The defensive tackle domino effect that could transform the Eagles front seven


The offseason is always a fun time to be a Football fan. Thoughts run wild, ridiculous trades become plausible because you somehow fleeced the Colts for that star cornerback on Madden in 2025 of a franchise mode of a relocated team and the hype surrounding the NFL Draft begins. The Eagles have an interesting dilemma when it comes to the defensive tackle spot this offseason, but what if a domino effect that involved all three phases of the offseason could solve it all?

The problem

It’s simple. There is no depth. Fletcher Cox was asked to play pretty much every defensive snap he possibly could in 2018 and did so without franchise running-mate, Timmy Jernigan. In his place, Bruce Hector, TY McGill and a flurry of practice squad players were all taking minimal weight while Cox wreaked havoc. Somehow, Cox had a career year in wake of this mess, but the Eagles need to solidify the DT spot and fast. Missing Beau Allen, the Birds struggled to find production outside of one man. To make things worse, two of the three highest-paid players on the team are defensive tackles.


Domino 1: Eagles release Timmy Jernigan

Timmy Jernigan is set to cost the Eagles a worrying $12M in 2019, following a year in which the most the majority of the season due to an offseason injury so severe it forced Roseman to restructure almost immediately, revoking guaranteed money from that campaign. It’s highly unlikely Jernigan returns with such a heavy cap hit and given the cloudiness surrounding his durability, a premature goodbye could be on the horizon.

The Eagles opt to part ways with Jernigan, freeing up roughly $8M in cap space. But now not only do they need depth, they need to find a starter…and a good one.


Domino 2: Eagles trade for Gerald McCoy

Hold your horses just a second. I know, I know. McCoy is an incredible talent and one that will arguably cost more than Jernigan up-front. But there were whispers of Oakland trying to send a second-round pick in order to acquire the six-time Pro Bowler in the midst of John Gruden’s personal game of Football Blackjack. Now ultimately, nothing came of these mild rumors, but it did pose an interesting question. Could McCoy ever don a jersey that’s not in Bucs colors?

Well, McCoy has given everything he possibly could to a franchise that hasn’t even tasted the playoffs since his arrival. Now in the latter stages of his career and coming off of a couple years where injuries have started to creep into the equation and although they’ve not yet impacted his stunningly consistent play, they might.

McCoy has had almost no stability, with there being more coaching changes than I’ve had cups of tea this week and knowing that the clock is ticking, why wouldn’t McCoy want one shot to contend for a playoff berth at the very least? Oh, and lining up alongside Fletcher Cox would be absolutely filthy.

Would the Bucs part way? A change in defensive scheme may, just may, lend itself to a potential rebuild of a team stuck in mediocrity and if McCoy’s $13M cap hit is slightly unappealing to the new guard, the Eagles may be able to slide into the picture here. If we’re to use that ‘second-round’ whisper as a template, the Birds have two second rounders, so why not exchange one and potentially a cornerback (take your pick from the young talent, but someone like Mills springs to mind who would be comfortable in a 3-4), given the Bucs limping secondary that’s poised to lose Brent Grimes, for McCoy and a third?

Mills has one year left on his deal and in my opinion, was upstood by Rasul Douglas once he fell injured. The Eagles have a very young secondary right now, with guys like Maddox, Douglas, LeBlanc and Jones all just beginning their NFL journeys. Mills has one year left on his deal and the same issues continue to be prevalent in his play.



Domino 3: Eagles Draft Dexter Lawrence

The best part about the Gerald McCoy hypothetical is that he’s the perfect acquisition. Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas have been on the record as saying they want to target free agents around age 28 and they do so in ‘prove-it’ quantities. McCoy would provide elite production for at least the next two years, which gives time for the eventual heir to his throne to develop.

That heir just so happens to be one of the most terrorizing names in the Draft. I mocked Lawrence to the Eagles in my first seven-round projection of the offseason.

The Jenkins Draft, Eagles Mock 1.0: Smart vs Sexy

He should be available in the second-round of this year’s Draft in what Howie Roseman has already called ‘historic’ when it comes to the talent at defensive tackle. If the talent pool runs so deep, there’s no reason to reach in round one if one of the big names are likely to fall.

Here’s what I wrote on the dominant run-stopper:

A failed drugs test may hamper his draft stock, but this could only push him into the laps of a team craving some developmental depth. Lawrence is a true nose tackle. He eats up space, fils gaps and tackles like a vacuum cleaner just sucking up ballcarriers for fun. He doesn’t really pose much of a threat as a pass-rusher, which could limit his ceiling, but the Eagles don’t need a pass-rushing machine as much as they need someone to suck up double-teams and let Cox and company run rampant. Lawrence would be a great fit next to the starting duo and a much-needed upgrade over the current DT3/4 occupants.


So, there you have it. The Eagles would leave this scenario with a front seven that would literally rip opposing offensive lines to shreds due to so many interior threats…and that’s not to mention the work done outside…but that’s a domino article for another day. Would you be happy with this outcome? Let me know in the comments!


Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

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