The Eagles have a definite lack of assets going into this offseason. They are already approximately $9M over the projected salary cap and are missing all of their day 2 draft picks. In fact, they only have 6 picks in total. With the impending exodus of a number of valuable depth players, combined with a limited avenue for replacing them in the off-season, the Eagles may have to look at some of their current depth in hopes that they may take the leap to fill out the roster. Here are some players who could potentially fill these spots.
Potential Departure – Nick Foles
In-House Replacement – Nate Sudfeld
How the Eagles handle Nick Foles will be the story line of the offseason. What do you do with a guy who played magnificent football in leading the Eagles to their first ever Super Bowl victory but doesn’t really have a future with the team beyond this season? Every fan is going to have their opinion on this one. Foles’ trade value will never be higher than it is right now. He only has 1 year left on his moderately priced contract and then will most likely bolt for a starting job elsewhere. What complicates matters is Carson Wentz’s ACL injury. The Eagles will need to keep Foles around to stay afloat for whatever period of time Wentz is out. Wentz could realistically miss the first month or 2 or even 3 of next season because his injury occurred so late in 2017.
Enter Nate Sudfeld. Do the Eagles believe in Sudfeld enough to trust him starting games for this team? The kid has many fans in the building including both the coaches and scouting department. Is it worth it to trade Foles for, let’s be modest, a 2nd and a 4th let’s say, to have Sudfeld go 3-5 and cost the Eagles the season? On the flip side the Eagles would be gaining 2 prospects with 4 years of control on rookie salaries for a guy who’s going to leave anyway. Tough decisions upcoming but Sudfeld has the size and mental capability to potentially handle the starting gig for a period of time. Not to mention some pretty good coaches.
Potential Departure – Blount, Sproles, Barner
In-House Replacement – Donnel Pumphery
There are some that feel RB should be high on the Eagles priority list this offseason. Some even suggesting that they draft someone like Ronald Jones, Derrius Guice or Sony Michel in the 1st round of the draft. I’m not sure it should be that much of a concern. Ajayi and Clement together will be just fine. A very good RB duo if you ask me. Even if they don’t resign Ajayi after the season, I am still comfortable with making Clement “The Guy”. Not only does he have the size, but now we’ve seen him pass protect and catch the ball out of the backfield which were the questions about him that made him slip in the draft in the first place.
With an entire season in the weight room, Pumphery may be able to come into camp and handle all the pass catching and special teams duties that the Eagles envisioned him doing when they drafted him. A trio of Ajayi, Clement and Pumphery would be just fine next year. There would be no need to waste a high pick on another runner. If Pumphery flops, the Eagles can draft one late or sign an UDFA. Running backs are out there to be found. They could always bring Blount or Sproles back on a 1 year deal which is what I suspect they do with Sproles.
Potential Departure – Torrey Smith
In-House Replacement – Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson
Torrey Smith seems to be an easy cap casualty to help the Eagles get under the cap. His leadership and professionalism will be missed but that’s just a luxury that they can’t afford right now. Mack Hollins showed flashes throughout the year and his pre-draft re pore with Carson will certainly go a long way towards him carving a niche in this offense. The guy to really watch here though is Gibson. His game more resembles that of Smith. They are similar in stature and both adept at tracking the deep ball. With a year under his belt to learn the route concepts and the offense in general, don’t be surprised if we see a very different Shelton Gibson in camp this year. His ability to stretch the field could certainly keep next years offense just as dangerous as this years team.
Potential Departure – Trey Burton, Brent Celek
In-House Replacement – Billy Brown, Adam Zaruba
Trey Burton deservedly is going to get a chance to be a starting tight end in this league in the coming weeks. Celek may be a cap casualty or may flat out retire. So the Eagles are going to have to replace an athletic, pass catching tight end and a veteran player who became primarily a run blocker. Well Billy Brown fills the roll of athletic pass catcher. He performed well enough in camp and the preseason that the Eagles kept him around on the practice squad all year. That year of development could really help a player like Brown put his athletic tools and size (6’4 255) to work.
Zaruba is the Rugby star whose toughness and physicality may be just what the Eagles need to be that blocking 3rd tight end. He is still a long shot but the potential is there to fill a role. The Eagles will address the position and bring in competition for sure but I’m not sure that it should be as high a priority as it’s being talked about.
Potential Departure – Beau Allen
In-House Replacement – Destiny Vaeao, Elijah Qualls
By the end of the season Beau Allen was nearly getting starter reps so losing him is going to be a tough loss. He is a very good run defender, a good teammate and very sound in his assignments. There was a time the Eagles were high on Vaeao but his play time diminished over the course of the season so you have to wonder if his play dipped or if the coaches just didn’t trust him as the games got bigger. The player to watch here is Qualls. He was projected to be a mid round pick last year but fell to the Eagles at the end of the 6th round. What he lacks in height and length he makes up for in athleticism and he could certainly be a rotation piece moving forward with a good off-season of work.
Potential Departure – Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks
In-House replacement – Nate Gerry, Kamu Grugier-Hill
Bradham seems very likely to leave via free agency. He would be the biggest loss of the off-season for the Eagles. The only way they could keep him would be to get rid of Kendricks’ contract. One way or another, it’s highly unlikely that both players return. Both Gerry and Grugier-Hill are converted safeties who could probably fill in the Kendricks role adequately. As the 3rd linebacker, Kendricks was on the field far less than the nickel corner so it’s possible one of these young players could step into that role. Neither player would be able to step into a Bradham amount of snaps however, so retaining him should be paramount on the Eagles priority list because they currently have no one even close to viable to replace him.
Potential Departure – Patrick Robinson
In-house Replacement – ??
Patrick Robinson is another player who’s looking to capitalize on a fantastic season with a nice free agent contract. He will most likely not return and will leave a big hole in the Eagles secondary. Now don’t get me wrong, the Eagles have some very good corner prospects for the first time in a long time. They’re so deep in fact that they could potentially try to trade one of them to acquire resources at another position. The thing is, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas are outside corners. Their talents would not truly be utilized if they had to cover slot receivers. The one possibility of the group is to move Jalen Mills to the slot. Darby and Jones can man the outsides and have Douglas be their backup. This move would help Mills get accustomed to the slot (which he did as a rookie) in anticipation of an eventual move to safety. With the talent at corner, and both Jenkins and McLeod’s contracts becoming tougher to absorb, it’s easy to envision moving Mills to safety and keeping him in Philadelphia for the long term. Other than that, there is no slot corner prospect on this roster.
So with all the departures that are forthcoming, the Eagles may not be in as bad a position as originally thought. Without the cap space or the premium draft capital to fill in holes, there are many guys at the back of this roster who need to put in work to potentially earn roles on the field next year.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports