Five Eagles who will be looking over their shoulders this Summer

NFL: DEC 29 Eagles at Giants
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 29: Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (19) prior to the National Football League game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles on December 29, 2019 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

The offseason is all but over and the Philadelphia Eagles are about to turn their attention to a Summer of work and competition. The first training camp under Nick Sirianni will be an intriguing one, but there are five veterans who will need a dominant outing in order to secure their future.

Derek Barnett

Derek Barnett was already going to be facing a lot of pressure this season given that he’s in the option year of his rookie contract. Carrying a $10M cap-hit on the back of a tenure that hasn’t exactly boasted the production that you’d expect from a first-round pick, the 24-year-old is still incredibly young, but that won’t be enough to stop the clock from ticking.

The Eagles brought in two shiny new defensive ends during the NFL Draft to bolster their depth before signing Washington’s all-time sack leader Ryan Kerrigan just two days ago. Whether or not Barnett will lose snaps to the Wiley veteran remains to be seen, but even if he doesn’t, there are now a pair of rookie edge-rushers just behind Josh Sweat on the depth chart who could offer more long-term upside.

As if Josh Sweat’s emergence wasn’t enough, Barnett now has to worry about the idea of Ryan Kerrigan cutting into what needs to be his finest year yet if he is to secure a long-term future in Philadelphia…or anywhere for that matter.

Avonte Maddox

The 5’9 Pitt product has had a bumpy career so far. Mired by injuries and position switches designed to encourage versatility that have instead really limited it, Maddox still has a huge question mark over his head. Is he better suited on the boundary or in the nickel? To this day, we don’t know what the Eagles coaching staff are going to do, but the fact that Zech McPhearson was the only corner drafted points to a potential battle in the nickel, with the pressure-cooker reaching new temperatures.

On top of that, the Eagles traded for another cornerback under 6’0 just yesterday, potentially hinting at a McPhearson trial on the boundary. If this is the case, things really do look bleak for Maddox, who is also in his contract year. It’s a shame because his short-area quickness is beyond impressive and he’s shown plenty of aggressiveness as a run-defender. But his shortcomings in coverage and some tackling angle issues are only adding more cause for concern and opening up the competition that much wider.

Brandon Brooks

On the back of a pair of torn Achilles injuries, Brooks heads into a crucial 2021 season. A contract restructure was necessary this past offseason given his status and his sizeable cap hit. The Eagles saved $7M in cap space this season by reworking his deal, but with a potential out after this season and the arrival of versatile lineman Landon Dickerson, there is a chance that if he’s not ready and the second-round pick can hold the fort, that the fan favorite may well become a cap casualty.

Brooks has been nothing but stellar since joining the Eagles and his performances on the field have been just as outstanding as his endearing personality off of it. However, if Brooks is unable to play in 2021, the Eagles may turn to the Draft for his eventual replacement if Dickerson can overcome his own injury setbacks and hold the fort for a season at a new position.

Rodney McLeod

In a similar spot to Brooks, McLeod is entering a crucial year. On the back of a torn ACL and a reworked deal, the veteran Safety is determined to battle back to his best. The problem is that the Safety room is becoming more and more crowded and there’s a chance that Anthony Harris will fill the same boots. A lot of the other Safeties offer versatility and the fact that the Eagles have drafted two in as many years is probably a sign that they’re looking for someone to tick that ‘box’.

If McLeod is unable to get back on the field as soon as he’d like and secure a starting role, then it gives those young guns a chance to show what they can do. It will be an uphill struggle to secure a long-term future in Philadelphia if this is the case.

J.J Arcega-Whiteside

JJAW’s career has not exactly been glisteningly successful up to this point. The former second-round pick has struggled to live up to the hype once surrounding his name and despite garnering regular offensive snaps, has been unable to take advantage of the opportunities to show his rare abilities. As a result, the team brought in Travis Fulgham, whose impact was so great so quickly, that he actually led the NFL in receiving yards over a four week span.

On top of that, the team recently added UDFA Trevon Grimes into the mix, who boasts an identical skillset. Given that DeVonta Smith is going to be the starting ‘X’receiver in a new-look offense, the desire for a real red-zone weapon might be relegated to exactly that. Only adding to the qualms is the fact that JJAW will now have to compete in a triple threat battle in what is already a position where available spots will be few and far between. As a result, the writing may well be on the end for the big-bodied wideout.

Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

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