Let’s turn back time. It’s June 2020. Free agency is in the rearview mirror along with the NFL Draft and all eyes are on whatever Training Camp is going to look like. In the eyes of many, the Eagles had a lethal offseason. They drafted (controversially) well despite a few criticisms, and made a flurry of free-agent signings that screamed smart and sexy. We’re now 8 games into the season and that couldn’t be any further from the truth.
If we take a dive into each signing it becomes very clear that the alarm bells should be ringing. The only reason they’re not is because there are so many other fires to extinguish, this one is allowed to burn freely.
Omissions from Eagles FA list
We’re not counting Darius Slay here, who was of course traded before at the earliest possible moment and given a new deal, nor are we counting Eagles players who were set to enter free agency but signed a new deal with the team. This is strictly for players who signed as free agents after other teams let them go.
We also won’t be counting Jamon brown…for sanity purposes.
Jatavis Brown – Linebacker
His stint in Philadelphia lasted longer than Frank Gore, but not by much. The former Chargers linebacker actually retired from Football back in August. Brown was only 26-years-old, wildly athletic, but coming off of a stint with the Chargers where his play, although contextual, dropped off after an emphatic rookie year.
He was the only linebacker signed by the Eagles and someone who spent He spent most of his 2019 season at ILB. He played in 72% of defensive snaps in week 11, but just 10% of snaps overall.
If that was their marquee signing for a position that gravely needed talent and depth after losing names like Kamu Grugier-Hill, it didn’t exactly bode well for the rest of the class.
Will Parks – Safety
It didn’t take fans long to fall in love with Parks. A Philadelphia native who wears his heart on his sleeve, Parks steamrolled into his hometown making lots of noise on social media, interacting with fans and showing a lot of love for the team he grew up watching.
On paper, it was the perfect signing. Parks had played in just about every DB/LB role possible in Denver’s secondary and had done so at a relatively high level.
The Eagles had lost Malcolm Jenkins to free agency – a defensive leader and arguably the most versatile player on the team. It was a role many had hoped Parks would be able to fill. Those dreams were dashed when he was placed on IR right before the start of the season with a lower-body injury.
Parks returned for the game against Baltimore and played in 53% of snaps, but in the following two games played in 28% and 35%. He nearly gave up a touchdown to Evan Engram (who forgot he had hands) and struggled at times before having a much greater impact against Dallas, amassing 5 tackles and a pair of tackles for loss.
What’s really interesting is that he was reportedly shopped at the trade deadline. There were ultimately no takers, but it’s hardly a vote of confidence. Parks is probably the most impressive player of the group…which must be saying something considering he’s played in 3 games.
As a nose tackle in Pittsburgh, Hargrave facilitated the dominance of players like Bud Dupree, T.J Watt, and Cam Heyward. He was a menace in the backfield and the Eagles saw his tape and thought he’d be a perfect fit. This was slightly weird considering they had signed Malik Jackson last offseason and already paying Fletcher Cox a ton of money. Hargrave was signed to a three-year $39M deal, making him the highest-paid nose tackle in the NFL.
He hasn’t played like it.
In fact, outside of one flash in the pan play last week, Hargrave has been near invisible at times. 9 tackles, 1 TFL. 2 sacks. A PFF grade of 52.3. $39M.
It’s easy to say ‘the scheme is different’ and understand he’s playing a different role than he was in Pittsburgh, but Malik Jackson is playing in the exact same role and is having a ridiculous season, arguably the second best on the entire defense behind Brandon Graham.
No matter how you slice it, Javon Hargrave has been paid a metric ton of money and is not making the impact many hoped he would when watching his reign of terror for the Steelers.
NRC was a PFF darling last year and was a fixture in the Rams defense for quite some time. He was rated as the 19th best cornerback in the NFL last season by PFF, receiving a decent grade of 74.5. Seen as a top-5 slot corner, he was signed to a confusingly cheap deal by the Eagles. Why they signed another nickel cornerback was anybody’s guess, but the self-proclaimed ‘slot god’ allowed a passer rating of 80.1 when targeted which ranked 13th in the NFL. He also ranked 6th in the NFL in yards per slot coverage snap. That sounded too good to be true for $1.35M.
Going into the Dallas game, he allowed a passer rating of 106.4. Coming out of it, his PFF grade is 48.7 and he’s allowed 21 receptions on 26 catches. Add in a lack of hustle, some very questionable tackling, and it’s hard to see what NRC gives the team that Cre’Von LeBlanc doesn’t.
He’s been forced outside in recent weeks due to injuries (because they didn’t keep any outside corners, a debate for another day) and that ended predictably.
NRC arguably had the biggest reputation of any free agent signing and has been below-average all year long.
The Eagles need more from their free agents
This year’s free agency class has been an absolute trainwreck. All of these players were supposed to be cemented starters in 2020. None of them have made a case to be on the team once the chequered flag flies.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire