September 01, 2017
The Philadelphia Eagles will cut their roster down to 53 players on Saturday, and this year was far tougher for me than in 2016, when we got 51 of 53 players right, in addition to six of the 10 practice squad guys. That's not happening again. Here's who we project to make the final 53-man roster this year (inactive Week 1 players in red).
Quarterback (2): Carson Wentz, Nick Foles
The Eagles have nine days to decide if they need to sign an extra quarterback if Nick Foles' sore elbow continues to be uncooperative. For now, they'll keep two quarterbacks.
Running back (4): LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey
My apologies, Corey Clement fans. Yes, Clement outplayed Donnel Pumphrey in training camp and the preseason. Unfortunately, he is a not-that-fast running back who struggles catching the football. Those guys are a dime a dozen. He's practice squad material all the way.
Pumphrey is a fourth-round pick that the team traded up for. They're not cutting him.
Wide receiver (5): Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Marcus Johnson
In previous versions, we had seven wide receivers making the team, but the Eagles aren't likely to keep more than five because there are too many key players they almost have to keep elsewhere.
Tight end (4): Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton, Billy Brown
There's a good chance that Brent Celek and/or Trey Burton won't be back with the team in 2018, so tight end may be among next offseason's biggest needs. Billy Brown looked smooth catching the football all throughout camp, and was a better blocker than anticipated after converting to tight end from wide receiver. He's promising enough of a player to make the 53-man roster on the premise that the team can groom him for 2018 and beyond.
Offensive line (10): Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Stefen Wisniewski, Dillon Gordon, Taylor Hart, Dallas Thomas
Chance Warmack is a guard who only plays guard. Is that OK if you're a starter? Sure. As a reserve, that's not very valuable. Add in that Warmack has been outplayed by Dallas Thomas, who also has tackle versatility, and the decision here is pretty simple. Certainly, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland could be a wildcard here, as he and Warmack have strong ties, but there's really little justification on keeping him over Thomas.
Additionally, Doug Pederson noted that Taylor Hart was pushing Dillon Gordon for a roster spot. I'm keeping them both. The Eagles do love them some OL depth. Maybe they deal one of them after final cutdowns.
Defensive line (10): Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Chris Long, Steven Means, Beau Allen, Destiny Vaeao, Elijah Qualls
The defensive ends are set at five after Steven Means signed a one-year contract extension. It'll be tough for Alex McCalister to crack the final 53 as a sixth end.
At defensive tackle, Justin Hamilton had a better camp than Elijah Qualls, but no team is poaching a guy who has never played a snap in the NFL and is on his fourth team. The Eagles can safely add him to the practice squad.
Linebacker (6): Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks, Najee Goode, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Joe Walker
All along in our 53-man projections, we've had Najee Goode getting cut, then added to the squad after Week 1, when his salary wouldn't be guaranteed for the season. I don't think the Eagles will screw around with all that this year. Just keep him and secure your linebacker depth.
With Nate Gerry suffering a hamstring injury, the Eagles could decide to put him on IR, which I think they'll do.
Cornerback (4): Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Rasul Douglas
The fifth corner spot is an interesting battle, with Dexter McDougle, C.J. Smith, and Aaron Grymes all vying for a spot. With Smith and Grymes safely landing on the practice squad in the past, the Eagles should feel good about both players clearing waivers. Meanwhile, I did not love what I saw from McDougle in the final preseason game.
So, you know what? No fifth corner.
With Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, and Jaylen Watkins all having cornerback versatility, the Eagles can feel a little better about only keeping four corners on the final 53, with Smith and Grymes waiting to be called up if need be.
Safety (5): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, Jaylen Watkins, Chris Maragos
The trade of Terrence Brooks opened up a spot for Jaylen Watkins, who has corner versatility.
Specialists (3): Caleb Sturgis, Donnie Jones, Rick Lovato
There has been speculation that Donnie Jones could be cut in favor of undrafted free agent rookie Cameron Johnston. That's crazy to me. To begin, even if Johnston outperformed Donnie in camp (he didn't), cutting Donnie would result in a cap hit of $875K.
Now, if the Eagles really like Johnston, think he can be the team's punter for the next decade, and don't want to lose him, then maybe you entertain a trade of Donnie if anyone is interested.
But to take a cap hit of almost a million bucks to keep a lesser player seems nuts.
NFI (Non-football injury list): CB Sidney Jones
Practice squad (10): QB Dane Evans, RB Corey Clement, WR Greg Ward, WR Shelton Gibson, OL Aaron Neary, DE Alex McCalister, DT Justin Hamilton, LB Don Cherry, CB C.J. Smith, CB Aaron Grymes
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