Four іmрortаnt roster dіlemmаs tһe Eаgles stіll need to resolve

Four іmрortаnt roster dіlemmаs tһe Eаgles stіll need to resolve

Well, things certainly started with a bang, didn’t they? The Philadelphia Eagles kicked off the free agency frenzy by signing former Giants running back Saquon Barkley to a three-year, $37.5 million contract. It was one of the largest contracts Philly has ever signed a tailback to. No one has to ask questions about why.

They view Barkley as an offensive ‘Swiss army knife’ who can do work on the ground and through the air as a receiver. Barkley, coupled with the additions of CJ Gardner-Johnson’s return to Philly and the acquisition of Bryce Huff, have set a stronger foundation for the roster. However, there’s still work to do.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson is a step in the right direction for the Eagles secondary, but where’s the depth?
Bringing back C.J. Gardner-Johnson helps the Philadelphia secondary tremendously. His best season came just two seasons ago with the Eagles, where he amassed a career-high in interceptions while playing both nickel cornerback and safety.

That presents a question for the Eagles and new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Where is the versatility of Gardner-Johnson going to be used most? Is it at the nickel cornerback position or safety? Both positions need desperate help after last season.

If the Eagles elect to play CJGJ at nickel cornerback, as they did during much of his first stint here, the Birds have plenty of viable, top-end options at the safety position. Former Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons is wildly coveted, still on the market, and seen as the best player who is available at the safety position. Some have even named Philadelphia as the landing spot for Simmons which makes most sense.

Other veteran safeties like Eddie Jackson, Quandre Diggs, Micah Hyde, and Jayron Kearse are also still available on the market. Younger projects like Isaiah Simmons (a potential LB/S Swiss Army knife) are also options for the Eagles to target at the position.

All would be significant upgrades after Reed Blankenship’s up-and-down 2023 season. Reed signed a one-year extension recently, and that’s a good thing. He is, however, limited in some ways. Kevin Byard is gone, but he offered Philadelphia next to nothing. Another addition here might be needed.

If Gardner-Johnson plays primarily as a safety, the Eagles could look to make an addition at slot corner. They probably have more options on the current depth chart than we’d like to believe. one of which being Isaiah Rodgers (if he’s ever reinstated), but here’s another option. They can also reacquire Avonte Maddox.

If they choose to look elsewhere, Adoree’ Jackson, Levi Wallace, Stephon Gilmore, Xavien Howard, and Steven Nelson are a few options for the franchise. Darius Slay and James Bradberry are both set to return in 2024. It’s nice to have insurance for them. The slot cornerback position is a huge need though. Wait might they elect to move Bradberry there? He played there sparingly this past season, but we’ll have to wait and see what Fangio thinks.

Devin White is a step up for the Eagles LB room, but is he enough?
The Eagles do care about the linebacker position! They signed Devin White for a bargain, a one-year deal. Philly signed Shaq Leonard last season after the Indianapolis Colts released him. That didn’t work out. White is hopefully an upgrade.

Devin has had a few up-and-down seasons recently as well. Many have questioned if he can ever return to being one of the top-tier players at his position. If he does, we’ll look back and say the Eagles have found themselves a steal. If not, this is one of those acquisitions we’ll remember unaffectionately (Ryan Kerrigan, Robert Quinn, Shaq Leonard, Kevin Byard). That brings us to the Zack Baun signing.

Baun is a hybrid edge rusher that can also drop into coverage. Tyus Bowser and Zach Cunningham are also options if Philly is eyeing one more acquisition.

The linebacker position might be the one area on Philly’s defense where we have the most uncertainty. Will Nakobe Dean break out? No one knows, but as we move through the regular season, the hope is the unit doesn’t hold the team back defensively.

Were the Eagles right to choose youth and avoid possibly overpaying for Haason Reddick?
The Eagles-Haason Reddick offseason saga is over. Philly chose to restructure Josh Sweat’s deal and acquire Bryce Huff in free agency. A deal was struck with the Jets for Reddick’s services.

Essentially, the Eagles grabbed former Jets edge rusher Bryce Huff (three-years, $51 million) and a 3rd round pick for Reddick which could become a second-rounder instead of handing Reddick $25 million per season or more. Philly elected to go the younger and less-expensive route by investing in Huff and Sweat.

That could pay off in the end. Brandon Graham and Nolan Smith are also in the mix. Milton Williams, Jordan Davis, and Jalen Carter are all expected to play significant snaps this season. The newly-signed Baun will also likely see time on the edge.

Were the Birds right to move on from Reddick? We won’t know the answer to that for months, but the Birds seem to have a plan in place.

Can we jump the gun and thank Philadelphia for embracing some offensive versatility?
The biggest concern with the Eagles’ offense last season included an uptick in turnovers and a lack of red zone efficiency. Much of that can be attributed to them being predictable on offense.

lity of the offense. A perfect example of this was when Christian McCaffrey predicted the Eagles upcoming play call to near perfection pre-snap in an Eagles Monday Night Football game versus the Seattle Seahawks, a game Philadelphia would eventually lose to backup Quarterback Drew Lock on a game-winning drive.

When rival running backs like Christian McCaffrey are beginning to call plays before they happen, you have to figure your offense is in trouble.

This was one of those wow moments that shed light on truly how predictable the Eagles were last season. Their running backs were often one-dimensional. Philly never ran any motion. Saquon Barkley’s signing adds a do-it-all tailback and one new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore will deploy.

The Eagles also signed DeVante Parker. He certainly has room to improve as a receiver. The problem is he rarely creates separation. He has produced some of the worst statistical showings in the league for four consecutive years now. He’ll look to end that view of him on a new team with a new role.

Parker has been one of the top options for the New England Patriots at wide receiver for much of the last few seasons, but by lessening his role and placing him behind A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith,he can play without the pressure.

In basketball, there’s a saying. ‘Less volume equals higher efficiency’. That may prove to be true for Parker. He has been riddled with injuries throughout his career, but he can also take pressure off of
Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert.

On the other side of the ball, the upgrades should help Vic Fangio’s unit reach the level it hoped to achieve this past season. A new day is coming. Hopefully, they’ll be no trainwreck. There’s a chance to build something special.


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