Goedert, Mailata, Sweat, Reagor

That’s a pretty generous list given the way the team could make quick switches at QB, along the line and at receiver too.

Stephen A. Smith voice “WE’LL SEE. WE’LL SEE.”

@JHillNahMean: What can we realistically get back for Zach Ertz? And do you see him being traded at the draft?

I’m envisioning Zach Ertz being part of a trade that allows the Eagles to move up in the draft. Ertz has been heavily rumored to have interest from Buffalo, so how about a scenario where the Eagles send the 37th pick and Ertz to Buffalo for the 30th pick? That may seem like low value given Ertz’s standing in franchise history, but that comes out to about a third or fourth-rounder, which is pretty fair given his age and contract situation.

If the Eagles go cornerback at 12, grabbing someone like Elijah Moore from Ole Miss or Terrace Marshall Jr. from LSU could be the move. Conversely, if they do go receiver at 12, making a move for a falling pass rusher who they’re enamored with would fit their M.O.

I almost forget that Ertz is still on the roster at this point, so if it helps the team land an impact player in the late first, go for it.

@DannySaladfish: Who picked Jalen Hurts, Howie or Lurie?

This isn’t some inside info thing from me, but it feels as if it was a Roseman “smartest guy in the room” pick that Jeffrey Lurie then signed off on given how exciting of a talent Hurts was at Oklahoma.

Even a year later with Carson Wentz gone and Hurts flashing as a rookie, it still remains a baffling pick for sure given the organizational situation back then.

@boobie_styles: What is a trade back scenario or two you would find acceptable?

One that’s been on my mind is that if one of the five quarterbacks is still on the board at 12, the Eagles move back to 15 and pick up an extra second or another third from New England.

Maybe South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn is still available at 15 or one of the Alabama wideouts is. If none of them are, I’d keep an eye on Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman or Neumann-Goretti’s own Christian Barmore (just seems like such an Eagles pick).

@SwaggyMitch: Who do WE want the cowboys and giants to draft in front of us???

We’d want to maximize a chance that some combo of Horn, Patrick Surtain II, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith are still available, right?

Based on that and looking at positional value around the league, I’m left hoping Dallas takes Micah Parsons out of Penn State and the Giants take Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater. An offensive lineman who projects more as guard at the pro level feels like bad value for a top-11 pick in Slater’s case. Similarly, over drafting an off-ball linebacker in lieu of getting a guy at a premium position would warm my heart.

@AV_2wo: Name your top 3 most hated refs - any sport allowed.

I’m not sure about the top three, but the two guys who come to mind are Clete Blakeman and Pete Morelli. Blakeman was the ref for the Eagles’ 2018 game down in Dallas (that egregious call on a kickoff fumble that went against the Birds’ favor was enraging). Morelli was the ref for the Eagles’ 2017 Thursday Night Football game against Carolina and he was an absolute embarrassment.

Both of them can eat shit.

@rynej__: What’s your ideal spread for the first tailgate back?

This isn’t exactly what was asked, but I wonder if tailgating as we know it is done. The Phillies are back, but it’s not a tailgate situation. Even if a full-capacity crowd is allowed at NFL stadiums this fall, I envision a situation where teams let fans in at later times than they have in the past and the parking lots open later as well.

If I cultivated my whole personality around being a deranged Philly sports tailgater, where exactly does that leave me? Now that’s an existential crisis I wasn’t expecting today.

Assuming things do go back to normal, however, you know I have to plug MY GUYS: a mix of Phillip’s Steaks and Fink’s Hoagies with ice cold Kenwoods in the cooler and “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp blasting. That’s the scene, man.

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