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January 13, 2023

Mailbag: Who are the Eagles' franchise tag candidates?

Eagles NFL
101722ChaunceyGardnerJohnson Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Eagles S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

In our Eagles chat on Tuesday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow, as well as some commonly asked questions on Twitter and via email. This will be Part I of a two-part mailbag.

Question from TheGhostOfNormVanBrocklin: Are any of the Eagles' scheduled free agents franchise tag candidates? I could personally see them tagging Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.

The Eagles last used the franchise tag way back in 2012, on DeSean Jackson. They had previously used it on Jeremiah Trotter (2002), Corey Simon (2005), L.J. Smith (2008), David Akers (transition tag, 2011), and Michael Vick (2011). You can take a trip down memory lane on how the franchise tag worked out with those players, via the Eagles' website.

The Eagles typically prioritize early contract extensions for players that they believe will be part of their core, long-term. During the 2021 season, they got extensions done with TE Dallas Goedert, LT Jordan Mailata, DE Josh Sweat, and CB Avonte Maddox. Curiously, they have not done any in-season extensions in 2022, despite having a long list of players scheduled to hit the open market in two months.

Here are the Eagles' most notable tag-eligible upcoming free agents, in order of percentage of snaps played:

  1. S Marcus Epps
  2. CB James Bradberry
  3. RG Isaac Seumalo
  4. LB T.J. Edwards
  5. LB Kyzir White
  6. S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
  7. DT Fletcher Cox
  8. DT Javon Hargrave
  9. RB Miles Sanders

And here are the projected franchise tag amounts, via

Position Projected franchise tag 
QB $32,445,000 
LB $20,945,000 
WR $19,762,000 
DE $19,744,000 
DT $18,954,000 
OL $18,261,000 
CB $18,155,000 
TE $11,356,000 
RB $10,100,000 
ST $5,398,000 

Epps, Bradberry, Seumalo, Edwards, and Cox are all good players that the Eagles would probably like to keep, but they are not worth the franchise tag amounts noted above. You can eliminate them from the conversation.

The three players that are at least debatable are Sanders, Hargrave, and Gardner-Johnson. Let's tackle each of them individually:

Miles Sanders: Sanders had his most productive year of his career in 2022, rushing 259 times for 1,269 yards (4.9 YPC) and 11 TDs, earning a Pro Bowl nod along the way. On the downside, he was not an efficient receiver, catching 20 passes for 78 yards (3.9 YPC), 0 TDs, and only two first downs, and there are probably legitimate questions as to whether he would have the same success on the ground absent an elite run-blocking offensive line and a running quarterback who takes defensive attention away from him. A look at the average annual values of the top running back contracts, via OverTheCap:


As you can see, there are three backs in the top tier, at or above $15 million per season, with five players in the next tier, at or above $12 million, and then it falls off sharply thereafter. Sanders and his representation could very well look at that list and ask for something north of $12 million, seeing as he outgained all the "at least $12 million club" players except Henry and Chubb. He's unlikely to get it, particularly because it's going to be a buyer's market at the running back position this offseason:

A tag price of $10,100,000 isn't going to completely wreck the salary cap, but there are likely to be better ways to allocate resources at that position.

DT Javon Hargrave: The Eagles place a high priority on their interior defensive line, as evidenced by their spending on Cox and Hargrave, as well as their trade up for Jordan Davis in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. 

Hargrave will turn 30 in February, but he just had his best season and is in his prime, having racked up 11 sacks in 2022, and 7.5 in 2021. Only Chris Jones and Cameron Heyward have more sacks among NFL defensive tackles over the last two seasons. Despite a ridiculous Pro Bowl snub, Hargrave has begun to get some national attention for his impact play, as Gregg Rosenthal of recently ranked him as the fourth most appealing 2023 free agent in the league.

S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson: And yep, as noted in the question, Gardner-Johnson would make some sense as well. The Saints traded Gardner-Johnson to Philly in part because they could not agree to a contract extension, and the bet here is that the franchise tag would be unwelcomed by Gardner-Johnson, as it is for many players. Expect the Eagles to work toward a contract extension, and if they can't get one done prior to the start of free agency, $14,472,000 is a reasonable enough figure to keep Gardner-Johnson from hitting the open market while the team continues to work toward a long-term deal. 

Question from Norm Snead: Rank the Eagles' potential divisional round opponents from easiest to hardest to beat: 1. Seahawks 2. Giants 3. Bucs 4. Cowboys.

That's the order. I'll cover that in a little more depth in our rooting guide scheduled for tomorrow morning.

Question from RKotite: Who is the player, not team, that should scare the Eagles the most on the NFC playoff teams? Who presents the worst individual matchup or has the highest "He single handedly carrier them to victory over us" factor?

Part of the equation for the answer I’ll give is whether or not Hurts gets back to something close to full strength and can be the true dual threat that he was before he got hurt. If so, I think a guy like Fred Warner could neutralize Hurts’ effectiveness as a runner.

And then, of course, if Lane Johnson is mostly unencumbered by his sports hernia, then you don't worry as much about edge rushers like Micah Parsons or Nick Bosa, but they become major concerns if Johnson can't play.

Question from This league is nuts: Is DeVonta Smith the most polished receiver the Eagles have ever had? Everything is just so smooth and clean. Totally impressed with that guy.

I think Jason Avant is up there. He had to be a great route runner with hands of glue to stick in the league as long as he did because he wasn’t blessed with good athleticism. Polish was sort of his game. DeVonta is on that same level, except he is significantly faster with excellent body control, and he can win on the outside. I think it was clear from his time at Alabama that he just knew what he was doing, and it has carried over into the NFL.

Question from JemTheRocker: Which Eagles player(s) do you think gets traded between the start of the offseason and the final day of the draft?

That’s a question that hasn’t been on my radar at all, because there are none. In past years, I could easily point to Zach Ertz, Andre Dillard, Jalen Reagor, etc., but there are no logical players who could be on the trade block this offseason, at least as it stands right now.

Question from Jimmy poop: Which do you prefer and why? The unstructured posting of stories during the offseason which provides more time for creativity, or the structured posting of stories during the season when things are more timely and scheduled?

In-season, you are correct that I follow a pattern.

• Sunday: Rooting guide and 10 awards (game recap)
• Monday: Snap counts
• Tuesday: Hierarchy (look around at the other NFC teams)
• Wednesday: Matchups (a look at the upcoming opponent) and injuries.
• Thursday: Picks
• Friday: Mailbag
• Saturday: Prospects

Those are the baseline "make sure I have something published early every day" scheduled posts, with some flexibility to move stuff around as needed. And then on top of that I'll cover most of the news stories, and whatever other stuff I want to get to, time permitting. The headlines on the scheduled posts might be boring, but I feel like I can write creatively within the structure of them, so they don't really get boring for me. The only one that's limiting creatively is injuries.

During the offseason, particularly in May and June, there are times when I'll wake up and stare blankly at my computer for a few hours before I come up with a story idea. That's never fun. However, on days in which I have an idea planned, I can usually bang that out in a couple hours and have the rest of the day to myself.

The sweet spot, work-wise, is February to early May. There are plenty of writing topics with free agency, the draft, etc., but I can also have a life on the side.

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