Eagles Draft watch: How free agency has impacted the team’s priorities

NFL: SEP 08 Falcons at Vikings
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – SEPTEMBER 08: Minnesota Vikings Linebacker Eric Wilson (50) runs to the sideline during a game between the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings on September 8, 2019 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN.(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

Free agency was always going to be quiet for the Philadelphia Eagles. Outside of the blockbuster Carson Wentz trade the cap-strapped franchise was unable to really go star-shopping this offseason. They did make a couple of key signings however and it’s safe to say that their draft plans have been altered.

Safety

Gained: Anthony Harris & Andrew Adams
Lost: Rudy Ford & Jalen Mills

Pretty much a like-for-like swap here. Andrew Adams will the void left on special teams by Rudy Ford, while Harris negates the loss of Jalen Mills and provides the Eagles with a Safety who will play best as a roaming playmaker over the top while a combo of McLeod and Wallace handle duties inside the box.

It’s worth noting that both players only signed a one year deal so it’s not like the Eagles have any long-term security, especially with McLeod’s contract also now entering its final year. However, with K’Von Wallace and Grayland Arnold in the fold, I don’t think there will be a push to draft a Safety in the early rounds just yet.

Linebacker

Gained: Eric Wilson & Alex Singleton
Lost: Nate Gerry & Duke Riley

Retaining Alex Singleton was big (and was always nearly certain), but signing Eric Wilson was even bigger. The Eagles will likely be implementing a defense heavily inspired by what Mike Zimmer runs in Minnesota and the acquisition of a MIKE linebacker whose strength lies in pass coverage for such a cheap price cannot be overlooked.

I don’t know what benefits the team more, losing Nate Gerry or signing Eric Wilson. Either way, with a young core in place and two players drafted at the position last year, the arrival of Wilson basically means we won’t be seeing a linebacker taken in the first few rounds…which based off the team’s draft history, we could’ve expected anyway.

Quarterback

Gained: Joe Flacco
Lost: Carson Wentz & Nate Sudfeld

The big change here is obviously losing Nate Sudfeld that Jalen Hurts is provisionally QB1. Joe Flacco’s arrival is a puzzling one given that he has shown no intention to develop any backup thus far and his opening preset gave off that same energy.

The Eagles will look to take a quarterback in this Draft, but it probably won’t be until the bottom of the Draft in a bid to add a developmental arm to the roster and replace Nate Sudfeld. If there’s going to be a big QB move, it will come next year when the team have a trio of first-round picks at their disposal to solidify the future of the frahcise…but only if Hurts struggles in his first full season as a starter.

Defensive tackle

Gained: Hassan Ridgeway
Lost: Malik Jackson

Bringing back Hassan Ridgeway is important as we know how important DT rotations are these days. Ridgeway is a snug DT3 behind Hargrave and Cox if he can stay healthy. The team do lack a lot of depth at this spot though and may well seek to find a long-term piece that doesn’t cost them nearly 15% of their total cap space.

Running back

Gained: Boston Scott, Jordan Howard
Lost: Corey Clement

No significant change here as Clement didn’t add that much to the team last year in what has turned out to be a perplexing fall from grace. Boston Scott will bring back his versatility to the RB room, but the team need some solid depth behind Miles Sanders. Jordan Howard’s return is a low-risk, high-reward option after injuries look to really have knocked the wind out of his sails.

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Wide receiver

Gained: Greg Ward Jr.
Lost: Alshon Jeffery

Greg Ward Jr. Signing his RFA tender at least gives the Eagles some insurance in the slot for the time being, but finally parting ways with Alshon Jeffery and having no certainty whatsoever at the X spot opens up one of the biggest draft needs on the roster. JJAW is yet to live up to even the shallowest of expectations and Travis Fulgham clearly has a high ceiling but has consistency concerns. Drafting a sizeable wideout who can be a threat in the red-zone, block well, and allow the rapid wideouts to thrive on the other side of the field should be a priority here.

Cornerback

Lost: Nickell Robey-Coleman & Cre’Von LeBlanc

Having not replaced either of their nickel cornerback candidates, we can assume one of two things. They’re either going to draft a nickel, or move Maddox back inside and look for a long-term CB2. Either way, this remains a prominent need on the roster.

Defensive end

Lost: Vinny Curry

Saying bye to Vinny Curry also opens up 28% of defensive snaps in this Eagles DE rotation. Genard Avery has moved to linebacker and depth here is minimal beyond Josh Sweat who will be pushing Derek Barnett for starting reps. The Eagles could well look to add a talented edge-rusher early knowing that Barnett is in his option year and Graham isn’t getting any younger.

Offensive line

Lost: Jason Peters

Has this chapter finally come to an end? Probably not, but backup tackle depth isn’t anywhere near the need that interior depth is. Brandon Brooks is coming off of a pair of Achilles tears, Jason Kelce could be hanging his boots up soon and while Nate Herbig has shown potential, the Eagles have lost a lot of their developmental talent in recent years and will need to start the conveyor belt up once more.

As things stand, having Andre Dillard and Jordan Mailata at tackle somewhat relieves the need for a backup, but the two might not be able to coexist for long. It would be smart to load on trench talent deep into the draft given Jeff Stoutland’s knack for turning water into wine.

Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire

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