We are rapidly approaching free agency and the NFL draft, which for the Super Bowl Champion Eagles, is going to be very interesting. I have seen a lot of mock drafts already this year based on what the Eagles “need” going into the 18-19 season. This article, however, is aimed more at which positions I am least/most concerned about going into next year. This doesn’t mean that because I have a certain position as the #1 concern that I think the Birds are going to use their 1st round pick on that position. I would just expect A LOT of focus in free agency, draft, trades, etc. to be geared towards that position. So let’s get started with the position I think is of least concern for the Eagles, #12-Defensive End.
#12-Defensive End (DE)
The Eagles should be thrilled about their edge rushers going into next season. They have all four of their ends back if they so choose with Long, Graham, Curry and Barnett returning. I see no need to address DE unless there are some moves made here, such as trading Vinny Curry, cutting Chris Long, etc.
I have this so low on my list for one simple reason: the Eagles proved they can win without Carson Wentz. This doesn’t change for me if the Eagles trade Nick Foles. Obviously, Nate Sudfeld is not Nick Foles, but I truly believe with this system, the ability for Doug Pederson to be adaptable and the talent on the offensive line that ,most quarterbacks will at least be in the position to be successful. Also, the Eagles clearly believe that Nate Sudfeld has potential. And obviously if the Eagles don’t trade Nicky Six, I shouldn’t have to justify to anyone why Quarterback is at #11 on this list.
#10- Wide Receiver (WR)
This justification is similar to the Quarterback situation. Jeffery and Agholor are going to be the foundation for this position group for years to come. But losing Torrey Smith to me isn’t a huge issue. I think even in his first year, Mack Hollins could have been a bigger threat than Smith was. Now don’t get me wrong, Torrey came up big down the stretch, but I don’t think there is a drop off between Hollins and Smith. Now, once we get past those three you could say there are some questions, but I think there are bigger “holes” to fill on this roster. Deeper down the depth chart the Eagles have Marcus Johnson, Bryce Treggs, Shelton Gibson, Greg Ward, etc. I don’t know if those guys really offer a lot, but I feel comfortable with those top three guys and maybe one of the other guys can step up.
#9-Defensive Tackle (DT)
If the Eagles get into the season without making any moves (including letting Beau Allen walk) you feel comfortable with your defensive tackles. Fletch and Timmy are beasts in the middle and they are both still young. Destiny Vaeao and Elijah Qualls are the guys that would be fighting for that third spot. Vaeao has been a nice guy to have around and is a decent third tackle. Qualls is super athletic, but because he didn’t get any meaningful snaps this year it is hard to know what he is. I think there is some upside with Qualls. We could see the Eagles sign a veteran (think a veteran with great locker room presence that will take a huge pay cut for the chance to win) or they could use a late day 3 pick to add some more bodies to that position.
The only worry here is the way the Eagles offensive line depth is structured. Jason Kelce is your guy at the center position if he is healthy. As we know though, injuries do happen and that is where some very slight concern sneaks in. If Kelce were to go down what do you do? Wiz has starting center experience and Isaac Seumalo was projected to either be the Eagle’s left guard or center of the future. The answer for me is you move Wiz just because he has played the position in the league before. But as we saw this past season, when Wiz isn’t at left guard there are some issues. I don’t think the Eagles will go after a center necessarily, but I do think this is something they will think about hard. I think they may look at addressing the depth at offensive guard and I will address that further down this list.
#7-Running Back (RB)
I have seen a lot of people saying they would use the #32 pick on a running back….Just no. If you can’t find a player you like at #32 in the top three positions on this list, I am trading back if I am the Eagles. Jay Ajayi is a very nice RB1 to have and with Clement as a change of pace back the Eagles are in a good spot. You have to remember Wendell Smallwood didn’t really play this year because the Eagles were forced to sign Kenjon Barner once Sproles went down. I think if that didn’t happen Smallwood plays meaningful snaps this year. We still don’t know what Pumphrey can do yet, so that is something to look at in Year 2 as well. So between Ajayi, Clement and Smallwood you have to feel good about your running back room. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all about adding another guy in the mix, but I am not for spending significant draft capital on a running back. If you like a guy in the fourth round, grab him. But the #32 pick? Heck no. Another option, hold your breath….a guy like Frank Gore could be an option (it’s okay, don’t cry. I know he hurt us before, but he wouldn’t do it again…). A guy at the end of his career who is being pushed out of his backfield by younger talent could be a target. But what I really think is going to happen is that the Eagles won’t bring anyone in who is going to expect more touches than Ajayi and Clement. Think about how many times Ajayi was rolling this year and Blount comes in for two consecutive series. That is just something you have to do when working with a committee and especially one with a veteran like Blount. I think at most they bring in a day 2 or day 3 “project” to add to the room.
#6-Offensive Guard (OG)
So, I mentioned above in the Center section that unreliable depth at the OG position could be a problem if Kelce or obviously one of the guards goes down with an injury. Your starters for next year are obviously Brandon Brooks and Stefen Wisniewski. Behind that are a couple of big question marks. Is Isaac Seumalo a guard or center going forward? Is Chance Warmack a viable backup? I don’t know. I tend to trust Jeff Stoutland, so lets say that Warmack can be a backup guard for this team. I haven’t seen ANYTHING promising from Seuomalo yet. This is a position that I would be trying to inject some youth into. I know right now we don’t have any day 2 picks, but I 100% believe we will have at least two day 2 picks when all is said and done. I think the 3rd or 4th round is where I would address this position. Like the birds have been doing recently, they need to continue building through the trenches and that starts right here with adding some OG depth.
I know, I know. The Eagles have a ton of young talent here. But the cornerback play was still spotty this year with the duo of Darby and Mills. They had their moments, but they also got absolutely exposed a few times. They are young and will still get better and we still don’t know what Sidney Jones or Rasul Douglas are going to be although I obviously love the potential there. I just think too much youth at any position isn’t a great thing all the time. Of course Coach Undlin is awesome, but having a veteran guy in this room is important. Think about the impact Alshon and Torrey had on the wide receiver room this year. Think about Blount’s impact on Ajayi, Clement, etc. Think about Chris Long’s impact on BG, Barnett and Curry. Experience is very important. I would like to bring in a veteran who doesn’t expect to be a starter, but has been very successful in this league. Darrelle Revis is a guy as long as he knows he is not the player he was five years ago. But there are plenty of other guys like that out there. Losing Robinson hurts, so they definitely need to address this in free agency. And if I still haven’t convinced you think about it this way: now that you lose Robinson you have Darby, Mills, Jones and Douglas. Darby got hurt week 1 last year. We have no idea if Jones is going to be what he was projected to be. If one of those four gets hurt, do you feel comfortable with only having the other three? I do not.
#4-Offensive Tackle (OT)
Alright, so now we get into the four positions I would really focus on if I was the Eagles. These four are obvious in my mind, so I fully expect significant action at these positions. So right now the Eagles essentially have Peters, Johnson and Vaitai at offensive tackle. There are people saying the Birds trade Peters, but I don’t think that happens, but I am never surprised with moves in the NFL. So you start Peters and Johnson and have Vaitai as your swing tackle. The Eagles need to add significant talent through the draft here. They cannot afford to acquire a top tier tackle in free agency, so they need to grab a tackle the first or second day in my mind. Now don’t get me wrong, I truly believe if Peters leaves, the Eagles will be fine. I don’t think people want to fully admit it yet because it’s not trendy, but Big V can play. This dude was in his second year this season. He played 10 games in his rookie year and in my mind was pretty much what you would expect from a day 3 tackle forced into starting double-digit NFL games. This year he was the blind side tackle for your Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. Now, obviously the scheme gave him some help, but this guy played as well as any backup tackle could have played. If you start the season with him I am fine, but you still need to address the future at this position. Is Lane Johnson going to drink the wrong protein shake this year? Is Peters going to get hurt again? This should be a HUGE focus.
This might be a bit of a surprise to some people, but hear me out. I did NOT like what I saw out of Rodney McLeod this year at times. Man, did he misplay a lot of routes that led to big gains. Now he is not awful. He is an average starter, but I don’t like him long term. Malcolm Jenkins is one of the most versatile safeties in the league, so that is obviously a plus here. But the problem is behind your starters. Because of what Jim Schwartz asks Jenkins to do, a lot of times you will see three safety looks with Corey Graham. The only problem, Corey Graham is a free agent. And so is Jaylen Watkins, who can also play that position. So right now your safeties are Jenkins, McLeod and Chris Maragos who is coming off of a season-ending injury and isn’t that great anyway outside of special teams contributions. I really feel like this position is a problem going forward and should be addressed. I would absolutely use one of our fourth round picks to take a safety or maybe a third if Howie can get one from somewhere.
Deciding whether to put linebacker as #1 or #2 was a difficult choice. But since there are some players under contract at this position I had to put it at #2. Next year the players of note under contract are Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks, Joe Walker, Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill. So two of your starters are Hicks and Kendricks, which isn’t so bad other than that Hicks cannot stay healthy for an entire season. Maybe this is the year he does or maybe not. But it’s a concern. I like Walker, Gerry and Grugier-Hill, but to expect significant contributions from any of them next season consistently is not realistic. Now, the easy fix is resigning Bradham. He has been a beast, but we don’t know if he is going to price himself out of Philly. With that being said, linebacker 100% needs to be addressed. I think adding at least two players to this position group is critical. Could you imagine Hicks going down and your linebackers in your base defense are Kendricks, Walker and Gerry? I do NOT want to see that happen. If you don’t go offensive tackle at #32, I absolutely want the Eagles to go linebacker in that spot and hopefully find a nice impact player to contribute right away.
#1-Tight End (TE)
And so we arrive at my number one concern for the Eagles next season: tight end. Next year we have a whopping one tight end on the roster, that being Zach Ertz. Now that’s a pretty good one to have, but this is concerning. The Eagles ran a TON of two and three tight end sets last year. Let’s address what we lost at this position. The Eagles lost the swiss army knife, Trey Burton and the steady, blocking tight end, Brent Celek. In my opinon, at a minimum you need to pick up a very good blocking tight end who can jump into the offense right away. The good thing for the Birds is that you can find good blocking tight ends later in the draft. Now if the team wants to replace both Burton and Celek, they will obviously need to pony up more draft capital to do that. What I could see them doing is to find a veteran blocking tight end in free agency because they wouldn’t need to give up a lot to get that contract done. They could then use the #32 pick or trade down in the draft and use a day 2 pick to get a mismatch nightmare type of tight end. The reason this is the #1 concern is because you can 100% not go into the season with Ertz, Billy Brown and Adam Zaruba. I think the Eagles make this the primary focus this off-season.
So, as you see the Eagles have a few things they need to worry about this off-season and I have every reason to believe the team of Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas will get it done. This is going to be a very exciting few months, so get ready Eagles Nation. As always, leave a comment and let me know what you think the biggest position concerns for the Eagles are heading into next season. Make sure to follow @BirdsOffBroad on Twitter and hit the Subscribe button on the right side of the Home Page. Go Birds!