The 3 Biggest Offseason Needs for the Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles are entering their most important offseason in recent memory.
After a rocky start to the 2021 season, the Eagles found a groove in the second half and started looking like a winning football team. The switch to a run-centric offensive approach fueled their late-season push and ultimately earned them a spot in the playoffs.
The question now becomes, what must they do to go even further in 2022?
With three first round picks and Carson Wentz’s contract off the books, the Eagles have plenty of resources available to improve their football team this offseason. So, what are the three biggest areas they should look to address?
1. Revamp the Pass Rush
The Eagles finished the season with the 2nd fewest sacks in the entire league.
Losing Brandon Graham to a torn achilles played a role in this poor ranking, but his injury isn’t a viable excuse for being that far down the leaderboard. The Eagles are a team that preaches winning in the trenches, and they were unable to do that defensively in 2021.
Entering 2022, the depth chart along the defensive line could use some work. Graham’s back, but It’s hard to expect much from the 33-year-old coming off of his major injury. Derek Barnett is a pending free agent who likely won’t be re-signed. Fletcher Cox is on the wrong side of 30 and just posted arguably his worst season as an Eagle.
If Philadelphia wants to make any noise in the postseason next year, they need to upgrade the front line of their defense.
Given the high price tag defensive lineman cost in free agency, it makes sense for the Eagles to address this need via the draft. With three first round picks at their disposal, they’re in a prime position to get younger, deeper, and more talented across the board.
Defensive line is the position that headlines this year’s draft class. Starting at the top we have Aidan Hutchinson (DE, Michigan) and Kayvon Thibodeaux (DE, Oregon) who are two of the best players in the entire class. Unless Howie Roseman packages multiple picks together to move up, these two will be off the board before the Eagles’ first selection at #15.
There should still be plenty of solid options available when the Eagles are on the clock with picks 15, 16, and 19 though. Here’s a quick list of potential first round prospects Eagles fans should get to know:
- George Karlaftis: DE, Purdue — A powerful defensive end who uses violent hands and a vicious bull-rush to win along the edges. Doesn’t possess ideal length, but makes up for it with raw power and refined technique. Should be equally as successful defending the run as he is the pass.
- David Ojabo: DE, Michigan — A slightly undersized edge defender bursting with raw athleticism and length. Played opposite of Adian Hutchinson and tallied 11 sacks in his one year as a starter. Not a powerful player, so he may struggle in run defense out of the gates. Possesses the speed and burst needed to be a dominant pass rusher in time.
- Travon Walker: DL, Georgia — A versatile defensive lineman who’s just as happy lining up over a guard with his hand in the dirt as he is playing from a two-point stance outside a tight end. Walker’s flown up draft boards in recent weeks, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him wind up as a top 10 selection. He’s a powerful run defender whose impact on passing downs could use a bit of refinement. As a rookie, his versatility will allow him to fit seamlessly into any defensive scheme and carve out a role in no time.
One of the primary reasons the Eagles’ won Super Bowl LII was dominant play from their defensive line. If they want to get back there anytime soon, adding a stud (or a few) to that group will be crucial.
2. Add Another Playmaker In the Secondary
In 2021, the Eagles’ defense snagged just 16 takeaways — tied for the 5th worst mark in the league.
Outside of Darius Slay, they lacked a true playmaker along the last line of their defense. Eagles fans should be happy to see Slay return following his 2021 Pro Bowl season, but the group around him doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Starters Rodney McLeod, Anthony Harris, and Steven Nelson are all pending free agents. It’s unlikely these three command a big payday on the open market, so re-signing at a decent price could provide the Eagles with fair value. If Philadelphia wants to get improved play out of their secondary though, they’ll need to look elsewhere.
Ever since Malcolm Jenkins left, the Eagles have lacked a playmaker at the safety position. Slay’s been a playmaking cornerback since joining the team, but he’s 31 and can’t serve as the leader of this secondary forever. The Eagles need another young player back there who is capable of creating turnovers.
The Eagles’ front office hasn’t been afraid to spend big on secondary players in free agency. Guys like Slay, Malcolm Jenkins, and Byron Maxwell (yikes) were all paid at or above market value in free agency or via trade to play for the Eagles. However, the Eagles have been hesitant to invest heavy draft capital on that part of their roster. The last time they spent a first round pick on a secondary player was Lito Sheppard… 20 years ago.
If Philly wants to improve their secondary this offseason, that upgrade will likely come via free agency.
The best fit for the Eagles secondary in this free agency class is Marcus Williams — the Saints’ star safety. New Orleans is in salary cap hell this offseason, and they may have no choice but to let Williams play elsewhere in 2022. He wouldn’t come cheap, but Williams is the exact type of player Howie Roseman sets his sites on in free agency. At just 25 years old Williams is already one of the league’s premier deep safeties, and he could play a major role along the Eagles’ back line of defense for years to come.
Additional cheaper options will be available as well, but not many of them are as young or talented as Williams. If the Eagles opt to spend big on one player in free agency, Williams is the kind of guy who would likely be worth it.
3. Find a Quality #2 WR
A big-name receiver is atop many Eagles’ fans wish lists, but it’s hard to argue the offense has more pressing needs than the defense entering the 2022 season. Devonta Smith showed flashes of brilliance in year one, and he and Dallas Goedert make up a fantastic one-two punch in the passing game.
The problem with the passing game is the lack of an inspiring third option.
The Jalen Reagor era needs to end quickly, Quez Watkins is better equipped for a deep-threat specialist role, and the names behind these two on the depth chart inspire even less confidence. The Eagles don’t need a stud to come in and be an elite option, they just need someone to come in and be a more reliable #2 than Reagor/Watkins (a pretty low bar).
Considering the Eagles invested high draft capital in the receiver position in recent years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them go that route again in 2022. However, a few swings and misses in the draft may inspire them to look via free agency to find a proven commodity. Receivers don’t come cheap, but even if the Eagles are forced to pay a premium for a #2 guy, it may be worth it.
If the front office is willing to spend big, convincing JuJu Smith-Schuster to move across Pennsylvania could make a lot of sense. Last year Smith-Schuster signed a 1 year, $8 million deal to stay in Pittsburgh, but it would likely take more to convince the 25-year-old to take his talents elsewhere. Though he may be pricy, Smith-Schuster would be a perfect complement to Devonta Smith. He’s a physical receiver who plays in the slot, possesses the versatility to line up outside, and is a willing blocker who would thrive in Philadelphia’s run-heavy offense.
While a guy like Smith-Schuster sounds great, the Eagles may elect to spend their cap dollars elsewhere (like the secondary). Bringing in a cheaper, less exciting option like Jakobi Meyers, Josh Reynolds, and Keelan Cole could wind up providing the Eagles with better overall value. These names wouldn’t excite many fans, but it’s not excitement the Eagles need at the #2 spot.
If the Eagles do use another high draft pick on the position, there are some names who could be worthy of one of their first round picks. They shouldn’t let prior draft misses deter them from solidifying a position they value highly if there’s a guy on their board available at 15, 16, or 19. If any of the three below names are available when the Eagles are on the clock, it could be hard to pass on them:
- Treylon Burks: WR, Arkansas — Burks would be the perfect complement to Smith and Goedert in this offense. While he isn’t a polished route runner, Burks is an athletic freak who can take the ball to the house on any given play. The 6'3" 225 lb receiver can fly, and he was used in a Deebo Samuel-like role in the Razorbacks’ offense last season. His versatility and big play potential could be a huge asset for the Eagles’ offense if the coaching staff can find creative ways to get the ball in his hands.
- Jameson Williams: WR, Alabama — Coming off an ACL tear in the college football playoffs, it’s tough to predict where Jameson Williams will ultimately hear his name called on draft night. One thing we do know is Williams has game-breaking speed. He’s essentially the guy Philadelphia hoped Reagor would be — someone who can take the top off of a defense and score from anywhere on the field. If the Eagles front office still wants to fill that role, Williams is a perfect candidate.
- Drake London: WR, USC — A big bodied receiver with the versatility to play inside or outside. London stands at 6'5", but he isn’t the bulkiest receiver at just 210 lbs. Upon entering the league he’ll quickly become a quarterback’s best friend due to his great hands and ability to haul in 50–50 balls. For a quarterback like Hurts who at times struggles with accuracy, London’s massive catch radius would be a huge asset. Like Williams though, London’s coming off an injury as he fractured his foot midway through the 2021 season.
The two Ohio State receivers — Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave — are also projected to be first round picks. These two possess skillsets that are more similar to Devonta Smith’s (though neither are as talented), and wouldn’t complement the offense as well as the three guys above could. Should the Eagles pass on receiver in round 1, this year’s draft features plenty of depth at the position. Guys like George Pickens (Georgia), David Bell (Purdue), Justyn Ross (Clemson), and John Metchie (Alabama) are all solid options who may not hear their names called until after the first 32 selections.
The Eagles have a few avenues they can use to address the #2 receiver spot. One way or another though, you better believe the front office is going to bring in some help for Hurts and the offense.