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What the Eagles should do at defensive end

Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

Washington Football Team v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Our Philadelphia Eagles roster outlook series continues by examining the defensive end position. PREVIOUSLY: Quarterback | Running back | Tight end | Wide receiver | Offensive tackle | Offensive guard | Center.

THE PLAYERS

DEREK BARNETT

STATS: 718 snaps, 46 tackles, 2 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 11 QB hits, 20 QB hurries, 8 penalties

PLAYOFF STATS: 58 snaps, 4 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 QB hit

REVIEW: “It’s always him.” Few will be able to forget those words that Nick Sirianni was caught mouthing on the sideline after a dumb penalty by Barnett early in the season. Sure enough, the 2017 first-round pick ended the year responsible for the third most flags of any edge rusher. And it’s not like the focus on those mistakes is undermining elite production. Barnett quite plainly failed to produce as a high level pass rusher; he had 2.5 sacks in 17 games played last season. Like Nelson Agholor in 2019, the Eagles did not get their money’s worth for picking up Barnett’s fifth-year option. Which, by the way, Howie Roseman restructured last summer to put the Eagles on the hook for $7.25 million in dead money on the 2022 cap if Barnett isn’t back with the team.

OUTLOOK: Barnett might draw more interest in free agency than one would expect. Edge rusher is a premium position, he only turns 26 in June, and he has the first-round pick pedigree. To be clear, the Eagles should not be the team to pay a guy with just 4.5 sacks in his last 25 games. Not to mention concerns about penalties and his durability. The idea that Barnett is a total bum is too harsh; he’s capable of being a starter. But there’s enough of a sample size to have serious doubt about his ability as a true play-making difference maker on the edge.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Derek Barnett: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Stay
    (192 votes)
  • 93%
    Go
    (2878 votes)
3070 votes total Vote Now

JOSH SWEAT

STATS: 655 snaps, 45 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 13 QB hits, 31 QB hurries, 3 penalties

REVIEW: Sweat looked unblockable at times in training camp, which set the stage for excitement about him entering the 2021 season. The Eagles were among those intrigued by his potential, signing their 2018 fourth-round pick to a contract extension through 2024. Sweat got off to a bit of a slow start in the regular season with just 1.5 sacks in his first seven games. He ultimately turned it on to reach a new career high of 7.5. Sweat’s efforts earned him recognition as a Pro Bowl alternate and he was promoted to the game after Nick Bosa dropped out. (Probably worth mentioning that Sweat did oddly miss the Eagles’ playoff matchup in the aftermath of a “life-threatening situation.”)

OUTLOOK: Sweat is one of the Eagles’ most promising players under the age of 25. He’s their best and most explosive edge rusher currently on the roster. There is still room for improvement, however. At the time of Sweat’s Pro Bowl elevation, we wrote the following: “There are 12 NFC edge rushers who had more sacks than Sweat in 2021. Pro Football Focus graded Sweat as their 24th-ranked edge defender and he finished 42nd in their Pass Rushing Productivity metric. [...] One could parse through Sweat’s 2021 stats and point out that he had 0.5 sacks in games against playoff teams (49ers, Cowboys, Chiefs, Buccaneers, Raiders) and near-playoff teams (Saints, Chargers). Six of his sacks came in games against the Lions, Jets, Giants, and Washington. And NYG and WFT were missing their starting right tackles in those matchups. Sweat has undoubtedly exceeded expectations as a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Both he and the Eagles should be commended for that much. But more should be expected of Sweat now that he’s no longer playing on that rookie contract and is instead the NFL’s 22nd-highest paid edge rusher on an annual basis. Sweat is a good starter for the Eagles. It would be nice to see him make the leap to becoming a truly great one.”

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Josh Sweat: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 97%
    Stay
    (2714 votes)
  • 2%
    Go
    (61 votes)
2775 votes total Vote Now

RYAN KERRIGAN

STATS: 330 snaps, 3 tackles, 0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 2 QB hits, 15 QB hurries, 0 penalties

PLAYOFF STATS: 35 snaps, 3 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 QB hits

REVIEW: Kerrigan entered the season recovering from a broken thumb suffered in training camp. That injury certainly didn’t do him any favors but it’s hard to easily forgive his lack of production. Kerrigan was incredibly invisible out there. He failed to log a traditional stat in 13 games before randomly turning it on in the playoffs. Of course, Kerrigan benefited from playing against an injured Tristan Wirfs and the Bucs’ backup right tackle.

OUTLOOK: Kerrigan will be a free agent ahead of his age 34 season. The Eagles should not bring him back. But I guess no one will notice even if they do?

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Ryan Kerrigan: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Stay
    (80 votes)
  • 97%
    Go
    (2677 votes)
2757 votes total Vote Now

TARRON JACKSON

STATS: 253 snaps, 18 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 QB hit, 5 QB hurries, 2 penalties

PLAYOFF STATS: 15 snaps, 1 tackle

REVIEW: Jackson showed some flashes in limited playing time as a rookie.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles can’t merely bank on Jackson being a starter for them but they can reasonably hope he’ll be able to contribute to their edge rusher rotation. He could be DE4 for this team in 2022, behind Sweat, BG, and a rookie from the 2022 NFL Draft. Jackson will be an interesting player to monitor in training camp and the preseason.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Tarron Jackson: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    Stay
    (2292 votes)
  • 7%
    Go
    (184 votes)
2476 votes total Vote Now

CAMERON MALVEAUX

STATS: 66 snaps, 3 tackles, 0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 2 QB hits, 1 penalty

PLAYOFF STATS: 15 snaps, 1 tackle

REVIEW: The Eagles signed Malveaux to their practice squad in late September. They temporarily elevated him to their roster for four games, including the playoffs. Malveaux had a couple flashes but didn’t overly impress. He signed a reserve/futures contract with the Eagles after the season.

OUTLOOK: Malveaux turns 28 in September so it’s hard to argue he offers a ton of upside. He’s a long shot to make the 2022 roster.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Cameron Malveaux: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Stay
    (259 votes)
  • 87%
    Go
    (1811 votes)
2070 votes total Vote Now

BRANDON LEE GRAHAM

STATS: 50 snaps, 2 tackles, 0 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 1 QB hit, 2 QB hurries, 0 penalties

REVIEW: BLG suffered an Achilles injury in Week 2 and missed most of the 2021 season. The defense certainly felt his absence as the Eagles ranked 29th in sacks per game.

OUTLOOK: Graham will be playing his age 34 season coming off a significant injury. That’s not ideal. Though, as often pointed out in this space, the good news is that Graham should have more tread on the tires than most players his age since he didn’t become a full-time starter until 2015. For perspective, he’s played 2,037 fewer career snaps than Fletcher Cox, who turned 31 in December. The Eagles will be hoping that Graham bounces back in 2022. He’s signed through 2023 but the team could feasibly move on from him after this season if he’s no longer productive.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Brandon Graham: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    Stay
    (2286 votes)
  • 10%
    Go
    (267 votes)
2553 votes total Vote Now

MATT LEO

REVIEW: As he did in 2020, Leo spent the entire season on the practice squad with an international exemption.

OUTLOOK: Leo turns 30 in May. He’s a long shot to make the roster.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Matt Leo: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Stay
    (165 votes)
  • 91%
    Go
    (1777 votes)
1942 votes total Vote Now

FREE AGENCY OR TRADES

The Eagles probably won’t be involved at the very top of the market for expensive, aging edge rushers such as Von Miller and Chandler Jones.

Haason Reddick and Charles Harris could be more of edge rushing outside linebackers in the Genard Avery SAM role. (Avery is a free agent, by the way.)

Al-Quadin Muhammad, Kemoko Turay, and Tyquan Lewis are names to watch based on overlapping with Jonathan Gannon on the Indianapolis Colts.

The Eagles could look to add a veteran edge rusher at a low cost, not unlike how they did with Kerrigan last year.

NFL DRAFT APPROACH

The Eagles might be able to find a supplemental option or two in free agency but they really need to infuse this position with youth. It’d be a major upset if they don’t draft a pass rusher with one of their multiple first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. They shouldn’t lack options to pick from. George Karlaftis (a very popular Eagles mock draft option), Jermaine Johnson, David Ojabo, and Travon Walker are among the top realistic Day 1 candidates for Philly.