Eagles analysis

Analyzing best- and worst-case scenarios for Eagles' additions in free agency

After a busy first wave of free agency, here's a look at the best- and worst-case scenarios with each player the Eagles added.

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The Eagles had plenty of cap space and were active in free agency last week, taking some big swings on the open market.

But with any free agent acquisition, there’s some risk involved.

And some of the Eagles’ moves from this offseason offer tremendous upside but also some real risk. So let’s take a look at every major addition this offseason by laying out the best-case and the worst-case scenario for each. But we’ll exclude the possibility of a season-ending type of injury, which is a worst-case scenario for any player:

RB Saquon Barkley

The Eagles added the 27-year-old Barkley on a three-year, $37.75 million contract with $26 million guaranteed. It’s basically a two-year deal that the Eagles can get out of after the 2025 season if things don’t go well. The Eagles haven’t spent much on running backs recently under Howie Roseman but this one bucked the trend and they were able to steal Barkley away from the rival New York Giants.

Best case: Barkley is elite and plays like one of the best running backs in the NFL again. He stays healthy and all those touches from his years in New York haven’t taken a toll either. That YPC average that dipped under 4.0 in 2023 turns out to be a result of a previous lingering injury and a subpar surrounding cast. With the Eagles, in an offense with way more talent, Barkley thrives. Not only does he thrive, but new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has a well-thought-out plan to make Barkley one of the focal points of the offense. Barkley ends up having the kind of impact that Christian McCaffrey had in San Francisco when the 49ers acquired him in a trade during the 2022 season.

Worst case: Aside from the potential of a season-ending injury, Barkley has a few nagging injuries that don’t let him realize his potential. He plays through injury but looks far from elite. The number of touches matter and he’s not able to be the type of Pro Bowl running back the Eagles thought they were signing. In an offense with other very good skill players, Barkley gets a bit lost and the Eagles still don’t throw to their running backs in a way that can utilize Barkley’s unique skills. Even in the worst-case scenario, it’s hard to imagine Barkley being awful. He’ll be good enough to play but he’ll be an average running back, not worth the $12 million per-year contract the Eagles gave him.

OLB Bryce Huff

As soon as free agency opened, the Eagles quickly targeted the former undrafted free agent from Memphis who made a name for himself with the Jets. They signed Huff to a three-year deal worth up to $51.1 million. Huff had a career-high 10 sacks in 2023.

Best case: Huff is a star. That 10-sack season for him in 2023 was just an indicator of what was coming. All those advanced metrics were right and Huff is an ascending 26-year-old star in the NFL on a relatively affordable $17 million per season contract. After starting just seven games in his career before joining the Eagles, Huff makes the transition to a full-time starter and his production on a per-snap basis doesn’t drop off. In fact, the more snaps he plays, the more he produces. He follows his 2023 season with career-highs in sacks, QB hits and snaps played under Vic Fangio in Philly.

Worst case: After playing a career-high 480 defensive snaps in 2023, Huff is thrust into a starting role in Philly and is asked to play way more than that and can’t handle it. Instead of his production increasing, we find out that Huff isn’t nearly as good when he’s being asked to play more on non-obvious passing downs. It seems extremely unlikely that Huff will be a bad player but he doesn’t produce as a pass rusher and it turns out he is a liability against the run.

S C.J. Gardner-Johnson

After Gardner-Johnson left in free agency a year ago to join the Lions, all that drama was left in the past when he signed a three-year contract to return to the Eagles. Gardner-Johnson is still just 26 and considers himself to be one of the best young safeties in the NFL.

Best case: CJGJ returns and is the same play-making threat the Eagles saw during the 2022 season. He fits into Fangio’s defense and is exactly the type of high-level safety needed to run this scheme. After six interceptions in 12 games with the Eagles in 2022, Gardner-Johnson has that same type of impact for 17 games in 2024. Gardner-Johnson stays healthy and his mercurial personality is a major energy boost for the Eagles. He brings some swagger to a defense that lacked it in 2023.

Worst case: First, he can’t stay healthy. As an undersized defensive back, Gardner-Johnson throws his body around and even if he doesn’t suffer a season-ender, he deals with injuries that linger and force him out of the lineup periodically. The play-making dries up. Even in 2022, it’s not like all of those interceptions were great individual plays and he’s not able to replicate that success as a player who is still learning the safety position after playing mostly nickel corner in his NFL career. And instead of being a positive force of energy, CJGJ’s personality turns out to be grating to his coaches and teammates and the odd-couple paring of Gardner-Johnson and Fangio doesn’t work.

LB Devin White

The Eagles brought in the former No. 5 overall pick on a one-year contract worth up to $7.5 million. White struggled in 2023 and was available on the fourth day of free agency.

Best case: White is a high-level starter who brings some respectability to the Eagles at the linebacker position. His big plays outweigh his negatives and the Eagles have a difference-maker in the middle of their defense as Fangio understands how to deploy White. After a rare injury hindered him in 2023, White is healthy and vital and the Eagles like him enough to extend him before he can cash in during free agency in 2025.

Worst case: There were reasons White had to take a one-year deal and those reasons show up. He ends up being a liability in coverage and his skills aren’t able to be utilized by this defense. White ends up freelancing too much and giving up back-breaking plays without making up for it with splash plays of his own. He still has that athleticism but it’s not harnessed; White consistency becomes the fastest guy to the wrong spot because his instincts in a new scheme are severely lacking.

OLB Zack Baun

After four years with the Saints on his rookie contract, the former third-round pick form Wisconsin joined the Eagles on a one-year deal.

Best case: Fangio has a very specific plan for Baun as a situational edge rusher. The Eagles realize that Baun isn’t a solution to the off-ball linebacker problem and instead let him rush the passer, which was his strength late in his time with the Saints. Baun gives something to the Eagles as a sub-package player, picks up a few sacks and is also a core special teamer for Michael Clay.

Worst case: The Eagles don’t know how to use Baun as a pass rusher and he doesn’t end up with a role on defense. After showing some ability to rush in 2023 with the Saints, there’s a disconnect between Fangio and the front office on Baun and the DC would rather just keep him off the field. But still, the floor is still probably as a special teams contributor, which is worth a roster spot.

OL Matt Hennessy

The Eagles brought the Temple product back to Philly on a one-year deal after four years in Atlanta as a third-round pick. Hennessy, 26, missed the entire 2023 season with a knee injury.

Best case: The best-case scenario for Hennessy and the best-case scenario for the Eagles are probably different. While Hennessy would obviously love to earn a starting gig, the Eagles would probably prefer Hennessy to be a high-level backup at all three interior spots on the offensive line. He returns from injury to push both Cam Jurgens and Tyler Steen (and/or a rookie in the draft) but the young guys win the jobs so the Eagles can build for the future. Hennessy, if asked to play, plays at a high level and the line continues to roll.

Worst case: The knee injury that kept Hennessy out of the 2023 season has sapped some of the athleticism that made him a third-round pick back in 2020. The worst-case for the Eagles is that one of the young players really struggles so Hennessy ends up taking a job and not playing well either. Then they end up in a situation where they have to rotate during the season to figure out the best option. Hennessy leaves as a free agent and the Eagles haven’t figured out if the young guy is the future.

WR DeVante Parker

After Parker was released by the Patriots, the Eagles signed him to a one-year deal and are on the hook for just the veteran minimum of $1.2 million in 2024.

Best case: At 31 years old, Parker still has good football left in him. After the Eagles rotated a bunch of WR3 options in 2023, Parker gives them a better and more reliable option in 2024. And his experience as an outside receiver opens up some new opportunities for DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown to work out of the slot in Moore’s dynamic offense.

Worst case: Parker is well past his prime and just simply can’t separate but they count on him to be the third wideout anyway instead of continuing to add at the position. The Eagles eventually realize he just doesn’t have it anymore and it was a wasted swing that leaves them searching for a WR3 during the season.

LB Oren Burks

After spending four years in Green Bay and two with the 49ers, the Eagles signed the now 29-year-old veteran to a one-year deal.

Best case: For Burks, it would be to win a starting job. But for the Eagles, it would be that Burks is a competent backup at linebacker for Devin White, Nakobe Dean and maybe even a rookie taken on Day 2 or Day 3 of the draft. Burks can play a rotational role on defense and occasionally rotate in as he did with the 49ers. And he’s a great special teamer.

Worst case: The linebackers in front of Burks either get injured or are playing poorly so Burks fills in and struggles. He had to fill in for the 49ers in the Super Bowl and it didn’t go well. We remember why he’s a seven-year veteran who hasn’t been a full-time starter. And with him starting, the Eagles lose a lot of his snaps on special teams too.

QB Kenny Pickett

This one wasn’t a free agent pickup but the Eagles pulled off a trade to bring in the former first-rounder from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Best case: Pickett doesn’t play aside from garbage time in blowout wins because Jalen Hurts stays healthy. But if Pickett does have to play, he becomes a game manager and with much better talent in Philly than he had in Pittsburgh, Pickett plays point guard and helps the Eagles win games. He ends up being a good and cheap option as a backup for the two seasons left on his contract. Perhaps, Tanner McKee even keeps developing and the Eagles can trade Pickett next year to keep the QB Factory in business.

Worst case: Hurts misses time and the Eagles lose games because Pickett isn’t good enough. It turns out the issues in Pittsburgh weren’t all about the offensive coordinator and skill players; instead, it was Pickett. And the Eagles waste all their skill and talent because Pickett struggles to maximize them.

WR Parris Campbell

The Eagles were very interested in Campbell back in the second round of the 2019 draft but elected to take J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Neither player has had much of an NFL career but Campbell did have one good season with the Colts in 2022.

Best case: Campbell makes the team and contributes. He still has some of that speed he showed coming out of Ohio State and the Eagles are able to utilize it. He finally realizes his second-round potential and gives the Eagles a dynamic third receiver on the cheap.

Worst case: Campbell's 2022 season is an outlier in an otherwise disappointing season. He either doesn't contribute or he doesn't make the roster.

CB Tyler Hall

The Eagles brought in the 25-year-old who went undrafted out of Wyoming in 2020. Hall has played in 31 NFL games with 6 starts and has mostly played slot corner.

Best case: Hall makes the team after an impressive training camp and challenges for playing time as a starter or backup as a slot corner. He ends up as an adequate backup nickel and special teams contributor in 2024.

Worst case: He doesn’t make the team or the practice squad.

DT PJ Mustipher

The Eagles brought in the Penn State product after he spent one season with the Saints as an undrafted rookie, playing in four games.

Best case: Mustipher makes the team and gives the Eagles some solid back-of-the-rotation play and continues to develop.

Worst case: He doesn’t make the team or the practice squad.

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