Life after Haason Reddick: How will the Eagles replace one of the NFL’s most dangerous pass-rushers?

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Eagles Haason reddick
Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick reacts following an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the New York Giants, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Eagles won 38-7. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

The Philadelphia Eagles surprised plenty of teams going into Easter weekend by trading star pass-rusher Haason Reddick to the New York Jets for a conditional third-round draft pick. The returns seemed quite low for a player who has been nothing short of dominant throughout his NFL career, but his cap-hit and impending extension left the Eagles with their hands tied.

The front four is now missing one of its most important cogs and replacing a player of his caliber won’t be easy. So what does Reddick’s departure mean for Philadelphia moving forward?

Pressure on Bryce Huff

Perhaps the most obvious takeaway is that former Jets pass-rusher, Bryce Huff, is going to be placed firmly under the microscope, which is less than ideal.

Philadelphia Eagles Bryce Huff talks to the media during the press conference after signing with the Eagles, Thursday, March 14, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Huff exploded for a 10-sack season last year and was subsequently rewarded with a 3-year deal worth $51.1M. The thing is that he played in a rotational role extremely similar to how Brandon Graham was deployed in 2022 and he’d be best fitted in that kind of role again since his speed and explosiveness would be at its most impactful.

Unfortunately, because the Eagles are losing a player who tallied 17 sacks in 2 years for the Eagles, Huff is now going to be expected to replicate that production by a lot of fans, and if they do see him rotate in on third down as opposed to being a guy who plays 60% of defensive snaps, it won’t take long for questions to be asked because of his price-tag and what the Birds have walked away from.

I could be wrong, and Huff could burst out of the gate in a starting role, but even if he is, the pressure on the 25-year-old is going to be heightened because of this decision.

The Eagles are left with Huff, Nolan Smith, Josh Sweat, and Brandon Graham as their EDGE pass-rushers going into the new season, and if Huff doesn’t hit the ground running, the outside noise is bound to be higher than otherwise expected.

There is every chance that Bryce Huff develops into a player regarded in a similar fashion to Haason Reddick, and that’s why the decision to pay him so much was made. His production should realistically be expected to rise in year 2 and 3, but because the Eagles have now exported their leading sack artist, there’s going to be a lot of eyeballs on a player who has some very big shoes to fill.

Eagles are high on Nolan Smith

Everything we’ve heard this offseason has pointed towards a big leap in production for Georgia product Nolan Smith. He was selected with the second first-round pick the Eagles had last year and he didn’t really breakout in the fashion Jalen Carter did.

Newly drafted Philadelphia Eagles’ Nolan Smith speaks during a news conference at the NFL football team’s training facility, Friday, April 28, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Playing in just 15% of defensive snaps as a rookie, there was already high expectations for Smith going into year two, and they’re only going to be amplified now.

The Eagles clearly feel confident in both his ability and potential, otherwise they wouldn’t have moved on from Haason Reddick. With that said, there’s a lot hanging on ‘potential’ as opposed to proven and sustained production going into 2024, and if neither Smith nor Huff live up to that right away, the knock-on effect is that Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham will have to carry the load, which isn’t ideal.

What happens during the NFL Draft?

The Eagles could bolster the position through the NFL Draft. Prospects like Chop Robinson and Laitu Latu are bound to be circled in red by Howie Roseman when it comes to the first round and would make sense in terms of building a strong foundation for the next 4-5 years, but do the Eagles really need another true pass-rusher? It all comes down to confidence.

Ideally, they need a 3-4 OLB who excels in coverage and can be moved around the defense. They do have the pieces to build a serviceable rotation of pass-rushers, but cover linebackers and EDGE guys who are reliable in coverage is certainly a depleted area on this defense and one of grave importance under Vic Fangio’s guidance.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 14: Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman is pictured prior to the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles on October 14, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

But again, the optics of drafting a more cover-oriented player might not sit too well given the absolute force they have lost up-front.

Only time will tell, but the Eagles seem to be all-in on priming the next generation of pass-rushers in Bryce Huff and Nolan Smith, but is more help on the way? If so, does it come at the expense of leaving glaring holes at linebacker which have also not yet been filled?

There’s a lot of question marks over this defense and it will be exciting to see how Roseman and the Eagles approach the NFL draft as a result.

AP Photo/Chris Szagola