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Nick Sirianni talks Eagles free agency moves, roster development

The head coach spoke to reporters at the Annual League Meeting.

The 2022 Annual League Meeting is underway this week, and we were able to hear from Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni on Tuesday. He spoke about developing the team’s roster and some of the moves they’ve already made this offseason, including some insight into bringing back Fletcher Cox and Derek Barnett.

Here’s what the head coach had to say:

On offensive roster development

Howie Roseman talked earlier in the month about wanted to build around Jalen Hurts and add talent that will help him succeed. Sirianni acknowledged on Tuesday that they’ve built around him a little bit so far in free agency, but they still have a lot of opportunity with the draft and can add players after that, as well. He noted that they’re always looking to add talent and depth, so he’s happy with the pieces they added but knows there’s more needed.

Later Sirianni said that WR Zach Pascal’s role is still to be determined. He detailed how early in Pascal’s career, he was the No. 4 guy who was able to back up any position, brought an element of toughness, and then in 2019 he moved up to the No. 3 guy, but with injuries and experience was promoted to the No. 2 and, occasionally, No. 1 guy. So while it’s not yet known exactly what role he’ll fill, Sirianni plans to lean into the WR’s toughness and is excited for what he brings to the offense.

“You’re always looking to try to improve your team anyway that you can. I’m very pleased with this wide receiver group. I’m constantly thinking about other groups that I’ve had in the past, how this group stacks up against that group — this group was a No. 1 passing offense in the NFL, how does this group stack up. And, I’m very pleased about our wide receiver group.

We’re young. We know that. We are a young wide receiver group that is still developing, and I don’t think you’ve seen the max potential of any of these guys. I know you haven’t seen the max potential of any of these guys. And, we’re going to be on their butts all offseason, all training camp to get that max potential out of them.”

He mentioned that he knows the rumors out there about who they’ve tried to acquire this offseason, but he is happy with the group they have.

On defensive roster development

The head coach isn’t worried about the back seven on defense. He noted that he’s happy with the guys they already have on the roster, and there’s still plenty of time to add talent.

“We have so much more time. I think about last year, and even after the draft, where we added an important piece to our back seven with Steve Nelson. And so, again, I feel good about the guys that we have on the team. Obviously you have Darius Slay ... who’s a high quality corner that we all know, and then I think we have a lot of good young corners that showed us a lot in practice, that maybe didn’t get the time to go out on the field last year to play, that we’re really excited about. I don’t want to miss anybody, but you have Zech McPhearson, obviously, you have Tay Gowan, you have Mac McCain, Kary Vincent, all those different guys that are young, first-year players.”

Sirianni was later asked about some of the backend roster players and who they’re looking at to step forward. He emphasized that they’re always looking for all the players to grow, but specifically with the corners, the young guys have a great opportunity this season.

“I’m really excited to see how that plays out. I mean, there’s four young guys, right, and we obviously have two great veterans there with Avonte [Maddox] and with Slay, and then we have four young guys that are vying for a position. What a battle that’s going to be this year.”

As for the front seven, Sirianni didn’t want to divulge too much about how they’ll use Haason Reddick — noting that it’s a competitive advantage to keep that under wraps until Week 1 —, but did say that he’s obviously talented at rushing the passer, that’s something they have a need for the defensive line.

The head coach also talked a bit about re-signing Fletcher Cox and Derek Barnett.

“I had rough patches last season, right? Jalen had rough patches last season. We believe in those guys. We believe in Fletcher Cox and we believe in Derek Barnett.

Not only of the type of player they are, like, Fletcher Cox is still dominant in the run game. He’s still a dominant player in the run game, that can stop the run and he can still get after the passer. Derek Barnett is everything that embodies what we want in the characteristics of a player: He’s tough, he’s competitive, he’s got high football IQ, he’s got high character, he loves football. I love Derek Barnett, alright. I love the type of player and the type of person that he is.

So, we just felt like they fit what we want, not only as a player, but as a person and as a teammate, and so I’m excited to get those guys back in the roles that they’re going to play this year and on our team.”

On Jalen Hurts

Sirianni was asked about Hurts and what the quarterback was working on this offseason. He noted that at this point in time, they’re not supposed to be talking football things with their players, but the QB is working out in Southern California. At their end of the season meeting, they — as Sirianni does with every player — talked about the good things he did, what he needs to work on, and what his offseason plans were. The head coach emphasized Hurts’ work ethic and his dedication to improving every day.

He later was asked whether he offers assurances to Hurts when rumors come out about potential trade interest — like with Russel Wilson and Deshaun Watson — and Sirianni said the team does that with their actions. They’re always communicating and he knows that he’s the guy.

Other notables

  • Sirianni said he really values Boston Scott and the specific role he plays with the offense, which is one of the reason the running back was brought back for another year. He admitted that it probably wasn’t the role Scott wanted at the beginning of last season, but they had a deep group of RBs and he still found ways to contribute in meaningful ways.
  • The head coach wouldn’t talk about potential trade interest in Gardner Minshew, and would only say that he values the QB, and that he was part of the reason the team made the playoffs last year by coming in when Hurts was sidelined.

“You need good quality backups, and I’m sure glad he’s our backup on our football team, and I look forward to continuing to work with him.”

  • Sirianni mentioned that the two stats he really puts value in are explosive plays — later citing their team ratings of +16 on pass plays, and +10 on run plays — and who won the turnover battle. He pointed out that even when they were a run-heavy offense, they were still able to be explosive, so he wants to be flexible based who they are playing each week. Sure, they want to get their playmakers, like DeVonta Smith, enough targets, but he doesn’t want to put an exact number on that each game or season.

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