More Sports:

February 25, 2023

Eagles stay or go: Defensive tackle

Now that the Philadelphia Eagles' 2022 season is over (a little later than usual), we'll be taking a position-by-position look at which players will likely be back with the team in 2023, and which ones likely won't. Today we'll look at the defensive tackles.

Regarding the polls below, they are your votes on what you think the Eagles should do, not necessarily what you think they will do. Please think of them more as approval polls for each player.

Previous stay or go articles
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end
 Offensive tackle | Interior offensive line

Fletcher Cox

In an otherwise stellar offseason by Howie Roseman and the Eagles' front office, one mistake was signing Cox to a one-year deal worth $14 million. Cox is an Eagles all-time great, however, he had his worst year as a pro in 2021, when he had 35 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles in 16 games, often appearing disinterested and griping about his role in the scheme. While he did play harder and was more disruptive on the field during the back half of that season, it's hard to imagine how the team felt that a valuation of $14 million was reasonable.

In 2022, Cox had better stats (43 tackles, 7 sacks) than the previous year, but he never truly felt like an impact player, and it has become pretty easy to see that he is a player in decline. 

#JimmyVerdict: Cox doesn't strike me as a "hometown discount" kind of guy. If he doesn't have interest in playing on a bargain deal, it should be time for the organization to finally realize that Cox is not close to the elite player he once was, and allow him to move on to another team to finish out his career. Go.

Eagles stay or go: Fletcher Cox

Javon Hargrave

Hargrave was a star in 2022, racking up 60 tackles and 11 sacks. Those 11 sacks were impressive:

Voters found Hargrave's season unworthy of Pro Bowl honors, evidently. There's perhaps a fair argument to make that while Hargrave will make an occasional play in the backfield in the run game, he is not a great run stuffer.

Hargrave's contract voided on February 20, and whether he returns to the team or not his previous contract will count for $11,956,000 on the 2023 salary cap in dead money. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year, and he is certain to attract lucrative offers. 

#JimmyVerdict: Here is a look at the highest paid interior defensive linemen in the NFL, via OverTheCap


The unknown with Hargrave is at what point will the Eagles choose not to match other offers from around the league. If I had to guess, I would say that line of demarcation is around $17 million per season. The Eagles have proven that (a) they value interior defensive linemen more than most teams, and (b) they often overvalue their own players (Cox being Exhibit A). With only mild confidence, I'll say stay.

Eagles stay or go: Javon Hargrave

Milton Williams

Williams' second year in the NFL got off to a slow start, but during the back half of the season he seemed to make an impressive play or two in every game. He finished the season with 36 tackles (9 for loss), 4 sacks, and 2 batted passes on just 395 snaps. By comparison, Cox and Hargrave were each up over 700 snaps apiece.

#JimmyVerdict: When we get into our Eagles player profiles this offseason, Williams will be a player I look forward to watching. The Eagles are going to lose multiple interior defensive linemen this offseason, and the Eagles will be counting on Williams to make a jump from Year 2 to Year 3. Stay.

Eagles stay or go: Milton Williams

Jordan Davis

Through the first seven games of the season, Davis had meager stats (14 tackles, 1 batted pass), but he was effective in clogging up running lanes in the middle of the defense. He was averaging 22 snaps per game, almost solely as a nose tackle, when he was carted off with an ankle injury against the Steelers Week 8, landing him on injured reserve. In that Steelers game, the Eagles seemed to expand Davis' role, allowing him to play additional positions, thus getting him on the field with more personnel groups. 

During Davis' absence, the Eagles signed Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh to bolster their interior defensive line depth. Joseph made an immediate impact on the Eagles' run defense and became the No. 1 early down, run-stuffing nose tackle. After returning from injured reserve, Davis saw fewer snaps.

When the Eagles drafted Davis, there was optimism that he could have an immediate impact on the Eagles' defense. That didn't happen. As such, it is fair to say that he had a disappointing rookie season. It is also fair to note, however, that interior defensive linemen often take years to blossom into impact players. The following are the four players who made the NFL All-Pro team this season, and what their rookie stats were:

  1. Chris Jones, Chiefs (37th overall pick, 2016): 28 tackles, 2 sacks
  2. Quinnen Williams, Jets (3rd overall pick, 2019): 28 tackles, 2.5 sacks
  3. Jeffery Simmons, Titans (19th overall pick, 2019): 32 tackles, 2 sacks
  4. Dexter Lawrence, Giants (17th overall pick, 2019): 38 tackles, 2.5 sacks

That would be a combined 126 tackles and nine sacks in their rookie seasons. In 2022, those guys combined for 221 tackles and 42.5 sacks.

My belief is that Davis is going to be a good player. His blend of size, power, and athleticism is extremely rare, and we saw throughout training camp that he can do things that players his size should not be able to do. Davis is a smart kid who loves to play, and while he lost playing time to Joseph, there was a lot to learn this season from vets like Cox, Hargrave, Joseph, and Suh. At that position it typically takes some time to grow as a player, and it certainly didn't help that he suffered an injury at a time that he was beginning to build some momentum.

#JimmyVerdict: Davis became something of an afterthought during his rookie season, but the Eagles will be counting on him to make a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2. If he cannot, that would be a troubling development for this player in whom the Eagles invested hefty resources. But obviously the Eagles will give him ample time to blossom into an impact player. Stay.

Eagles stay or go: Jordan Davis

Linval Joseph

The Eagles signed the 6'4, 329-pound, 34-year-old Joseph prior to Week 11, and he immediately helped fortify a leaky Eagles run defense. However, his snap counts trailed off significantly in the postseason, as he only played 10 snaps in each of the Eagles' three playoff games, making one tackle as well as one heads up fumble recovery in the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers.

#JimmyVerdict: If Joseph plays again in 2023, it will likely be in a similar "help a contender that needs extra iDL bodies" role deep into the season, but he will not be part of the Eagles' plans heading into next season. Go.

Eagles stay or go: Linval Joseph

Ndamukong Suh

Like Joseph, Suh arrived in Philly prior to Week 11, however, he was a somewhat less impactful player, making 10 tackles and 1 sack in 8 games. He did save his best performance of the season for the NFC Championship Game, when he registered 2 QB hits, one of which knocked Josh Johnson out of the game. 

#JimmyVerdict: Again, the 36-year-old Suh likely won't be part of the Eagles' plans in 2023, as he will probably play the "skip the sucky parts of the NFL calendar" game if he decides to continue to play at all. Go.

Eagles stay or go: Ndamukong Suh

Marlon Tuipulotu

Tuipulotu had a quiet training camp in 2021 and a rough preseason as a rookie. During the 2021 regular season, he only appeared in 5 games and made 5 tackles. Entering 2022 training camp, Tuipulotu was far from a lock to make the initial 53-man roster, but he emphatically stamped his ticket, as he was arguably the most improved player on the team in camp. 

He showed quickness that he previously did not appear to possess to go along with his natural power, and there was hope that he could be the backup nose tackle behind Jordan Davis, allowing guys like Cox, Hargrave, and Williams to rush the passer from alignments that they think are more fun to play.

However, Tuipulotu struggled playing the nose during the regular season, and he tore his meniscus Week 10 against Washington, ending his season.

#JimmyVerdict: Tuipulotu needs to have another strong camp to give the Eagles hope that he can be a valuable rotational player along the defensive line, but it may not be at nose tackle. He has a good chance of sticking on the roster in 2023, as, again, the Eagles will be losing interior defensive linemen. Stay.

Eagles stay or go: Marlon Tuipulotu

Follow Jimmy & PhillyVoice on Twitter: @JimmyKempski | thePhillyVoice

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports

Add Jimmy's RSS feed to your feed reader