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A 10-point offseason plan for Howie Roseman to fix the Eagles

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Howie Roseman has his work cut out for him this offseason as he tries to figure out exactly what went wrong the last two months of the season and how to fix it.

When you lose six of your last seven games – losing four by at least 17 points and blowing double-digit leads in two others – there's an awful lot to fix.

That process has begun with the coaching staff, but it has to continue with the roster. It was not a good year for Roseman, whose in-season moves were almost all unsuccessful and draft picks had mixed results. 

But Roseman has a terrific track record since being reinstated as general manager in 2016. There’s a reason he’s a two-time Executive of the Year, and his moves in free agency and the draft are largely responsible for the Eagles owning the 7th-best record in the NFL since 2017, reaching two Super Bowls and getting to the playoffs six of the last seven seasons.

We thought we’d give Howie a hand and come up with a 10-point plan that outlines some of the most important moves he has to make this offseason. 

We were going to rank them 1 through 10 but that’s impossible. They’re all important. They’re all necessary. They’re all tied for first.

1. Sign DeVonta ASAP: First-round picks are eligible for contract extensions after their third season, which means the Eagles can now negotiate a new deal with Smith, who would become an unrestricted free agent after the 2024 season without a new contract. The starting point is determining Smith’s value, which might not be as easy as you’d think. He was only 20th in the NFL among WRs in yards this past year, and he’s 16th since entering the league in 2021. But the eye test says he’s a top-10 receiver or very close to it, and in the right offense could easily be a 1,200- or 1,300-yard guy. The going rate for top-10 receivers is $20 million a year and that might be a little high for Smith, but if Christian Kirk is worth $18 million per year Smith should at least be in that ballpark. Roseman has never lost an elite young player, so you’re confident this will get done. The Eagles are already paying A.J. Brown $25 million per year through 2026, and that’s a lot for WRs. But they’re both worth it. I’d throw Landon Dickerson in this category, too. Like Smith he’s only 25 and he’s already a two-time Pro Bowler. Have to get them both signed.

2. Figure out Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat: This is a tricky contract situation because Reddick turns 30 in September, his production dropped this past year and he’s going to want top-10 edge rusher money, and top-10 edge rushers are getting $25 million a year. On paper, Reddick is a top-5 edge rusher. But especially in light of the way things played out with James Bradberry, does Roseman really want to pay top dollar for an older veteran? Roseman needs to determine how much of Reddick’s decline this past season was due to coaching staff issues and the way he was used and overall team malaise and how much was Reddick just being a year older? And how much do you want to pay a guy who hits 30 in September? The Eagles sure need to generate more pass pressure and I’m not sure how that happens without Reddick. Another complication is that Josh Sweat is also up after 2023, and while his production hasn’t matched Reddick’s, he’s three years younger and you’re always going to feel better handing over a ton of money to a guy who’s about to turn 27 than a guy who’s about to turn 30. But then we just watched Sweat go eight straight games without a sack. Is that really a guy the Eagles want to re-sign? It’s possible the Eagles will only be able to keep one of the two edge rushers. Sweat will be cheaper. Reddick is better. A lot to figure out here. But Reddick is still a top edge and needs to be paid like it. 

3. Cut ties with older free agents: There’s this big group of veteran free agents – mostly on defense – that the Eagles have exclusive negotiating rights to until the legal tampering period starts on March 11. Roseman has to resist the urge to bring back some of these guys and cut ties with the whole batch. That means Nicholas Morrow, Shaq Leonard, Zach Cunningham, Olamide Zaccheus, Rashaad Penny, Justin Evans, Bradley Roby and Julio Jones. Kevin Byard isn’t technically a free agent, but with a $14.2 million cap hit in 2024 and virtually no dead money, he’ll obviously be a free agent soon. To me, that group of guys represents what went wrong in 2023. The Eagles got too old and too slow and when things started going bad they had a bunch of guys who really weren’t equipped to help turn it around. A few of that group had some decent moments but they’re older declining veterans who need to be replaced with younger homegrown talent. Those types of veteran free agents near the end of their careers hoping for a few more paychecks are the wrong type of guys to build around. They’ve got to go. The whole batch of ‘em.

4. Add another legit receiver: Whether it’s in the draft or a younger free agent, the Eagles have to do better than guys like Quez Watkins, Zaccheus or Jones as WR3. It’s not fair to hamstring Jalen Hurts with subpar weapons after Brown and Smith and Dallas Goedert. This was the first year since 1992 the Eagles didn’t have a third WR with at least 170 yards. That was partly play calling, partly play design, partly offensive structure but also personnel. Getting Hurts another legit weapon would take pressure off Brown and Smith and as much as Nick Sirianni says the offense will always revolve around the Big 3 it’s just common sense that the more weapons you have the better your offense will be.

5. Find two safeties: Not one safety. Two safeties. Right now, the only safeties under contract are Byard and his $14.2 million cap hit, Evans and his career full of injuries, Sydney Brown, who’ll likely be out the first month of the regular season, and Reed Blankenship, who had a disappointing second half (like everybody else). Howie really has a lot to to figure out here. Blankenship has shown enough to earn the first crack at a starting spot in camp, and Brown showed promise once he finally got to play and before he got hurt. But neither are sure things. If Blankenship doesn’t bounce back from the second half of the season or Brown isn’t what the Eagles hope he is, then what? Roseman needs to have answers ready. 

6. Find two linebackers: The depth is even worse here than safety. Nakobe Dean, a big unknown going into 2024, and Ben VanSumeren, an overachieving undrafted rookie, are the only off-ball linebackers under contract in 2024. Dean just turned 23 and it’s too early to give up on him, but he’s certainly got a lot to prove. VanSumeren plays hard and showed up on special teams, but who knows if he can be a contributor on defense. It’s no secret this position needs a complete overhaul. And I’m not talking about running it back with Zach Cunningham, like Roseman hinted at last month. Guys who can run, hit, cover and tackle aren’t easy to find, but other teams find them. On Pro Football Focus’s final 2023 linebacker grades, not one Eagle was in the top 50. Time to start taking this position seriously.

7. Release Bradberry: Full disclosure: I was fine with the contract extension last year. Bradberry was 29 and coming off a 2nd-team all-pro season. He really was terrific in 2022 and didn’t show any hints of an impending decline. But you can’t compound the mistake by keeping him around and hoping he can suddenly play again. He can’t be on this team next year and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not in the league in 2024. We should all know by now not to worry about dead money when Howie is involved. Cut him now and it’s a $17.238 million cap hit according to Spotrac. Make it a post-June 1 designation and it’s just $4.735 million under the 20224 cap and then $12.503 million in 2025, when the cap will probably be around $280 million. Definitely manageable. Definitely necessary.

8. Draft at least one CB: Even if Bradberry hadn’t been awful this year, drafting an elite corner would have been a priority because Bradberry is 30 and Darius Slay is 33. This looks like a solid corner draft with five likely 1st-round picks and three or four 2nd-rounders. The Eagles pick at No. 22 and also have two 2nd-round picks, and finding a starting-caliber corner somewhere in the first two rounds has to be a priority. Slay had a decent year in 2023 – not a vintage Slay season but good enough - and is signed through 2025, but he’s also not the player he once was. I like Kelee Ringo and he looks like a potential starter to me. Eli Ricks showed a lot of promise. That’s a start. But the Eagles have lots more work to do here.

9. Find TE2: Jack Stoll is a nice blocker and Grant Calcaterra has caught a few passes, but the Eagles have to do better at tight end behind Dallas Goedert. They need someone who can come in and be a legit threat in 12 personnel or a playmaker when Goedert is out. Kellen Moore likes to run 12 more than the Eagles have recently, but for it to be a practical formation that second tight end has to be able to make plays. And Goedert is 29 now and coming off a disappointing season. Zach Ertz was 30 when the Eagles traded him. So it might actually be time to look for a TE2 who can become TE1 in the next couple years. Not just a late-round body but a guy who projects as a future starter.

10. Figure out the slot: The Eagles went through about a dozen slots this year, and although Avonte Maddox is under contract and has been very good when healthy, he’s just never healthy and the Eagles need a Plan B if Maddox gets hurt again. Zech McPhearson will be back from his Achilles in time for OTAs but he’s still a question mark. Ricks can play inside, but he's not a sure thing. Mario Goodrich? Nah. So many teams have dangerous inside receivers these days, and the Eagles need someone who can match up with them. Not an outside corner moving inside, not a practice-squad callup, not a converted safety. Howie has to figure out who that guy is going to be because the Eagles can’t go through this revolving door of slots again.

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