Just after the 2019 NFL draft wrapped up on Saturday, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said, “Talent-acquisition season has not ended.”
Meaning: There are still over four months until the start of the 2019 season and still a couple of months from the start of training camp. In recent years, the Eagles have added LaRoy Reynolds, LeGarrette Blount, Ronald Darby, Corey Graham and others after the draft but before the season opener. It’s important to note that after May 7, players signed don’t count toward the compensatory pick formula.
“We're not going on vacation now,” Roseman said. “We're going to continue to try to do whatever we can to support Coach [Doug Pederson] and his staff, and we take that part of it seriously.”
After the initial wave of free agency (before the moves to bring in Jordan Howard, Vinny Curry and Andrew Sendejo) here’s how I ranked the Eagles’ needs: 1. Running back, 2. Defensive end, 3. Offensive guard, 4. Linebacker, 5. Offensive tackle, 6. Defensive tackle, 7. Safety.
From that list, I have taken running back, offensive tackle and defensive tackle off the board; I think they’re now good at all those positions.
Here’s my newest ranking of their needs:
1. Offensive guard
The Eagles reportedly added a trio of undrafted guards — Ryan Bates, Nate Herbig and Sua Opeta — after the draft wrapped up, so maybe that will be enough. I think Bates has the best chance to make the roster. At the very least, those guys will have a real opportunity. But I thought the Eagles were in play to add an interior lineman in one of the early rounds and instead they took the top tackle off the board. Long-term, I think that’s a fine move, but it doesn’t help their interior offensive line depth right now.
Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks are the starters, but Brooks is coming off an Achilles injury and their top backup inside is Matt Pryor, a sixth-round pick last year. Seumalo is the backup center, so Pryor would be next in at guard if any of the three go down. The Eagles let Stefen Wisniewski walk this offseason, which left them light in terms of interior OL depth.
I’ve seen some suggest that Andre Dillard needs to get on the field this season, so the Eagles should simply move Jason Peters inside and let Dillard play left tackle. I understand this idea, but I’m not so sure Peters would be willing. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one to tell the Hall of Fame tackle he’s now playing left guard. I’ve also seen some suggest Jordan Mailata could play guard. That seems like a lot to ask a guy who is still just a year into learning his first football position.
Free agents still available: Wisniewski, Andy Levitre, Brandon Fusco, Chance Warmack, Jeff Allen, Mike Remmers
Wiz is still out there. Maybe if he can’t find a starting gig, he’d be willing to come back. Otherwise, Jeff Allen might make the most sense of that group. I included Warmack because Jeff Stoutland still thinks highly of him, but I know that wouldn’t be a popular pick.
Aside from running back, there’s not a position fans worry about more than linebacker and I get it. The Eagles lost Jordan Hicks and now have Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, Paul Worrilow, L.J. Fort and B.J. Bello. They also added Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards after the draft. The only reason I have LB below OG is because of the importance of the position, but there’s an argument to be made that no need is greater than linebacker.
If things stay the way they are, I’d assume Bradham and Grugier-Hill will be the starters and then the rest of the guys fight for the third job and backup roles. Not ideal, but the Eagles haven’t put a huge emphasis on the position in recent years and they use two linebackers the majority of the time.
Free agents still available: Jamie Collins, Zach Brown, Gerald Hodges, Manti Te’o
Collins or Brown could step in and immediately be starters. Both are 29, so they should have something left.
The Eagles didn’t draft a safety, but they did reportedly add Temple’s Delvon Randall after the draft. He might have an outside chance to make the team.
Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod (coming off a torn ACL) are the starters. That much we know. But after that, there’s a clear depth problem with Corey Graham gone. Andrew Sendejo and Tre Sullivan are the top backups. Sendejo is a 31-year-old veteran coming off an injury and Sullivan is a former undrafted player from Shepherd University. With how much the Eagles use three safeties when Jenkins moves into the box, this is an important position. And when you look at linebacker and safety together, there’s definitely a weakness in the middle of the Eagles’ defense.
Free agents still available: Eric Berry, Glover Quin, Jahleel Addae
Berry is clearly the highest-profile player on this list, but he might be a little too pricey as a third safety. If he comes to Philly, he’d need to be a starter. I think Quin is an interesting name. He’s 33 now but is a versatile defensive back who could have a chance at a championship as a role player. Quin would also be a great locker room fit.
4. Defensive end
The Eagles added Shareef Miller with the last pick in the fourth round, but I still don’t think their defensive end group is as good as it was in 2018. The loss of Michael Bennett is a big one and bringing back Vinny Curry and adding Miller doesn’t make up for it. The Eagles did keep Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett might take a jump, but it also seems like Chris Long is leaning toward walking away. So a rotation that brought Bennett and Long off the bench early in 2018, will now have Curry and either Josh Sweat or Miller as the top backups this year.
The Eagles seem set at DT, but DE is still a concern. The Eagles passed on defense in the first two rounds and had to settle with taking a Day 3 edge-rusher who might have a hard time getting on the field.
Free agents still available: Ezekiel Ansah, Derrick Morgan, Nick Perry, Andre Branch
Ansah is the top name on this list and it’s not close. Many of the top edge rushers still available are better suited for a 3-4 defense. The Eagles have a type because they need their ends to rush the passer and stuff the run. Those guys are harder to find.
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