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March 12, 2019

Grading the Eagles' first day of (sort of) free agency

On Monday, the NFL opened its "legal tampering" phase of free agency, after "illegal-but-accepted tampering" has already been been going on for weeks. The Philadelphia Eagles were busy.

Let's take a look at what the Birds did, and assign arbitrary grades to each move, shall we?

Eagles agree to terms with DT Malik Jackson

Jackson was set to count for $15 million on the Jaguars' cap in 2019, and with Jacksonville being strapped for cash, they made an obvious decision to let him go. The Eagles capitalized by signing Jackson to a reported three-year deal worth $30 million.

With Timmy Jernigan walking in free agency, the Eagles were very thin at defensive tackle after Fletcher Cox. The only two other DTs on the roster were Treyvon Hester and Bruce Hector. The team badly needed help there, and they found a disruptive player in Jackson, who has 18 sacks over the last three seasons.

While $10 million per season is perhaps a tad pricey, Jackson is a player who can make you pay if you try to single-block him on passing downs, and he should get plenty of those opportunities in Philly's defense playing next to Cox. In today's NFL, an effective way to slow down some of the high-powered offenses in this league is to create pressure up the middle in the quarterback's face, and the Eagles now have one of the best 1-2 punches at defensive tackle in the NFL.

As a bonus, because Jackson was released, he will not count toward the compensatory pick formula, so he will not cancel out any players the Eagles lose in free agency.

Grade: B+

Eagles trade for DeSean Jackson

First, the details of the trade:

Eagles get Buccaneers get 
 DeSean JacksonEagles 6th round pick in 2019 
 Buccaneers 7th round pick in 2020 

Jackson is a perfect fit for the Eagles offense, and the Birds barely had to give anything up to get him. 

Jackson remains a premier deep threat in the NFL, as he is still only 32 years old, and has more TD scores of 60+ yards (24 of them) than any player in NFL history. His mere presence should open up the short-to-intermediate passing game for guys like Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Dallas Goedert, as well as having a positive effect on the run game. And if the defense cheats up, then Jackson still has the wheels to take the top off the defense, like the Eagles saw for themselves last year in Tampa.

The Eagles are now loaded with potent weapons in the passing game.

Grade: A-

The Eagles re-worked a deal to keep Jason Peters in Philly in 2019

By bringing Peters back at a lower rate, the Eagles accomplished three things:

  1. They will not be forced to start Halapoulivaati Vaitai in 2019.
  2. They won't have to reach for an offensive tackle early in the draft.
  3. They'll give Jordan Mailata another year to develop behind the scenes.

Peters started all 18 games in 2019, but he missed at least one snap in 11 of them. In total he played about 80 percent of the snaps. Will he be able to stay on the field more being another year removed from his ACL tear, or will his missed time accelerate? That's to be determined.

Normally, I would not advocate for a starting left tackle to return to the team at (potentially) $10 million if his ability to finish games was a serious concern. However, the Eagles are uniquely positioned to handle that contingency, seeing as Vaitai now has plenty of experience filling in for Peters on the fly, which is typically not an easy thing to do.

Peters is still an above average starting left tackle now making well below average starting left tackle money, and he allows the Eagles to put off finding his long-term successor for one more year.

Grade: B+

Eagles expected to let Stefen Wisniewski walk in free agency

The Eagles have a March 12 deadline to pick up a $3,708,334 option on Wisniewski for 2019. The belief here previously was that the team would retain Wisniewski, considering that Brandon Brooks may not be ready for the start of the season. Perhaps one way to look at this decision is that the Eagles may feel comfortable with the way that Brandon Brooks is progressing from his torn Achilles.

The Eagles are not cutting Wisniewski. They are simply choosing not to pick up an option for 2019. As such, Wisniewski will count toward the compensatory pick formula if another team signs him to a contract big enough to qualify.

The Eagles will have more money to spend in free agency, but they will also need to replace Wisniewski, who was a quality interior offensive line backup, capable of starting when needed.

There are a lot of quality interior offensive linemen who should be available in the second round of this upcoming draft. The bet here is that the Eagles will look to add one there.

Grade: B-

Eagles to place second-round restricted free agent tender on QB Nate Sudfeld

No-brainer, for all the reasons noted here.

Grade: We'll give a "satisfactory" grade here, like you used to get in gym class.

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