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March 19, 2023

Mailbag: Should the Eagles select Georgia DT Jalen Carter if he falls in the draft?

Eagles NFL
031923JalenCarter Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Georgia DT Jalen Carter

On Friday we solicited questions for an Eagles mailbag via Twitter. Thank you as always for doing half the work for me. This is Part II of a two-part mailbag (Part I here).

Question from @SteveTSRA: It's not exactly the same situation, but given what we saw happen with the Eagles after they chose to "run it back" after 2017, should we be concerned that they seem to be taking a similar philosophy with the re-signing of many veteran players this offseason?

Let's first just recap the players the Eagles gained, retained, and lost.

Players gained:

  1. QB Marcus Mariota
  2. RB Rashaad Penny
  3. CB Greedy Williams

Players retained

  1. C Jason Kelce
  2. CB James Bradberry
  3. DE Brandon Graham
  4. DT Fletcher Cox
  5. RB Boston Scott
  6. OL Brett Toth

Players lost:

  1. DT Javon Hargrave
  2. OG Isaac Seumalo
  3. LB T.J. Edwards
  4. LB Kyzir White
  5. RB Miles Sanders
  6. S Marcus Epps
  7. QB Gardner Minshew
  8. OT Andre Dillard

To begin, I don't think that "running it back" should really be viewed as a taboo strategy. The 2022 Eagles were the best team that I have ever covered. I would argue that they were significantly better than the 2017 team that won the Super Bowl. There's good reason to want to keep as many good players from that team in place. 

    What you don't want to do is overpay to keep the band toegther. One of the mistakes the Eagles made in between 2018 after they won the Super Bowl and 2020 when they went 4-11-1 was overrating/overpaying their own players. I could quibble a bit with bringing Cox back on a one-year deal worth $10 million, but otherwise I think the Eagles did not allow sentimentality guide their decisions, and they let some key players walk rather than try to match or beat what they were offered on the open market.

    They have lost eight players so far. If they haven't lost more players than any other team in the NFL, they're pretty close. And yet, they will still be returning their eight most important offensive starters, and the basic core of their defense.

    The four big re-signings they made were Kelce, Bradberry, Graham, and Cox. 

    Kelce: It's hard to imagine anyone would have a problem with him returning.
    Bradberry: He signed for a very team-friendly deal that is only $12.7 million per year.
    Graham: He got a one-year deal worth "up to" $6 million.
    Cox: I think this was the one example of the Eagles overrating one of their own players, though it's worth noting that the defensive tackle market was expensive across the board.

    Kelce, Bradberry, and Graham were all no-brainers at their respective price tags, in my opinion. Meanwhile, they were willing to bring players in from the outside, who will directly replace departing players:

    • Penny replaces Sanders.
    • Mariota replaces Minshew.

    Overall, I think they found a nice balance of retaining crucial players, opting not to overpay some departing players, and finding a few outside players at low costs to fill in some of their holes.

    Question from @Lepe02: If Jalen Carter slipped to pick No. 10 do you run to the podium? If he falls to pick 7 or 8, would you consider a small trade up?

    Carter was at one point regarded by many as the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft. However, his stock has taken several hits over the past few months. 

    • Late in December, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said on the air that Carter had some character concerns, as transcribed by USA Today

    "With Carter, there are some character issues. Does he get along with everybody. What’s he like to deal with in the locker room, those sorts of issues. I know it’s early in the process, but I’m forewarning everybody out there. Carter is going to be a hot-button name when we talk about some of the intangible aspects of it...

    “That will be the big discussion. It’s not about his talent, his size or his explosive take off or finishing as a pass rusher, it’s about the character and do we want to bring that guy into the building.”

    • In January, Carter was at the scene of a crash in which teammate Devin Willock and recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy were killed. He misled prosecutors about his whereabouts when the incident occurred, and later left the NFL Combine to go back to Georgia, where he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing. He received a year of probation, plus a small fine and community service. A longer summary of the situation can be found here.

    • In March, he had an ugly performance at Georgia's pro day during which he came in about 10 pounds heavier than expected, and he looked gassed running through drills, shown here:

    As a result of all of the above, Carter will probably be the most heavily scrutinized player in the draft this year, and the Eagles will no doubt do thorough research on him.

    That will be a job for Dom DiSandro, the team's chief security officer. It is also interesting to me that the Eagles brought in Georgia co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann in to interview for their then-vacant defensive coordinator job a few weeks ago. I imagine Carter's name came up during that interview. The Eagles can also perhaps get some insights from Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean, who both played with Carter at Georgia. But certainly, they'll leave no stones unturned.

    Every player drafted in the top 10 has talent. The busts tend to lack the mental makeup to succeed in the NFL. The possibility of getting the most gifted prospect in the draft at pick 10 is highly intriguing, but not exactly a slam dunk.

    If Carter "only" had the misdemeanor chargers but no other concerns, then yes, I think you just take him at 10, and maybe even trade up. However, the ugly pro day is concerning, and might (?) confirm McShay's reporting of concerns beyond the tragic car crash. Without having the benefit of knowing what the Eagles have found so far in their due diligence, I really have no idea if he's worth that selection. 🤷‍♂️

    My apologies if this was an unsatisfying non-answer.

    Question from @ndutton13: Is this draft a good time to look into possible successors for Lane Johnson? Given the QB demand there may be some good tackle options assuming Howie stays at 10 (which we’d be foolish to bank on).

    After losing Isaac Seumalo and Andre Dillard in free agency, the offensive line depth chart now looks something like this:.

     LTJordan Mailata Roderick Johnson Jarrid Williams 
     LGLandon Dickerson Sua Opeta Julian Good-Jones
     CJason Kelce Brett Toth Cameron Tom
     RGCam Jurgens Tyrese Robinson
     RTLane Johnson Jack Driscoll
    Fred Johnson

    Driscoll is probably the first guy off the bench if any of the five starters above go down. Beyond him, Opeta and Toth have appeared in some games for the Eagles, but I wouldn't quite consider them ideal depth. The Eagles have a need for more depth in the short-term and long-term starter replacements both at RG and RT.

    If you take an offensive lineman in the first round, you might be redshirting him. At 10 (or a small trade back), the menu of players probably includes Northwestern's Peter Skoronkski, Ohio State's Paris Johnson, Tennessee's Darnell Wright, or Georgia's Broderick Jones. At 30 (or a small trade up, you're looking at Wright, Jones, Ohio State's Dawand Jones, North Dakota State's Cody Mauch, or Florida's O'Cyrus Torrance.

    In other words, there are a lot of options. As we know, the Eagles build in the trenches, first and foremost. A first-round offensive lineman would be boring, but logical and unsurprising.

    Question from @yourpalCJ: How do you think Milton Williams will do stepping into a bigger role this year?

    The Eagles are going to need Williams, Jordan Davis, Cam Jurgens, and Nakobe Dean to step up in 2023. Of that group, I'm least concerned about Williams, who started slowly in 2022, but flashed in almost every game down the stretch. 

    On a low snap count, Williams had 36 tackles (9 for loss), 4 sacks, and 2 batted passes. A comparison between him, Javon Hargrave, and Fletcher Cox last season on a sack per pass rush snap basis:

    2022 Eagles DTs Sacks Pass rush snaps Pass rush snaps per sack 
    Javon Hargrave 11 453 41.2 
    Milton Williams 233 58.3 
    Fletcher Cox 452 64.6 

    Williams is still only 23. He'll turn 24 in April, and he'll be younger than many of the players who are selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. I think he has a good chance of making a leap this season.

    Question from @SnapesOnAPlane4: Have comp picks landed where you thought for the Eagles? I expected a few higher. Is that just because of James Bradberry resigning and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson not signing anywhere yet?

    As of right now, the Eagles are projected to receive an extra 3, 5, 5, and 6 in 2024 for the players they lost in free agency. I expected that the Eagles were going to lose Bradberry, who I thought would qualify for a fourth-round pick. But otherwise, the comp pick return is about what should have been expected.

    If you include projected comp picks, the Eagles have 12 picks in the 2024 draft. 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6. Detailed here.

    Question from @DanzMike: Do you see the Eagles trading any of those future picks to have more shots in the 2023 draft?

    Trading 2024 picks to add value in 2023 makes sense on the surface, however, most teams value current year picks significantly higher than future year picks (wrongfully, in my opinion). That is a market inefficiency that the Eagles have taken advantage of the last couple of years.

    The rebuttal to that thinking is that 12 rookies can't possibly make the roster in 2024, which is a valid point. However, those picks can be used in a number of different ways in which they can still have good value:

    1. They can be used to move up in the 2024 draft.
    2. They can be traded for surplus picks in 2025, keeping a steady stream of robust draft capital rolling in.
    3. They can be dealt for a veteran player at the 2023 trade deadline if the team looks like they might be Super Bowl contenders once again.

    That said, I wouldn't completely rule it out if they're allocated toward a player they really love in the 2023 draft.

    Question from @___marz: Do you think the Eagles trade Quez Watkins?

    Watkins earned a "player performance escalator" bump in pay for reaching playing time benchmarks. His 2023 cap number is now $2,785,415. The Eagles may not want to pay him that, so if there is interest in Watkins from around the league, yeah, I think they'd be open to moving him.

    Question from @nzect24: For the nerds/sickos: Can you please explain how exactly void years work and the pros/cons of kicking the can down the road and not just swallowing the pill for a season?

    I recently discovered that Giants fans are very sensitive about folks questioning their team's decision to release James Bradberry last offseason. They did not like this tweet, which was really a statement of fact more than some sort of "take."

    I intend on writing something soon about how the Eagles utilize void years, and the Giants don't. And I'm kinda looking forward to it. 😈

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