Up until this point, the Eagles have been relatively quiet during the most impactful period of free agency in NFL history. They signed Haason Reddick on the first day of the league year, and the move will improve a pass rush that underperformed in 2021. However, if it’s their biggest move of the offseason, it pales in comparison to the arms race of elite talent taking place across the league.
The addition of Kyzir White and the decision to retain Fletcher Cox and Derek Barnett will not drastically stir up excitement within the Philadelphia fan base entering 2022. General manager Howie Roseman’s recent pick swap with the New Orleans Saints might’ve improved optionality and future draft selections, but it lessened his ability to improve the 2022 roster.
Signing Mathieu would be the move the Eagles need to re-establish themselves as a team looking to compete within the landscape of NFL powers loading up for 2022.
Outlook for the Eagles in 2022
Jeffrey Lurie referred to the 2021 season as a “transition point” for the Philadelphia Eagles. The long-time owner did not expect his team to compete for a Super Bowl during the first season under rookie head coach Nick Sirianni.
Lurie provided an update on his view of the franchise’s current standing at the NFL’s Annual Meetings in Palm Beach, FL, last week.
“Last year was kind of a transition year. I think right now, we’re at a point where we build for the present and build for the future. And that’s what smart management does. You balance both. And you don’t want to sacrifice the future, but you also want to maximize the present.”-Jeffrey Lurie
The “transition point” comment provided media and fans with an accurate barometer for the 2021 season when considering Roseman’s allocation of resources toward future seasons. The desire to “build for the present and build for the future” essentially states the goal of every professional sports franchise. However, Roseman’s recent trade with the Saints provided a clearer indication of how the Eagles view the 2022 season.
The trade looks beneficial for the Eagles on the surface. They improved their future draft capital by maximizing the value of their picks at the expense of a franchise with a questionable overall strategy. However, the evaluation of a trade that involves only draft picks is completely theoretical and renders meaningless if the picks don’t materialize into serviceable NFL players.
Roseman likely made the trade in the interest of pursuing a franchise quarterback either in the 2023 NFL Draft or on the trade market by flipping his treasure trove of picks for an established veteran signal-caller.
Jon Marks of 94 WIP astutely pointed out that the Eagles are “spinning their tires” until they can land a better option than Jalen Hurts at quarterback. The strategy is hardly a source of excitement surrounding the 2022 Eagles.
Mathieu Brings Bigger Potential
Mathieu would provide a substantial upgrade overly the recently-departed Rodney McLeod. He is the NFL’s top remaining free agent, according to Sheil Kapadia’s offseason rankings.
The “Honey Badger” first burst onto the scene at LSU as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in 2011. He spent his first five NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, forming an excellent duo with Patrick Peterson in the secondary. He has successfully distanced himself from problems off the field that impacted his draft status in 2013.
Mathieu enjoyed the best three-year stretch of his career with the Chiefs with two first-team All-Pro selections in 2019 and 2020 and a Pro Bowl season in 2021. He finished tied for fifth in the NFL with 13 interceptions during the tenure he spent with the AFC’s premier powerhouse franchise.
The Philadelphia defense played a passive scheme under first-year coordinator Jonathan Gannon in 2021. The addition of Reddick will undoubtedly help a unit that ranked 31st in the NFL in sacks. However, it won’t drastically help them force more turnovers. They finished tied for 26th with just 16 takeaways.
Part of the buzz surrounding Gannon’s new defensive scheme during training camp in 2021 was the emphasis on forcing turnovers, which dwindled away in the final stages of Jim Schwartz’s tenure as defensive coordinator.
Part of the problem with Gannon’s scheme was personnel, but just like Reddick, Mathieu would help the Eagles build for the present. He is unlikely to come to Philadelphia on a one-year deal, and a long-term investment for the right price would solidify the safety position for the foreseeable future.
Eagles Must Rekindle the Fire
In 2021, the Eagles were never serious contenders to make noise in the playoffs. They capitalized on a favorable schedule and seized the opportunity to earn an NFC Wild Card berth in an expanded playoff format. Their ability to distance themselves from the league’s lesser teams meant a relatively successful season, but a repeat won’t suffice in 2022.
The return package from the Carson Wentz trade did not improve the roster in 2021, and now it won’t add value in 2022 because of the recent deal with the Saints. A major reason for optimism surrounding the team in 2021 was the prospect of three first-round draft picks coming up this year, and the Eagles just decided not to use one of them.
The pick swap might present them with long-term advantages, and it might not. Only time will tell. However, one thing is for sure: the move will not make the team more competitive in 2022.
It shouldn’t be the biggest move the Eagles make this offseason, and they need to offset the misses on some of the big names they chased this offseason. It’s time to kindle the fire of a fan base forced to concentrate on draft picks for over a full calendar year. Signing Mathieu would do exactly that.