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November 14, 2021

Eagles mailbag: What will the eventual free agent markets look like for Miles Sanders and Derek Barnett?

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Miles-Sanders_010620_Kate-Frese Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Eagles running back Miles Sanders.

In our Eagles chat on Wednesday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow, as well as some commonly asked questions on Twitter and via email.

Question from Bo Wulf is more handsome than you: People keep saying the Eagles won't sign Miles Sanders to a big contract. Looking at the success of the Eagles' run game without him, will he even get a big contract? He is a good runner, but is injury prone and somehow no longer is a good pass catching back. I get the feeling whenever the Eagles go to re-sign Sanders they can get him on a cheap short term prove it deal.

The NFL seems to have realized that running backs aren't valuable commodities on the free agent market. Here's a list of the biggest running back contracts in each of the last five years:

 YearPlayer Years / Money AAV 
 2021Kenyan Drake, Raiders 2 / $11 million $5,500,000 
 2020Melvin Gordon, Broncos 2 / $16 million $8,000,000 
 2019LeVeon Bell, Jets 4 / $52 million $13,125,000 
2018Jerick McKinnon, 49ers 4 / $30 million $7,500,000 
 2017Latavius Murray 3 / $15 million $5,000,000 

The Bell signing was obviously dumb, but when you consider again that these were highest running back contracts handed out in their respective years, it's clear that the RB market is cold.

Sanders is scheduled to become a free agent in 2023. So are Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, David Montgomery, Kareem Hunt, Kenyan Drake, Alexander Mattison, Damien Harris, and Tony Pollard, among others. If that free agency year is flooded with good running back options, then yes, Sanders could find a soft market, which would make a return more affordable if the Eagles wanted to bring him back.

Question from Bird Gang: In terms of years and money, what kind of contract do you think someone is going to give Derek Barnett? If no one gives him what he wants, would you bring him back on a 1 year "prove it" deal?

I think it'll be a major disappointment if the Eagles don't land an edge rusher this offseason to replace Barnett. 

Back in our "Eagles stay or go" series this offseason, we identified Shaq Lawson as the best comparison for Barnett in terms of market value. Lawson was the 19th overall pick in the 2016 draft, the year before Barnett. He had 16.5 sacks for Buffalo his first four seasons (compared with 19.5 for Barnett), with 6.5 in his fourth and final season in Buffalo 2019. In 2020 free agency, Lawson got a three year deal from the Dolphins worth $30 million.

I would bet the Barnett will get something in that ballpark, even after a bad season in 2021. Edge rushers simply get paid free agency. If he does indeed get that kind of money, the Eagles should absolutely let him walk.

Question from Sterling: What's up with Barnett? More precisely why are the Eagles keeping him on the field? I understand Howie has a habit of having the coach to play his first-round picks so as to not look foolish, but at this point the ship has sailed. He's become an obvious detriment to this team. Wouldn't it be prudent to just bench him at this point regardless of his first-round status?

They can't just bench him outright, because who are you replacing him with? Ryan Kerrigan? Tarron Jackson?

I do think that Josh Sweat should be the primary rusher off the right side. He's part of the Eagles' future. Barnett may not be. Those snaps should be going to Sweat, who can actually, you know, get to the quarterback. Let Barnett play the out of position role that Sweat has been saddled with all season. 

Question from Hinkie: In my mind the question of whether Hurts is a franchise guy has already been answered, and it's a resounding no. Great guy, never going to be a top level QB. Look at what Justin Herbert did on Sunday. Hurts could never, ever, in a million years do that against an NFL defense. And there are better QBs than Herbert, and he has similar starting experience as Hurts. Do you think the front office has made their conclusion one way or the other yet, or are we truly still in the evaluation phase?

I also think that they have already decided that Hurts will not be their chosen starter in 2022 and beyond. It's noteworthy that Howie Roseman was sniffing around a couple of college quarterbacks on Thursday, when he reportedly attended the Pittsburgh - North Carolina game, featuring Kenny Pickett and Sam Howell. It is not Roseman's M.O. to travel to college games to personally scout quarterbacks.

Question from greenwithenvy: Do we really have to suffer through a third year before we can conclude that Jalen Reagor's "bust" should be in the Roseman Hall of Shame?

Yes. I mean, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is still on the team. 

Reagor still has some value, at least as a returner, so they're not just going to give him away. 

By the way, Justin Jefferson's rookie season wasn't a fluke. He's on pace for 98 catches for 1343 yards and 9 TDs.

Question from Guido Ochoa: Can Jack Driscoll be a permanent starter in the future considering his versatility?

Yes, Driscoll has filled in nicely at RG in Brandon Brooks' absence. He could start on most teams, in my opinion, given the disastrous states of NFL offensive lines. I think that at a minimum, with his guard/tackle versatility, he has given the Eagles some flexibility not to feel like they have to address the offensive line with premium draft resources next offseason.

If a blue chip prospect falls into their lap, fine. Take him. If not, no need to force it.

Question from Cakes: Do you think there is an advantage to the Eagles not boarding any more flights the rest of the season after this trip to Denver?

Actually, I do. Just speaking from personal experience, road games have a definite effect on my time on the weeks preceding and following road trips, especially long ones across the country. And I'm just a writer. I do think that the extremely easy travel schedule the rest of this season is an advantage. Unfortunately, it'll be too late if the team is traveling home from Denver at 3-7.

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