Day one of NFL free agency has come and gone and the Eagles remained relatively quiet; contrary to expectations and built up anticipation. After word circulating that GM Howie Roseman may be looking to “shake things up” this spring, Eagles fans will have to wait a bit longer to see what he had in mind. There will be no Byron Jones in Philly, no Halapoulivaati Vaitai, no Nick Kwiatkoski. However, there are still plenty of players left on the free agency list, and the Eagles made a couple of underrated signings of their own.
The Players They Did Sign
Although the receiving corps and the secondary are the two biggest question marks on the team, the Eagles started this free agency the way they always have — by reinforcing the trenches.
The first move of the day was bringing back Hassan Ridgeway on a one-year deal. Ridgeway showed promise in his first year with the Eagles, recording 8 tackles, 4 TFLs, 4 QB hits and 2.0 sacks. Defensive tackle depth was a major concern for the Eagles last season and Ridgeway’s return will go a long way to solidify that position going forward.
As a player, Ridgway is a high energy guy with a pretty quick first step. His feet are active and can convert speed to power fairly effortlessly, resulting in a nasty bull rush. He also has a nice hesitation rip move facilitated by his quickness off the snap. He’ll continue to be a fantastic option to spell Malik Jackson or Fletcher Cox off the bench. The Eagles love to rotate their defensive line and Ridgeway will bring some much-needed energy, even with limited snaps.
Philadelphia then doubled down at the position, inking former Steeler Javon Hargrave to a three-year deal $39M deal ($26M guaranteed). Although he may not be a household name for Philly fans, that won’t last. He was a four-year starter in Pittsburgh, recording 14.5 sacks and 22 TFLs during that span. Overall, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about adding a defensive tackle in his prime to a team already returning Ridgeway and a healthy Malik Jackson.
Hargrave himself is a stout defensive tackle, tasked with manning the nose position in the Steelers 3-4 defense. Known for his run-stopping ability, he’s developed a nasty bull rush, which has helped him register 10.5 sacks over the last two seasons. At 6’2″, 305, he’s fairly nimble on his feet, but has surprising bend, which allows him to hit spaces in between linemen and take up a ton of space against the run. He also uses his hands well and understands where his leverage points are. All in all, he was PFF’s 7th ranked defensive tackle last season and has improved his overall and pass-rushing grade every year. Most importantly, he’s been able to avoid injury thus far in his career, being sidelined for just one game in his 4 years.
The Players They Didn’t Sign
The belle of the ball so to speak, it was rumored that the Eagles would be in a bidding war with the Las Vegas Raiders for Jones. Instead, he ended up signing with Miami for a whole heck of a lot of money. Although his skill set and athletic profile would have been a fantastic fit for Jim Schwartz’ defense, Philadelphia was not in a position to shell out the $82M/ 5-year contract he received from the Dolphins. Jones was clearly out to set the market at the cornerback position and the Eagles, still having other holes to fill and middling cap space, decided to keep their capital and spend it elsewhere. There’s no disputing what a corner of Jones’ caliber could have brought to this defense, but Philly may be better off when it’s all said and done.
James Bradberry/ Kendall Fuller
Two corners from the proverbial secondary tier were also swept off the market yesterday, both going to division rivals. James Bradberry joined the Giants on a $45M/ 3-year deal and Fuller rejoined the Redskins on an undisclosed contract. Neither are heart-wrenching losses for the Eagles, but it does signify that the team may take its time searching for their new corner. Clearly not willing to flash the cash at just any option, it may be a few days before the Birds make a splash signing. While Jones’ monster deal was expected, Bradberry’s contract caught some by surprise and will certainly affect the market for corners this offseason. If Philadelphia is forced to spend big on a free agent, it seems as if they will smartly take their time.
Day one of free agency also saw a slew of linebackers ink new contracts. Former Patriot Kyle Van Noy was the top earner of the group, making a deal with Miami for $51M over four years. His 2019 teammate Jamie Collins also fled New England to join the Lions for a $30M/3-year deal. The Eagles have never been big spenders when addressing the linebacker position, however, there were some intriguing options with smaller price tags that are no longer options.
The Raiders stole Nick Kwiatkoski away for $21M over three years. An overlooked playmaker at the position, Kwiatkoski would have been a great get for an Eagles defense with a massive question mark behind their defensive line. A.J. Klein signed an $18M/ 3-year contract with Buffalo, and Christian Kirksey moved to Green Bay to the tune of $13M over two years. Buffalo also added the 32-year-old Mario Addison for an undisclosed amount. The Giants rounded out the day by signing Blake Martinez to a 3-year $30M deal.
It wasn’t a massive class to begin with, but with only one day in the books, a number of the more enticing options are already off the board. The good news is that aside from the two former Patriots, the market for linebackers stayed relatively even keel. The Eagles shouldn’t have to break the bank if they do decide to bring in a free agent. At this point, don’t be surprised if second-year player T.J. Edwards is atop the depth chart come September. However, it would be a major surprise if Philadelphia didn’t add anyone at the position.
To view potential targets that are available going into Day 2, scroll down and hit page 2!
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports