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March 30, 2023

Eagles free agency grade roundup

Now that we're a few weeks removed from the start of NFL free agency, let's take a look around and see how some of the national media types graded the Philadelphia Eagles.

(We gave them a B, in case you missed that.)

Football Outsiders: C

Improved Roster: D-
Used Resources Well: B
Coherent Plan: A-
Overall Grade: C

Kevin Cole, formerly of Pro Football Focus, keeps a tally of what he calls his Offseason Improvement Index over on his new Unexpected Points substack. He has the Eagles as the team with the biggest decline this offseason when you combine roster moves and upcoming draft value. And yet, I still think the Eagles went into this offseason with a coherent plan and made good moves. They were just stuck with a lot of free-agent talent and there was no way they could keep it all.

Let's talk first about who the Eagles kept. They managed to sign Darius Slay to a new extension when it was rumored that he would be a cap casualty. They re-signed James Bradberry, meaning both starting cornerbacks will return. They also re-signed some of their older but still useful players: Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox, and Brandon Graham are all running it back.

They also lost a lot. But the Eagles have a plan and should be able to fill some of the departures with 2022 rookies. They were prepared for this. Jordan Davis moves into the starting lineup to replace Javon Hargrave at defensive tackle. Cam Jurgens, who is still Jason Kelce's heir apparent, can also play guard for a year to replace Isaac Seumalo. Nakobe Dean replaces either Kyzir White or T.J. Edwards. C.J. Gardner-Johnson's departure may be the biggest problem.

The Eagles haven't added many players. Rashaad Penny replaces Miles Sanders, which is nice if Penny can stay healthy because he has always had nice metrics. If. The Eagles are near the bottom of the league in cap space—technically they were still negative as of Tuesday -- so they probably won't be adding many players in late free agency either.

#JimmySays: There's no arguing that the roster is worse now than it was a few weeks ago, but as noted the Eagles did have a plan in place for their expected losses. I'll quibble a bit with the suggestion that loss of Gardner-Johnson is the biggest problem. The Eagles don't have an immediate successor in place at safety, but his actual abilities are more replaceable than Hargrave's.

On a side note, I like that Football Outsiders grades it several different ways (resources used, coherent plan, etc.).


The NFC Champion Eagles have locked down their offensive and defensive heartbeats for the 2023 season in center Jason Kelce and defensive end Brandon Graham. Kelce, who was considering retirement, is now back for another year after having the second-lowest pressure rate allowed in the entire NFL in 2022, 1.2%, among players with 500 or more pass-blocking snaps. Graham totaled a career-high 11.0 sacks in 2022, so getting his presence back for on and off field purposes was critical. Even better news is that Second-Team All-Pro cornerback James Bradberry decided to take less money and stay in Philadelphia on a three-year, $38 million deal that can reach $44 million with incentives. The 2022 NFL leader in passer rating allowed (44.5) remains with the E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles. Franchise legend, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, also took less money to remain in Philadelphia, coming back on a one-year, $10 million pact. Momentarily released Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay also re-signed on a three-year, $42 million contract. Making the Super Bowl is helpful to retain key veterans, who knew? 

However, losing Pro Bowl defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to the NFC runner-up San Francisco 49ers is a huge blow plus Philadelphia also lost linebacker T.J. Edwards to the Bears and safety Marcus Epps to the Raiders. Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson could also join [also joined] the list of former Eagles defensive starters playing for new teams in 2023. The Eagles' foundational elements remain the same, but there will some turnover in the starting lineup in 2023. 

#JimmySays: While the Eagles' roster is inarguably worse, they were able to keep a lot more key pieces than anticipated, and they did so in many cases at a discount. Hargrave was really the only major loss at a position the Eagles prioritize.


Rashaad Penny — Penny operating behind this Eagles offensive line is a perfect fit, with the former first-rounder set to feast on early downs as a strong downhill runner. Among running backs with at least 100 carries from 2021 to 2022, Penny’s 6.2 yards per carry and 4.4 yards after contact per attempt both lead the NFL, and his 0.23 missed tackles forced per carry ranks 11th. He may not be a three-down player, but this is a picture-perfect marriage.

James Bradberry — Bradberry was a salary cap casualty of the New York Giants after the 2021 season and turned his one-year flier with the rival Philadelphia Eagles into a strong three-year deal after earning second-team All-Pro honors and an 80.2 coverage grade.

Fletcher Cox — Cox was one of the most dominant players on the defensive interior between 2014 and 2019, producing a 92.7 PFF grade that trailed only Aaron Donald and J.J. Watt over that span. His PFF grade has declined every year since 2018, though, and he put up career lows in overall grade (60.2) and run-defense grade (53.5) in 2022.

#JimmySays: I don't much like referencing PFF's flawed player grades, but I agree with their view of Cox as a clearly declining player who did not have a very good season in 2022, despite his 7 sacks.

SportingNews: B-

The Eagles tried to minimize the defensive damage by keeping Graham and Cox and the corners with Hargrave's departure and the loss at linebacker around second-year player Nakobe Dean. But they knew there would be some lumps to take.

#JimmySays: Final GPA of the four media outlets above: 2.75.

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