March 09, 2021
It feels as though every single day, this offseason, Eagles fans are waking up to another new storyline about their team. A Zach Ertz trade is imminent. Big name stars are re-structuring their deals, signaling the Eagles aren't as big a garbage fire as we thought. They have a starting quarterback. And so on.
Just how many of these are true signals of what to expect of the team's offseason strategy and which are false flags is impossible to determine, but after having seen Howie Roseman at his worst, there is little doubt the Eagles GM is working aggressively to make people forget about the horrible disaster that was the last two years in Carson Wentz-land.
NFL free agency begins next week, and the draft is a month after that. There will be plenty of things for Eagles fans to look forward to in the near term. Which is where we'll begin the latest edition of What They're Saying, as we breakdown some of the best takes from Eagles writers across the internet.
The Eagles have.... a lot of needs. And heading into the draft a month and a half from now, they'll likely be drafting for need quite a bit, looking to add receivers, pass rushers, and perhaps a quarterback or offensive linemen. But, with free agency preceding the draft, the Eagles will have the opportunity to upgrade their roster on the open market. The team is actively shedding cash left and right to try and make a little room for signing new players when the new league year begins next week. And, according to Zach Berman at The Athletic, their biggest need in free agency may not be the one you would think of first:
1. Safety: One of the Eagles’ starters is an unrestricted free agent (Jalen Mills) and the other tore his ACL in December (Rodney McLeod). Unless the franchise is going to build the middle of its secondary around K’Von Wallace and Marcus Epps, this is a position it must address. Philadelphia had a four-year run from 2016 through 2019 during which it didn’t need to worry about the top of the depth chart at the position, knowing that Malcolm Jenkins and McLeod were the starters. They tried a Band-Aid approach last season with Mills on a one-year deal and thought they would get two seasons out of McLeod. They’re back seeking help at the position.
Current depth chart: Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills (UFA), K’Von Wallace, Marcus Epps, Rudy Ford (UFA), Elijah Riley, Blake Countess [The Athletic]
NFL coaches like it when they know their players, and often times that means bringing those players to them. We've seen it in Philadelphia before, with Jim Schwartz bringing in some guys he coached on defense prior to being Eagles defensive coordinator — and with Chip Kelly bringing in, well, a ton of Pac 12 guys when he was head coach here. There is no reason to believe that new Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni, and his defensive coordinator, running backs coach, tight ends coach and others won't target some of Indianapolis' pending free agents.
Over at BGN, Brandon Gowton looks at some of these potential signings, from Jacoby Brissett to T.Y. Hilton to Xavier Rhodes and others, and we recommend you take a look. Here's one interesting signing, a tandem running back partner for Miles Sanders:
RB Marlon Mack
Mack might find a limited market this offseason despite only recently turning 25 and having a good track record of production. The 2017 fourth-round pick (taken ahead of Donnel Pumphrey, natch) is coming off an Achilles injury that limited him to just four carries in 2020. Mack is an intriguing buy-low candidate since he boasts 4.5 yards per attempt on 572 career carries. Miles Sanders and Mack could form a nice backfield duo. Singleton knows the latter from spending the 2017 season as Indy’s running backs coach. The guess here is Mack finds more opportunity elsewhere. [Bleeding Green Nation]
A report came out a few days ago that surprised many — implying there was a big market and a bidding war over Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who is a player most expect the team to part ways with. There is no way, right now at least, to tell if this is just some kind of strategic leak to try and drum up interest (like the one that failed prior to Carson Wentz' trade) or if it is actually legit. However, media outlets that cover other teams are taking the bait.
Acquiring Ertz would be a short-term solution that would take some free cap space and some draft picks in exchange. Fortunately for the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick has all of those at his disposal right now.
The Patriots right now are in dire need of tight end help and are in excellent position to make moves in terms of salary cap this offseason. With other teams strapped for cash, the Patriots could maneuver in a trade market that’s less competitive than normal to try and cash-in on one of the league’s best receiving tight ends. [MassLive]
Although he’s 30 years old and there was some concern over his production last year, Ertz fits both the schematic and financial profile the Bills should be looking for in a tight end this offseason. He is a longtime, highly productive player, and his dip in receiving statistics likely had more to do with Carson Wentz’s abysmal play than the tight end. It seemed like there were a lot of potential yards left on the field due to bad reads or throws. Ertz also has worked in two tight end systems before and has the versatility to play in numerous spots, allowing the Bills to run more 12 personnel in 2021. [The Athletic]
The Ravens aren’t exactly flush with money themselves thanks largely to the expected drop in the salary cap for the first time in over a decade. Trading for Ertz would make quite a bit of sense for Baltimore — he’d just have a $8.5 million base salary, according to Over The Cap, far less than what a top wide receiver would command in free agency. The problem is that Ertz is a relatively unknown commodity after having a down 2020 campaign. [Ravens Wire]
Do any of these articles (there are a bunch of others too) mean anything definitively? Of course not. But if NFL writers can talk themselves into it, perhaps NFL executives can too. And that would be good for the Eagles, who need to get younger, get salary relief and perhaps add some draft capital.
We've already looked at mock drafts across the internet, and many of them have the Eagles taking either Ja'Marr Chase or DeVonta Smith at six-overall. And many don't. But, if you ask NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., the wide receivers are a no-brainer for the Eagles, should either remain on the board when they pick. Here's more from ESPN's maven, via Mike Kaye at NJ.com:
While the Eagles selected Jalen Reagor in the first round of last year’s draft, Roseman and the front office might want to add another playmaker to the mix for Hurts. Reagor and Chase would complement each others’ strengths, while Smith would help Reagor stretch the field even further.
“To me, DeVonta (and) Ja’Marr, you’re splitting hairs there,” Kiper said. “DeVonta was inside/outside. Ja’Marr had that one great year. He’s so physical, he’s a talented kid.”
While Kiper believes Smith and Chase would be slam-dunk selections for the Eagles, he also thinks Philadelphia could select a wide receiver later on in the draft if Roseman decides to go in another direction with the sixth overall pick. [NJ.com]
And finally, in the wake of the monster news of Dak Prescott's four year, $160 million deal to quarterback the Dallas Cowboys, a little perspective that may help Eagles fans through the day. Yes, they are the only team in the NFC East right now with an actual franchise quarterback, and yes, it would be hard not to see them as big favorites in the division (+100 according to Unibet, four times the +400 odds of the Eagles). But this is Dallas. Do you really think it will work out well for them?
Dallas is going to be on a sliding scale where Dak’s contract looks like this, according to both Spotrac and Over the Cap:
2021: $22.2 million, 10.7% of salary cap
2022: $33.2 million, 14.6% of salary cap
2023: $44.2 million, 18.3% of salary cap
2024: $47.2 million, 18.7% of salary cap
There are two void years to provide some relief, and again, the cap will likely increase, but that’s still a lot of money rolled up in one guy, and it’s not like the Cowboys are chock full of depth across the roster. That offensive line isn’t as good as it was a couple of years ago. Zeke Elliott and Jaylon Smith are not who they used to be. DeMarcus Lawrence isn’t getting any younger. The defense totally stinks and the new coaching staff left a lot to be desired in 2020. They are going to have to draft well, identify talent properly, and find value in the margins. They’ll have to restructure contracts and kick money into the future, the same way Roseman did with the Eagles over the last two seasons. And with Jerry Jones in the picture, there’s always the possibility that his meddling and/or fixation on a specific player will throw a wrench into an already-complicated process.
Dallas definitely is not in “cap hell,” but there’s just not a lot of room for error. They need help in the secondary, bodies on both lines, and depth in a lot of places. With Dak eating up more of the pie in future years, that restricts resources for other positions, naturally. [Crossing Broad]
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