How should the Eagles invest in the EDGE position?

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PALO ALTO, CA – OCTOBER 02: Oregon Ducks defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) dejected walks off the field after the college football game between the Oregon Ducks and the Stanford Cardinal on October 2, 2021, at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

The Eagles are entering the offseason with a dire need at the EDGE spot. Derek Barnett is set to hit free agency after milking an option-year payday, and there’s a gaping hole beneath the top two guys on the depth chart. But how should the Eagles look to fill the void?

If we take a very basic look at the depth chart, the extent of the problem is revealed. Brandon Graham will be 34 in April and a free agent next offswason, meaning this could well be his last rodeo in Philadelphia. That leaves Josh Sweat, who was rewarded handsomely for his 2020 breakout, to take the wheel. Unfortunately, it’s not like there’s currently much help next to him.

EDGEContract expirationAverage salaryAge2021 Sacks2021 QB Hits
Brandon Graham2023$13M3301
Josh Sweat2025$3.6M257.513
Tarron Jackson2023$872K2311
Matt Leo2023$705K2900
Joe Ostman2023$800K2600

The Eagles have a few strong developmental names, but no real pass-rushing presence in the heart of the pack. Tarron Jackson flashed some real explosiveness and the versatility of Milton Williams was really exciting to watch, but can’t really be relied on…especially if he takes on a more substantial interior role next year.

If you look back at the Super Bowl-winning Eagles, they were loaded at defensive end. Vinny Curry and Chris Long made up the tandem beneath the starters and did an exceptional job of keeping the gas pedal pressed to the floor. Shortly after that, Michael Bennett brought his ruthlessness to the fray. The Eagles now lack any kind of veteran presence outside of BG.

In theory, they should turn to free agency to find an EDGE3 and maybe an EDGE4. The issue is that most of the players set to test the open market are top-pair players who could demand a hefty contract – something Roseman may not be too keen to dish out.

The lone exception here could be Hasson Reddick, who is young enough to warrant a longer-term deal and could absolutely be elevated to a starting role, dropping BG back to the second pairing and affording the lifetime Eagle a slightly easier run-in to retirement.

Reddick is a former first-round pick who relies on his speed to trouble opposing QB’s and does so from all across the defense…and it works. He had 11 sacks, 12 TFL, and 18 QB hits last year, as he flew around the backfield making plays at every turn. The Eagles were pretty poor at getting to the QB consistently last season and would likely love to bring the Temple product home. He may not be a stay-at-home DE, but he gets the job done.

Outside of that, you’re looking at guys over the age of 30. Players like Chandler Jones and Charles Harris could be viable options in the short-term, but the Eagles would still then be relying on the fact that they’re going to develop young talent at a rate fast enough to eventually replace them. Something they’ve really struggled to do at this position.

With a trio of first-round picks, the Eagles would be wise to invest an early selection in an EDGE rusher, or maybe even move up for a name like Kayvon Thibodeaux to partner with a veteran player like Melvin Ingram, for instance. That would provide Gannon with enough variety in his edge rushers to trot out lineups based on matchup, and give Thibodeaux a clear path to a starting role. It also doesn’t really put a ceiling on guys like Tarron Jackson.

Jermaine Johnson and Travon Walker are also viable options for the Eagles when it comes to the Draft, but we’ll focus more on those guys later. The big thing that Howie needs to work out is the blueprint. Does he want to run that Super Bowl gameplan back and bring in some veteran talent? Was that what was missing this year? Or does he instead want to continue to load up on young talent and just hope that they develop fast enough to become regular starters and key contributors?

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire