The Eagles have a plethora of questions that they need to answer this offseason, concerning everything from coaching staff structure to the future of their kicker. Here are five of the most prominent ahead of what promises to be a transformative few months.
Who will quarterback the Eagles in 2021?
This is probably the most obvious and pressing question facing the team this offseason, but it’s one they need to answer quickly. Pressure is already building on the front office to stop this from getting out of control. If Carson Wentz wants to stay, they have to fix a reportedly ‘fractured’ relationship. If he doesn’t, facilitating a trade where a team takes on such a huge contract won’t be easy.
Even if Wentz is moved, there’s no guarantee that Jalen Hurts is the guy. He definitely provided an element to the offense that was previously lacking and exploded onto the scene with his rushing ability, but his passing mechanics and ability to go through reads without feeling the urge to dash are going to need a lot of work for this to be even close to justifiable. Has the team seen enough from Jalen Hurts to warrant going all-in on the second-round pick? If not…there is one more option.
The Eagles are now sat with the sixth-overall pick in the NFL Draft in a class that has some very appealing QB talent. There is a small chance that they throw caution to the wind to ensure they land a quarterback they are fully confident in. There would be plenty of disease amongst the fanbase and specifically from those who would hate to see happen to Jalen Hurts what just happened to Wentz, but this team is in a very unique and difficult spot right now where emotions may rule the day.
Did Mailata do enough?
Prior to his year being ended prematurely due to a dirty hit, Mailata was the Eagles’ brightest star. His rise to prominence is enough to make any fan want to go out and buy a jersey, but his unrelenting work ethic and attitude only add to it. Mailata was always the first lineman picking his QB up off the ground or helping a RB back to his feet. It just so happens he was a stellar left tackle too.
Allowing only 7 sacks on 732 snaps, Mailata graded out at 70.3 according to PFF, but the tape is where the real fun lies. Mailata went up against some intimidating competition in the way of Baltimore and Pittsburgh but has continued to develop and show signs of fundamental improvement, while his freakish 6’8, 346 lbs, frame continues to be problematic for just about every opponent.
This leaves the Eagles with a conundrum. They already tried to bench him in favor of a returning Jason Peters and that lasted all of three quarters. Now, third-year player and former first-round pick Andre Dillard will be making his way back from a season-ending injury.
Do the Eagles ride the hot hand, or once again choose investment over proven production on the field? Training Camp is going to be a lot of fun, either way…
What happens at Tight End?
Watching Zach Ertz break down in tears in what could be his final presser as a Philadelphia Eagle was gut-wrenching. The former first-round pick has easily been one of the best Eagles of this generation, shattering records both franchise-based and league based, and becoming one of the fans’ most beloved players.
However, when Travis Kelce and George Kittle received handsome new paydays, the Eagles turned away and laughed. Ertz told reporters publicly on every occasion that he wanted to stay, but it’s not something the team looked to have in mind.
His 2020 season was a bitter disappointment. While some argued it’s what separates Ertz from the big boys, others could say it’s simply a product of his fate being sealed and whatever he did this season being rendered useless. He looked dejected from the moment the first ball was snapped.
But if the Eagles do move on from Ertz, what happens next? Even if Ertz leaves, Dallas Goedert only has one more year on his rookie contract and is going to need a new deal. Are they going to skimp on paying him too?
Goedert has been unable to prove he can stay healthy up to this point in his NFL career. His YAC potential may be higher, but as a complete TE, Ertz has a better understanding of how to use his skillset and sit into soft zones to make himself available for his QB.
If the Eagles do pay Goedert, who will be TE2? Jason Croom has a 100% TD record but somehow I think the Eagles have to at least look at Richard Rodgers, who enjoyed a really strong year in place of Ertz prior to an injury of his own, before the idea of drafting Kyle Pitts or signing a free agent.
The Eagles could well be in the process of rebuilding the position as we know it and that’s a scary thought.
Does Derek Barnett have a long-term future with the Eagles?
It’s fifth-year option time for Derek Barnett, meaning he costs the Eagles $10M next season. is he a $10M pass-rusher? Not yet. He’s still young enough at 24 to improve and has shown some significant progress working under Matt Burke, but is it enough?
The Eagles are in a tough spot. Brandon Graham isn’t getting younger, Vinny Curry hit his ceiling long ago, and Josh Sweat looks like he has all the makings of an EDGE1/2 in the future. Is it time to hit reset, move on from Barnett, and draft in another DE who maybe doesn’t struggle with injuries as much and is a little more consistent, or will year five finally be the year that Barnett ties every flash of potential together? That’s the $10M question.
What happens to Avonte Maddox?
As a rookie, Maddox thrived as a nickel corner. He was then thrown to the wolves at Safety and held his own there too. But after some time at CB2 last year, the Eagles felt like they had seen enough to move the 5’9 CB outside full-time. Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones were cut, Nickell Robey-Coleman brought in to fill his old role, and that was the end of it.
Predictably, Maddox struggled outside in his first year as a starter and for the third year in a row, injuries have haunted him. He’s missed 13 games in just three seasons so far, hasn’t been able to get comfortable due to being constantly moved around, and got shoved outside of the only position he ever knew up until he was drafted for no apparent reason.
The Eagles really need a CB2, but will Maddox move back inside? There’s a chance Rodney McLeod will miss significant time due to his ACL recovery, meaning he could flex up to Safety, and there’s always the possibility that the team either keep him outside or toss a wildcard and try to move him.
Maddox has been struck by bad luck in each of his three seasons so far, but will that finally change in 2021?
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