It’s time for the Eagles to load the boat with leaders

Eagles devonta smith
PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 03: Philadelphia Eagles Wide Receiver Devonta Smith (6) sets up for a play in the first half during the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles on October 03, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Eagles find themselves in a really unique position. The majority of teams across the NFL will envy Howie Roseman and his trio of first-round picks this offseason, but with great power comes great responsibility.

While the future is exciting for the Birds, the present is still very raw. Roseman did a great job of finding some athletically gifted rookies last year, but there wasn’t much of a base to build on to begin with after the 2020 collapse, meaning that the ‘retooling’ period was essentially a case of bringing in young players who were launched into the deep end as several starters and recent signings struggled to hang.

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Whether it was Eric Wilson or Ryan Kerrigan, the Eagles really struggled to find a firm foundation in 2021. An injury to Brandon Graham exploited the lack of EDGE depth and at safety, ‘strength in numbers’ was the last thing that would be associated with the group. This, along with several injuries and openings on the other side of the ball, afforded some big opportunities to the next generation of Eagles, but the picture isn’t exactly sustainable.

CB: Darius Slay is getting older and his contract will soon spike. While he’s playing like the elite cornerback we all knew he could be, he won’t be around forever. Behind him, Steven Nelson is about to hit free agency and young players such as Zech McPhearson and Tay Gowan are waiting in the wings.

DL: Fletcher Cox could be facing an early exit, Brandon Graham isn’t getting any younger, and depth at defensive end is worryingly light.

S: Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris are both about to become free agents. At least one should be retained, but even then, Marcus Epps becomes the go-to second option.

WR: One of the youngest WR rooms in the NFL is now captained by a wideout coming off his rookie year, while Jalen Reagor reportedly seeks greener pastures.

OL: Brandon Brooks could be preparing a heartbreaking goodbye, and Jason Kelce’s career is entering yet another year where many are wondering how much longer he can keep up his remarkable form.

LB: If any spot needs veteran help, this is the one.

QB: This isn’t a shot at Hurts, but Gardner Minshew isn’t exactly a proven vet. While I don’t miss the days of Chase Daniel, Hurts could absolutely benefit from someone like an older QB who plays a similar way, such as Tyrod Taylor, to help him out as he heads into his third NFL season.

This isn’t an exhaustive breakdown.

The Eagles are blessed with three first-round picks. Yes, defensive help is needed, and it’s hard to really whiff given the teams’ needs and the players who will fall to their laps. However, if their development is going to be rushed or staggered, they’re losing the most important half of the battle.

It would behoove the Eagles to package some picks together and attack the trade market, and I don’t mean for a quarterback. Find a proven veteran linebacker who can hold the fort for a few years, so that Davion Taylor isn’t being thrown to the wolves. Find a solid rotational edge rusher in the vein of Vinny Curry so confidence in younger players doesn’t waver. Package up a first and a mid-rounder to go and secure a cornerstone player in his mid-20’s who, like Brooks, McLeod, and even Nigel Bradham before him, can execute the scheme as expected and set the tone for an athletically gifted yet fundamentally raw team to follow.

I’m not saying go all-out like the L.A Rams, but there has to be some kind of balance, and the Eagles have the luxury of being able to find out without placing themselves in a disadvantaged position.

It doesn’t even need to just be a focus on veterans. The front office did a great job in drafting players with high leadership traits last year. Eight of the team’s nine draft picks were team captains in college, which is absolutely astounding. Beyond that, several of the players either have ties to the Eagles or were fans themselves growing up.

It doesn’t matter how, but if the Eagles are able to continue to load the boat with high-character players, the developmental process will be a very fun one to watch.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire