Five impact players who the Eagles may be forced to release into free agency

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Well, here we are. The Eagles are out of the NFL Playoffs and a strange silence floods the streets of Philadelphia. You can only be excited about the team’s future, but it doesn’t make last night sting any less. However, to enjoy that very promising window that lies ahead, the front office have a tough offseason to navigate through.

20 players are set to become free agents and the Eagles aren’t exactly blessed with cap space. Here are five surprising names who may have played their final snaps in Eagles green.

 

Brandon Graham:

You can only feel sorry for BG. Over the last few years, he’s watched Vinny Curry earn a monster deal before being cut, his eventual replacement be drafted in the first round and then another rookie taken in the heart of the Draft one year later. All while being one of the most indispensable and consistent players in this Eagles pass-rush.

Graham has spent eight full seasons in Philadelphia and may well be one of the most underappreciated athletes to ever sport the Midnight green jersey. After posting a career year during the Super Bowl-winning season, it was presumed Graham would finally be granted the extension deserves…but the cap space caught up with Philadelphia and their hands were effectively tied.

The issue lies in that Graham deserves a big payday, especially after this year. He was such an impactful player in stopping some of the most lethal backfields in the NFL and at 30-years old, one last long-term paycheck should be on the horizon. Philadelphia simply can’t afford that kind of money, hence why they’ve started to reinvest in the position through the draft.

Nobody wants to see Graham wear another team’s colors, but ultimately, he has to look out for himself and his own future. If a team is willing to invest funds the Eagles simply can’t, then there’s little that Howie Roseman and company could do.

There remains the possibility that BG will return due to his loyalty to the team and city, but I’d argue that the front office has not been loyal to him during the last three years and if I was in his shoes, I’d be looking elsewhere.

 

Nate Sudfeld:

The gatekeepers in the Eagles ‘QB Controversy’ is an unlikely name. Sudfeld has been groomed as the Eagles QB3 for two years now and after a full offseason with the team as QB2 in wake of the Carson Wentz injury, it’s safe to say he came on leaps and bounds.

Completing 43/74 passes for 5 touchdowns and 3 picks during the preseason, Sudfeld showed he was not afraid to take some big shots downfield. In fact, he was responsible for the stunning Shelton Gibson breakout fans had been pining to see all offseason long. Sudfeld’s arm-strength left fans purring, safe in the knowledge that the future of the QB position may be the most secure in the NFL.

At just 25-years old, the ceiling for Sudfeld is still high. Pederson craved a project QB since his arrival in Philadelphia and with good reason. The plan was that a veteran would backup Carson Wentz until such a time as he moves on, opening the door for a now matured and developed QB3 to take the reins and be ready to step up to the plate if ever needed. The cycle would then repeat.

As of right now, if Sudfeld decides to walk into free agency to earn a permanent backup role, the Eagles face a conundrum. Nick Foles is likely going to be facing the same fate which leaves Carson Wentz without an insurance policy or a backup of the future. But if the Eagles opt to pay Foles that $20M, then Sudfeld’s future is going to stagnate and he will understandably look elsewhere.

This decision is full of ‘maybe’s’, but Sudfeld’s future could have a huge impact on the Eagles QB position.

 

Jay Ajayi:

After averaging 4.4 yards per carry in the playoffs, this was going to be Ajayi’s big year. At least, that’s why he signed with premier NFL Agent, Drew Rosenhaus, with a big payday in mind. The Injury Gods had other ideas however and the Brit was sidelined after just four games.

For the Eagles, this means they’re either going to get a much cheaper deal due to the uncertainties surrounding his durability, or they’re going to let him walk.

If we’re brutally honest, the backfield needs revamping. Since Pederson’s hire, it’s seen nothing but a committee of injuries, instability and imbalance with the exception of a ‘stretch’ each season. Is this the year they’re finally aggressive in the Draft once more? Who knows? But I don’t think Ajayi returns.

 

Jordan Hicks:

When he’s healthy, Jordan Hicks is one of the most efficient middle linebackers in the NFL…but ‘when he’s healthy’ is the key phrasing there. Since being drafted with similar concerns in 2015, Hicks has played just one full 16-game season without picking up an injury of some kind. The Eagles have their cornerstone piece in Nigel Bradham and unless Hicks is willing to take a much cheaper, incentivized deal, that gives the Birds some leverage, they may need to look at bolstering that position. ‘You can’t make the club in the tub’.

 

Ronald Darby:

You couldn’t picture a worse contract year for Ronald Darby. One year after missing half a season due to injury, the same trend follows but in the second half of the season when they needed him most. To make matters worse, the Eagles found some surprising promise in the way of Avonte Maddox and Rasul Douglas playing outside, perhaps sending a message that they don’t need to break the bank to bring Darby back.

When he’s hot, Darby is a very tough man to beat. But his tackling has long been a problem and somehow, the current crop of corners are much more aggressive and consistent in their technique.

Darby is in a similar position to Hicks. Injuries have hampered a very young and promising career, but will this lead a cap stricken Eagles to leverage an incentivized deal, or instead realize they need consistency at the cornerback position?

 

 

 

Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

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