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February 15, 2019

The draft or free agency: Where are the Eagles likely to improve each position this offseason?

Eagles NFL
021519DeSeanJackson James Lang/USA TODAY Sports

This article isn't about the Eagles adding DeSean Jackson, but if you clicked on it thinking that it was, got 'eem.

The Philadelphia Eagles have fewer needs than most teams around the NFL, and yet, an argument could be made that they need help at every position on the roster, aside from kicker, punter, and long snapper.

Here we'll take a look at whether the team is more likely to address each position in free agency, the draft, or both.

Quarterback

I've seen some wonder if the Eagles could perhaps look to bring in a veteran quarterback to replace Nick Foles as Carson Wentz's backup. I don't see that, since good backup quarterbacks are expensive, and I believe the team fully believes in Nate Sudfeld to take on that role in 2019. If anything, I can see the Eagles selecting a developmental quarterback on the third day of the draft (rounds 4-7) to groom for the future. 

#JimmyVerdict: Draft, if anything.

Running back

The Eagles need to add multiple running backs this offseason. Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, and Darren Sproles are not the answer, obviously, and even if he re-signs with the team, Jay Ajayi's legs cannot be trusted. 

There are a number of good running back options available in free agency, and while this draft class isn't as appealing as some running back classes of recent years, it still has some pretty good backs. I believe that running back is a likely position where the Eagles will spend some money on a player in free agency. That doesn't mean they'll be going after Le'Veon Bell, to be clear, but I do think they'll open up their wallets to a smaller degree for a rotational back with an appealing skill set. 

#JimmyVerdict: Both free agency and the draft. A trade for a running back would make some sense as well, as many teams are loaded up with running back depth.

Wide receiver

There are some downfield threats available in free agency who would fit nicely into an Eagles offense that desperately needs to add some speed, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the Eagles add a player there, like they do pretty much every offseason. I also wouldn't be surprised to see them add a player in the draft, considering they haven't gotten much from their two 2017 wide receiver draftees, Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson.

#JimmyVerdict: Both free agency and the draft. Or again, like running back, a trade for a wide receiver might make sense as well.

Tight end

This is obviously a low-priority position, as the Eagles only need a third tight end. It's a solid bet that the team simply re-signs Richard Rodgers to be that guy. It should be noted, however, that if the team moves in the direction of using a lot more two-TE sets with Zach Ertz and and Dallas Goedert being as good as they are, maybe it would make sense for the team to carry four tight ends?

#JimmyVerdict: Free agency, but only to re-sign Rodgers, or a guy on a veteran-minimum deal who won't count toward the comp pick formula. The draft is possible too, but no sooner than Day 3.

Offensive line

Last offseason, offensive linemen got stupid money on the open market. The Giants' Nate Solder, for example, became the highest-paid offensive lineman in league history, despite clearly being the worst starting LT in the division at the time, by a sizable margin. I don't expect that to change this offseason. The Eagles have a very good offensive line as is, and won't need to pay any in free agency, though it would certainly make sense for them to continue to add to the offensive line pipeline through the draft to eventually replace aging vets like Jason Peters and Jason Kelce.

#JimmyVerdict: Draft.


MORE: Three free agents who make sense for the Eagles, version 2.0


Defensive end

We've been saying for months that defensive end is the biggest offseason need for the Eagles, seeing as Brandon Graham is set to hit the open market, while Michael Bennett and Chris Long are nearing the ends of their careers. The Eagles have to add a good edge rusher in the 2019 NFL Draft, and hey, it just so happens that Howie Roseman thinks that this defensive line class could be "historic."

#JimmyVerdict: Draft.

Defensive tackle

It's a little early to predict how the Eagles will attack the defensive tackle spot, pending the outcome of Timmy Jernigan's status with the team. If Jernigan and the Eagles can work out a restructuring (cough, pay cut) of his deal, then Jernigan could stay, and defensive tackle would be less of a need, especially with Treyvon Hester playing good run defense down the stretch as well.

#JimmyVerdict: If Jernigan stays, the Eagles could just add a guy in the draft. If he's gone, I think the Eagles would have to look for low-cost veteran depth, and then also a guy in the draft.

Linebacker

The upcoming free agent linebacker group is ugly. It's C.J. Mosley, who is expected to re-sign with the Ravens, and then a bunch of injury-risk guys, like Jordan Hicks, Denzel Perryman, and Kwon Alexander. Hicks could certainly return on a one-year "prove it" deal, and I think the Eagles would prefer that. Otherwise, I think it's more likely they add one in the draft.

#JimmyVerdict: Draft.

Cornerback

Corner has curiously been a popular position for the Eagles to address in many a mock draft this offseason, which frankly doesn't make much sense, seeing as they have five cheap, young corners with some upside (in some cases) in Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, and Cre'Von LeBlanc.

I could certainly see the Birds adding a corner on Day 2 or 3 of the draft, but with a finite amount of cap space, it's unlikely that they'll spend on what is always a very expensive position in free agency.

#JimmyVerdict: Draft.

Safety

With Rodney McLeod returning in 2019, the Eagles are set at both starting spots at safety. However, McLeod is set to become a free agent in 2020, and Malcolm Jenkins isn't getting any younger. Tre Sullivan got a bunch of snaps down the stretch last season and Avonte Maddox showed that he can play some safety, but the Eagles still need to add youth to this position. I don't think a veteran addition (like Corey Graham the last two seasons) makes sense this offseason like in may have in 2017 or 2018.

#JimmyVerdict: Draft.


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