April 08, 2023
Are power rankings completely dumb and meaningless? Yes. Yes, they are. However, personally speaking, whenever I see them, I click. And now that I've sucked you in with promises of many power rankings, you'll read it and like it.
Here's where people have the Birds ranked after the meaty part of free agency. Oh, and here's our version of these sellout rankings, too.
The defense will look very different after five of the nine Eagles who played at least 700 defensive snaps in 2022 (per Pro Football Focus) defected in free agency, the latest being Chauncey Gardner-Johnson to the Lions. Fortunately, the defending conference champs avoided a full-on roster purge: Center Jason Kelce re-upped after announcing he's putting off retirement for another year; cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry are back on new deals; and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox apparently turned down at least one bigger outside offer to return to Philly. Is a monster extension for Jalen Hurts on its way? Both team and player seem motivated to get a deal done.
#JimmySays: Javon Hargrave aside, the Eagles lost the least important parts of their defense, and as noted here, their elite offense most stayed intact.
Top under-the-radar move: Signing quarterback Marcus Mariota
This is an organization that won its only Super Bowl championship with backup Nick Foles, forever affirming its philosophy to invest in the No. 1 backup QB. And when you have a starting quarterback who runs the ball -- Jalen Hurts ranks second in QB contacts (375) since the start of the 2021 season -- the risk of injury goes up, making it all the more important to have a solid option behind him. Mariota has started 74 games and is capable of steering the ship for a stretch should Hurts miss time with injury, as he has each of the past two seasons.
#JimmySays: I wondered if anyone would have the 49ers ahead of the Eagles in the power rankings, and ESPN does. Am I missing where the Niners found a quarterback?
Every move the Eagles have made this offseason has been defensible given their cap constraints and the looming extension for Jalen Hurts. It’s also fair to point out that the five biggest guarantees they’ve given out have been to players who will be 30, 32, 32, 35 and 35 next season. Four of those five (James Bradberry, Darius Slay, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham) play on defense, where the team is also undergoing a scheme change under new coordinator Sean Desai. Regression was probably already coming on that side of the ball, given the turnover luck and health of a unit that finished sixth in defensive DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average). Good thing the Eagles’ path to Super Bowl relevancy rests on maintaining an elite offense, where the only roster changes of significance (aside from Brian Johnson replacing Shane Steichen as offensive coordinator) are Miles Sanders’ departure and 2022 second-round pick Cam Jurgens likely taking over Isaac Seumalo’s former job at right guard. Hurts, an elite offensive line and one of the league’s best trio of pass catchers is enough to make them NFC favorites.
#JimmySays: The new deals for Jason Kelce, Bradberry, Slay, and Graham all make sense in a vacuum (less so with Cox, in my opinion), but it is indeed fair to point out that in the aggregate the roster is aging, and the possibility of several of those players experiencing sharp declines in 2023 exists.
• Biggest loss: LB T.J. Edwards
• Biggest gain: QB Marcus Mariota
The Eagles' free-agency moves resulted in a lot of dead cap — the second-most in the league, to be exact.
While replacing running back Miles Sanders with Rashaad Penny is not exactly a like-for-like swap, Penny is a good fit for Philadelphia and appears 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.
The loss of safety Marcus Epps will be felt in terms of run defense, but they have a solid safety group to make up for it.
#JimmySays: I'm guessing T.J. Edwards had a better PFF grade than Javon Hargrave, so he was a bigger loss. (Checks their grades)... yep.
Like ESPN, PFF has the 49ers ahead of the Eagles. In their writeup, the first sentence is, "The biggest question for the 49ers is who their starting quarterback will be." Is that not kind of a big deal?!?
It costs money to stay at the top. Cap-strapped Philadelphia was gutted in free agency, losing several notable starters like T.J. Edwards, Javon Hargrave, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson to teams with more plentiful checkbooks. But the special Jalen Hurts is still the quarterback. And Pro Bowl/All-Pro talents like A.J. Brown, Jason Kelce, and Darius Slay are still around. The defending NFC champs aren’t going anywhere.
#JimmySays: And Lane Johnson, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, Jordan Mailata, Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, etc. etc.
As cool as it is that the Eagles kept a lot of their best players somehow, their best players were Fletcher Cox (32), Brandon Graham (turning 35 in a few weeks) Jason Kelce (35) and Darius Slay (32). They also lost both their offensive and defensive coordinators. This is my way of rationalizing a small drop despite an active offseason thus far.
#JimmySays: Once again, the Niners are ahead of the Eagles here. Am I crazy for not seeing how that team is better?
And sure, the Eagles lost both coordinators, though it's probably worth noting that their defensive coordinator sucked against teams with good quarterbacks. The Niners lost DeMeco Ryans! And while we're on that topic, while the Niners added Hargrave, they also lost a slew of free agents:
If the season started today (it doesn't) the right side of the Niners' offensive line would be Colton McKivitz at RT, Spencer Burford at RG, and Jake Brendel at C. That's not good. Their offensive line is a way bigger concern than whatever concerns the Eagles have at, saaayyy, linebacker or safety. And the Eagles are scheduled to make four picks (10, 30, 62, 94) before the Niners make their first pick at 99th overall.
Seriously, what am I missing?
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