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What the Eagles should do at defensive tackle

Eagles roster outlook: position-by-position.

NFL: Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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

THE PLAYERS

FLETCHER COX

STATS: 748 snaps, 35 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 12 QB hits, 31 QB hurries, 0 pass deflections

PLAYOFF STATS: 58 snaps, 3 tackles

REVIEW: Entering the 2021 season, arguments were being made for the Eagles to trade Cox. Despite this, Howie Roseman doubled down on the veteran defender by rather unwisely restructuring his contract to create more cap space in the short-term. Cox got off to a slow start last year while openly conveying that he wasn’t exactly thrilled with his role in Jonathan Gannon’s defense. There was talk of the Eagles “aggressively shopping” Cox ahead of last year’s NFL trade deadline but the restructure basically left Philly stuck with his contract. Cox did have some good moments down the stretch in 2021 but he was hardly the vintage version of himself. He ultimately posted the second-lowest sack total of his career and missed making the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2014.

OUTLOOK: The mechanics of the Eagles moving on from Cox this offseason aren’t exactly simple. I mean, it took a 25 minute and 34 second video from Over The Cap to explain how the Eagles trading or cutting him could impact Philly’s cap situation. The Eagles do have avenues to moving him but the guess here is the Birds end up holding on to Cox because they won’t receive an enticing trade offer that justifies a large dead cap number. In theory, Cox should still have some gas left in the tank entering his age 32 season. But, as we often point out here at BGN, there’s a lot of wear-and-tear on his body. Consider that Cox has logged 2,037 more career snaps than Brandon Graham, who is two years older than Cox and entered the NFL two seasons before him. Cox is hardly a bum at this stage but he’s just not the impact player the Eagles are paying him to be. He’s logged just 4.5 sacks in his last 22 games despite being the NFL’s eighth-highest paid interior defender. Not ideal.

MY TAKE: Stay (because the Eagles are kinda stuck with him).

Poll

Fletcher Cox: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    Stay
    (1772 votes)
  • 28%
    Go
    (712 votes)
2484 votes total Vote Now

JAVON HARGRAVE

STATS: 728 snaps, 63 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 18 QB hits, 1 pass deflection

PLAYOFF STATS: 52 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 sack, 2 QB hits

REVIEW: Hargrave was arguably the Eagles’ top training camp performer last summer; he was basically unblockable in practice. The Grave Digger carried that positive momentum over into the regular season with six sacks, seven tackles for loss, and nine quarterback hits in his first five games. Such a hot start put him on pace for an All-Pro caliber season. But then Hargrave’s production cooled with just 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, and nine quarterback hits in his final 11 games. Pro Football Focus graded Hargrave out as their second-best pass-rushing defensive tackle but their fifth-worst run-defending interior defender. Hargrave ultimately earned Pro Bowl recognition after Kenny Clark dropped out of the exhibition game.

OUTLOOK: Hargrave is set to carry a $17.8 cap number in 2022, which is the second-highest on the team. The Eagles can lower that figure by signing the 29-year-old to a contract extension or restructuring his deal. At the top of his game, Hargrave is undoubtedly an impact defender. The only problem is that he’s been streaky during his Eagles tenure. Injuries limited him in the first half of the 2020 season before he turned it on later in the year. The 2021 season went the opposite way for him.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Javon Hargrave: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 95%
    Stay
    (2159 votes)
  • 4%
    Go
    (94 votes)
2253 votes total Vote Now

MILTON WILLIAMS

STATS: 456 snaps, 30 tackles, 2 sacks, 0 forced fumbles, 6 QB hits, 13 QB hurries, 2 pass deflections

PLAYOFF STATS: 39 snaps, 4 tackles

REVIEW: Much to the chagrin of Tom Donahoe, Williams flashed intriguing potential in the preseason. He failed to stand out early in the regular season, however. It wasn’t until Week 8 — when the Eagles faced the winless Detroit Lions — that Williams finally picked up his first sack/QB hit. Williams ultimately only notched one more sack after that one but he started regularly generating more pressure in the second half of the season. [For more on Williams, check out this All-22 breakdown.]

OUTLOOK: There’s reason to believe Williams could make a Year 2 leap after he showed progress down the stretch. He figures to see regular playing time as the third defensive tackle behind Cox and Hargrave. He could also see some snaps at defensive end; 40.9% of his rookie snaps came as an edge rusher.

MY TAKE: Stay.

Poll

Stay or go: Milton Williams?

This poll is closed

  • 97%
    Stay
    (2082 votes)
  • 2%
    Go
    (54 votes)
2136 votes total Vote Now

HASSAN RIDGEWAY

STATS: 373 snaps, 20 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 5 QB hits, 8 QB hurries, 0 pass deflections

PLAYOFF STATS: 23 snaps, 1 tackle

REVIEW: Ridgeway largely served as the Eagles’ fourth defensive tackle. He offered some pass rush production but he struggled in run defense; Pro Football Focus had him as their third-worst run defender in the entire league.

OUTLOOK: Ridgeway is a free agent ahead of his age 28 season. To his credit, he played in every game in 2021 after previously missing 34 combined games in the previous three seasons. But one healthy season shouldn’t totally erase questions about his durability. And even if it did, there’s the issue of him struggling against the run. Thus, there’s no real reason to be in a rush to re-sign Ridgeway. They should be able to revisit bringing him back on a veteran minimum deal later in the offseason if they fail to add talent to the position in free agency and/or the draft.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Hassan Ridgeway: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Stay
    (351 votes)
  • 81%
    Go
    (1567 votes)
1918 votes total Vote Now

MARLON TUIPULOTU

STATS: 55 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 QB hurry

REVIEW: When the Eagles selected Tuipulotu with a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, there was thought that the Birds may have gotten a steal. But Mr. T failed to stand out at all in training camp practices and he noticeably struggled in preseason game action. Pro Football Focus had him graded 172nd out of 176 defensive tackles last summer. Despite this, the Eagles kept him on the active roster. Tuipulotu saw some limited snaps early in the season before he was essentially relegated to being a healthy scratch for the rest of the year.

OUTLOOK: Tuipulotu has much to prove entering his second season. In theory, there’s opportunity for him to step up and earn a job as the fourth defensive tackle. But he’ll face competition for that role. Thus far, there’s nothing to indicate Tuipulotu deserves to stick around.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Marlon Tuipulotu: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Stay
    (561 votes)
  • 67%
    Go
    (1150 votes)
1711 votes total Vote Now

RAEQUAN WILLIAMS

STATS: 43 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 QB hurry

REVIEW: Williams spent the entirety of the 2021 season on the practice squad. He logged some snaps in Philly’s meaningless Week 18 finale. The Eagles did not sign him to a reserve/contract after their season ended so he ended up signing a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars instead.

RENELL WREN

STATS: 41 snaps, 1 tackle

REVIEW: Wren, a 2019 fourth-round pick by the Bengals, spent the 2021 season on Cincy’s practice squad. The Eagles signed Wren after the Bengals opted not to sign him to a reserve/futures contract.

OUTLOOK: Perhaps there’s still some hope for Wren, who turns 27 in October. He’s worth a look on the 90-man offseason roster. But the odds are against him making the 2022 roster.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Renell Wren: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    Stay
    (259 votes)
  • 80%
    Go
    (1040 votes)
1299 votes total Vote Now

MARVIN WILSON

STATS: 19 snaps, 3 tackles

REVIEW: The Eagles signed Big Marv to their practice squad after he was waived by the Cleveland Browns during roster cuts. He saw some limited action in Week 18.

OUTLOOK: There’s some thought that Wilson might possess untapped upside. The 23-year-old was once a five-star high school recruit. He was a highly coveted UDFA signing last year. Then again, the Browns weren’t too hesitant to give up on him after giving him a nice chunk of guaranteed money. Wilson will need to live up to his potential and impress the team with a strong summer in order to have a chance at making the roster. He might be bound for another season on the practice squad.

MY TAKE: Go.

Poll

Marvin Wilson: Stay or go?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Stay
    (451 votes)
  • 62%
    Go
    (764 votes)
1215 votes total Vote Now

FREE AGENCY OR TRADES

The Eagles won’t be investing big money at defensive tackle with Cox and Hargrave already on the books. Those are two top 12 interior defender contracts in terms of average annual value.

NFL DRAFT APPROACH

The Eagles could very well select an interior defender with one of their first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Georgia’s Jordan Davis turned heads at the Combine by running a 4.78-second 40-yard dash despite weighing in at 348 pounds. Wild. His college teammate, Devonte Wyatt, also turned in strong testing numbers.

Oklahoma’s Perion Winfrey was named Senior Bowl MVP after dominating down in Mobile. He’s currently No. 45 on Daniel Jeremiah’s top 50 prospects.