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March 15, 2019

A position-by-position look at the Eagles' biggest needs

Eagles NFL
031519HowieRoseman Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles' roster is in good shape overall under Howie Roseman, but there's still work to be done.

With the first four days of free agency in the books, perhaps now is a good time to look at the Philadelphia Eagles' biggest needs remaining, and how they are likely to address them.

First, on offense, a look at the depth chart:

 QBCarson Wentz Nate Sudfeld
  
 RBJay Ajayi Corey Clement Darren Sproles Wendell Smallwood Josh Adams / Boston Scott 
 WR1Alshon Jeffery Mike Wallace Shelton Gibson  
 WR2DeSean Jackson Mack Hollins 
 
 Slot WR Nelson Agholor 
  
 TEZach Ertz Dallas GoedertRichard RodgersJosh Perkins 
 LTJason Peters Jordan Mailata   
 LGIsaac Seumalo Chance Warmack 
  
 CJason Kelce  

 
 RGBrandon Brooks Matt Pryor (R) 
  
 RTLane Johnson Halapoulivaati Vaitai   

Quarterback

At the 2019 NFL Combine, Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman seemed to be in sync in their messaging on Nate Sudfeld, which was essentially, "We like Nate, but we're not just handing him the backup job." I'm not certain what their end game was in that messaging, but it seemed purposeful.

Pederson noted that the Eagles could bring in a veteran quarterback to compete with Sudfeld for the No. 2 spot, which led some to start perusing the list of top free agent quarterbacks, like Ryan Fitzpatrick, for example. I don't see that.

If the Eagles brought in a high-quality backup like Fitzpatrick, he's the No. 2. There's no competition, because guys like Fitzpatrick aren't cheap, and you sure as hell don't want to be paying a guy like him good money to be your No. 3 if Sudfeld beats him out.

The only way the Eagles would bring in a veteran quarterback of that caliber would be if they simply don't believe in Sudfeld, which they obviously do, seeing at they just tendered him at the second-round level.

A much more likely scenario, in my opinion, is a cheaper veteran quarterback who Sudfeld should easily be able to beat out, or a young quarterback on Day 3 of the draft to develop.

Running back

This is obviously one of the Eagles' biggest remaining needs, as they need to add multiple backs. So far, the Eagles have been quiet here in free agency, but they're in a good position to upgrade the position cheaply. A decent number of backs who make sense are still available in free agency (T.J. Yeldon, Spencer Ware, Isaiah Crowell, and Bilal Powell, for example), as well as some trade options (Jordan Howard and Duke Johnson).

There is also a dearth of teams who still need help at running back. 

While many will argue that the Eagles should have been more aggressive in landing a higher-quality back, the way it has shaken out, the Eagles should be able to let the market come to them, on a bargain. I personally think both sides to the debate have merit.

The Eagles will add a back at some point via signing or trade. Maybe two. There's really no way around it. They have to. I would also imagine that they'll draft one as well.

Wide receiver

Even after losing Golden Tate and Jordan Matthews, the Eagles should be done here. With the addition of DeSean Jackson and Mack Hollins returning from injury, the Eagles' top four receivers are set:

  1. Alshon Jeffery
  2. DeSean Jackson
  3. Nelson Agholor
  4. Mack Hollins

Maybe they'll bring in another receiver with special teams chops for depth, or they could add another receiver in the draft, but there will be nothing splashy going forward.

Tight end

This is sort of an underrated need, in my view. The Eagles do still need a third tight end with Richard Rodgers being a free agent. They could either re-sign Rodgers, or look to add another tight end, who would likely be coming in on a veteran minimum deal, so as not to mess with the compensatory pick formula.

Offensive tackle

With Jason Peters returning, there's no room left on the roster for another offensive tackle. The team already has Peters, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jordan Mailata, and Matt Pryor, who has guard-tackle versatility.

Interior offensive line

The team opted not to exercise Stefen Wisniewski's 2019 option, which made him a free agent. That move saved some money, but it also depleted some of the Eagles' offensive line depth. They are likely to sign a guard, at a minimum, but ideally a player who has guard-center versatility. That is also a strong position in the upcoming draft, which could be the Eagles' thinking.

And now, a look at the depth chart on defense:

 LDEBrandon Graham Chris Long Daeshon Hall 
 DTFletcher Cox Treyvon Hester

 DT Malik Jackson Bruce HectorHaloti Ngata 
 RDEDerek Barnett Josh Sweat  
 OLBNate Gerry L.J. Fort  
 MLB Nigel BradhamPaul Worrilow LaRoy Reynolds 
 OLB Kamu Grugier-HillD.J. Alexander
 
 CBJalen Mills Rasul Douglas
 
 SMalcolm Jenkins   Corey Graham

 S Rodney McLeodTre SullivanDeiondre' Hall 
 CBRonald Darby Avonte Maddox
 NickelSidney Jones Cre'Von LeBlanc 
 


Defensive end

The Eagles worked out a new deal with Brandon Graham, which made the team more comfortable dealing Michael Bennett. This is a position where the Eagles need to get younger, with Graham turning 31 in April and Long turning 34 in a couple weeks.

Any young edge rusher worth having is going to be too expensive on the open market, so it's more likely that the Eagles will try to add to their stable of edge rushers through the draft.

Defensive tackle

The Eagles made the obvious decision not to exercise a 2019 option on Timmy Jernigan, and they'll also say goodbye to Haloti Ngata. 

To replace Jernigan, the Eagles signed Malik Jackson, after he became a cap casualty of the Jaguars. Jackson and Fletcher Cox should form one of the best interior pass rushing duos in the NFL. Treyvon Hester is contender for the Ngata - Beau Allen role, as something of a run-stuffing specialist.

The Eagles could still use more help here. Like with defensive end above, I believe that will be during the draft.

Linebacker

You can't prioritize every position, and like it or not, the Eagles simply don't value linebackers very much. They made the right decision not to try to match a four-year, $36 million deal that Jordan Hicks received from the Cardinals, but they're now also left thin at linebacker.

They signed L.J. Fort, for depth. He'll join Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, and Paul Worrilow. They still need more help, but don't expect the team to dump valuable resources into the linebacker position.

Cornerback

The Eagles have young depth at corner, as they have drafted four cornerbacks in the last three years, all of whom will be returning to the team in 2019. They are as follows:

Year Player (Age)Round Games (starts) 
 2018Avonte Maddox (22) 13 (9) 
 2017Sidney Jones (22)10 (4) 
 2017Rasul Douglas (24)30 (12) 
 2016Jalen Mills (24)39 (25) 


They also added Cre'Von LeBlanc (24) during the season, who turned out to be one of the pleasant surprises for the 2018 Eagles, filling in at the slot corner spot.

What they don't have is an upper-echelon lock-down type of corner.

The Eagles would like to keep Ronald Darby, but he could attract a nice offer in free agency, and he is already visiting with the Kansas City Chiefs. If the Eagles lose Darby, they could look to add a corner in the draft, or try to find a bargain in a weak free agent class.

Safety

The Eagles are set at both starting safety spots, with Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod taking up significant cap space. McLeod is playing in a contract year in 2019.

To fill the No. 3 safety role, look for the Eagles to plan to address the position reasonably early in the draft, with the idea that a young player can potentially start in 2020 and beyond. If the draft comes and goes and they haven't added one, there should be a decent Band-Aid veteran still available, as the safety market has been flooded with recent cuts.

Kicker-punter-long snapper

They're fine there.


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