The Eagles have some heavy building to do on the defense if they want to contend in 2020 and beyond. But before we can truly set our sights on the NFL Draft, a free agency period full of hustle and bustle lies ahead, Let’s take a look at the biggest positions of need for the Eagles going off free agency alone.
The Eagles’ corners have been the Achilles heel of the defense for the past few years. They hoped to have fixed that issue when they traded Jordan Matthews to the Buffalo Bills for Ronald Darby, who has unfortunately not lived up to expectations.
But it’s not just him, the group as a whole has been wildly inconsistent. The Eagles secondary as a whole allowed a completion percentage of 60% while giving up 22 touchdowns. Don’t forget bout the 3,379 passing yards that they allowed. They added only 7 interceptions to their tally as well. It’s funny how the stats could also be read as a good season for a single QB. The team is going to have to go with a mix of youth and veteran talent in order to fix a position that has failed for quite some time. It’ll take a special group of players to help stop the offensive wave that’s growing within the league.
It’s definitely been a strength for the team for the last couple of years but this offseason might just be a turning point for the franchise. On one hand, you have the veteran leader, Malcolm Jenkins, and on the other, you have the truly underrated, Rodney McLeod.
McLeod had a terrific comeback season for the defense. After tearing his ACL in 2018, McLeod came back and finished the season with two interceptions, seventy-four combined tackles, one sack, and two forced fumbles. The former undrafted free agent has really found a home in Philly and has continuously expressed his desire to stay with the team.
As for Jenkins, his request is one that may change the plans of the team this offseason. Malcolm is looking to get paid like a top 5 safety but is also 32 years old and entering his 12th season in the NFL. That kind of money may not align with a player his age but then again, a player his age who has never missed a game in the last six years is unheard of.
Depth beyond the pair is filled with special teamers and the Eagles can’t really rely on the draft to add a flurry starting talent to the position. A few free agency signings could be key here.
3. Defensive Line
The most coveted position group on the entire roster. Injuries haven’t been kind to this unit for quite some time which has slowed down the effectiveness of the group. The front office fired Philip Daniels due to their “need” for a strategic DL coach. Now I’m not here to debate how true that actually is, especially when the pass rush got significantly better towards the end of the campaign but anyways, here we are. The teams’ pass rush was able to muster 43 sacks on the season, which had them ranked 13th in the NFL in sacks. Although Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox continued to lead the line for the team, there are one too many question marks surrounding them. Barnett had 6.5 sacks on the season but the Eagles may be expecting more out of their former first-round pick. Josh Sweat made huge strides this year but after him, there isn’t much outside of Joe Ostman and Shareef Miller.
Linebacker should definitely be a huge area of need for this team but the issue is that this team doesn’t necessarily value the position. Schwartz has constantly used Malcolm Jenkins as his hybrid while playing three safeties. The Eagles do have a promising talent in TJ Edwards but after him, there doesn’t seem to be much.
Nigel Bradham is now in a tricky spot as the Eagles have a ‘potential out’, so the linebacker spot could see a total overhaul very quickly. Kamu Grugier-Hill is also someone on the edge of free agency.
Sure, Nate Gerry had a terrific season, his best yet, but wouldn’t you expect that from a player who’s as favored by the DC as he is? Alex singleton could show promise this offseason but it didn’t seem like the coaching staff trusted him much outside of Special Teams, so he may be a player to keep an eye on but the future of this position on this team lies in the hands of Jim Schwartz.
The linebacker spot is filled with young talent, but just how much rebuilding needs to be done here? Losing Hicks and Bradham in back-to-back offseasons would only further highlight the need for a new cornerstone at the position…and an experienced free agent may be the way to go to begin with.
5. Wide receiver
This may be the most talked about need on the team, but as far as free agency goes, there are only a few names of relevance. The Eagles have big questions to answer first, including whether or not Alshon Jeffery will be cut/traded, and what kind of wideout they’re looking for in the draft.
A name like Robby Anderson stands out as a free agent, but mirrors DeSean Jackson’s skill set and will command a tall asking price. The Eagles have to tread carefully here, especially with such a stacked draft class.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports