The Eagles will go soaring into the offseason with an abundance of draft capital at their disposal, but before we get to the fun of mock draft mania, the team needs to decide who to bring back and who to let go from their crop of pending free agents.
There are 9 unrestricted free agents on the roster. Here’s a quick guide to each player and how the Eagles are likely to view them.
Harris was the perfect plug-and-play free agent signing for the Eagles. Howie bought into a disappointing 2020 campaign and watched him bounce back one year later. He only allowed one touchdown all season and a passer rating of just 68.2, nearly half of the 118 rating given up one year before.
A stern tackler and someone who was able to provide some real stability on the back end despite a total lack of depth, Harris has played his way to a bigger deal. If the Eagles are willing to spend some up-front cash, then bringing Harris back should be a no-brainer, especially if they let McLeod walk.
Talking of whom, McLeod’s 2021 season was a much stronger one than what we’ve unfortunately become used to, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s torn two ACL’s in three years and has debatably lost a step in coverage. However, he’s a very vocal leader and someone that’s become a key cog in the Philadelphia Secondary.
If it comes down to choosing between Harris and McLeod, one makes sense if he’s going to be your starting FS, the other would make sense in a reduced, rotational role where draft assets can be spent on a long-term starter. It’s down to Howie to choose which path.
Verdict: Flip a coin
Nelson was reasonably solid in his lone year with Philadelphia, but did allow a career-high completion percentage and a 108 rating when targeted. He waited as long as he could this past offseason in hopes of securing a huge deal and it didn’t happen. There isn’t enough good play on tape for that to happen this year, either.
If it’s a long-term future that Nelson wants, then it won’t be in Philadelphia. The smart move here is to use one of those draft picks on a shiny new cornerback to develop behind Darius Slay and let Nelson walk.
I said it all offseason. Picking up an option year on Derek Barnett was a move made purely out of a refusal to admit to defeat. The Eagles brought in an edge rusher with identical 2020 stats for a fraction of the price, but he also turned out to be useless. Either way, Barnett barely lived up to his rookie salary from a year before, let alone a $9M cap hit.
This one’s easy.
DT Hassan Ridgeway
Ridgeway has been a quietly important contributor to the Eagles defense since first being acquired in a day-3 draft trade back in 2019. He had two sacks this year, stayed healthy, and played in 33% of snaps.
If Fletcher Cox is going to be on the move, then keeping Ridgeway is an easy call to make. He has some nice agility traits that matchup well with Milton Williams on that second line of defensive tackles and is going to be cheap to retain.
LB Genard Avery
It was so nice to see Avery finally being used after two years of sitting on the sidelines and flashing his incredible burst on the occasional blitz. He was a great fit as the strongside linebacker in Gannon’s scheme and he’s not going to be a top-dollar option for many.
The LB room needs all the help it can get and Avery is young enough to still bring cheap upside to the table.
RB Jordan Howard
It’s still mind-blowing that Jordan Howard spent the opening chunk of the season on the practice squad. When elevated, he was quick to remind Philadelphia of just how good he could be, erasing the doubts cast by his poor stint in Miami following an injury.
Howard averaged a higher YPC than he did in 2019 and was a contrastingly decisive runner between the tackles in comparison to Miles Sanders. The Eagles have relucted to pay running backs significant amounts of money since the DeMarco Murray deal and with Howard’s role and reputation being reduced to that of a rotational back, the Eagles should be able to comfortably bring back both Howard and Boston Scott.
TE Jason Croom
Pros: His only ever catch in the NFL was a touchdown reception, making him an immortal legend.
Cons: The Eagles have several options for TE3 candidates including Richard Rodgers.
With an offseason on the way that could see the Eagles invest some draft capital into developmental TE talent, Croom likely faces an uphill battle here.
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