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March 10, 2022

Projecting what the Eagles’ free agents will make in free agency, and their compensatory pick values

Eagles NFL
154_11032019_EaglesvsBears_Derek_Barnett_KateFrese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

It's always him.

The Philadelphia Eagles won't be bigtime spenders in free agency this offseason, but they should be actively trying to find value players on the open market. They also won't be losing any players in free agency that will make anyone lose sleep. 

Here are the Eagles' pending free agents, and what they are likely to find on the open market.

Unrestricted free agents

DE Derek Barnett (25)

While he contributed as a rookie during the Eagles' Super Bowl run in 2017, in Barnett's first four seasons in the NFL (from 2017-2020), he had just 19.5 sacks, a number that falls short of reasonable expectations of a guy picked 14th overall.

Some of Barnett's lack of production was attributed to injuries, as he missed 10 games in 2018, two games in 2019, and three games in 2020. He also probably wasn't 100 percent in many of the games he played those seasons.

In 2021, his first truly healthy season in years, Barnett had eight penalties and 2.5 sacks.

And yet, he's probably going to get at least a decent payday in free agency? Why?

  1. He's still only 25 years old.
  2. He plays a premium position.
  3. There aren't many great edge rusher options in free agency.
  4. There are plenty of stupid teams out there.

Projected Payday: 3 years, $27 million.

S Rodney McLeod (31)

Both McLeod and Anthony Harris, the Eagles' two starting safeties in 2021, are unrestricted free agents. The Eagles are highly unlikely to bring both back, but if they bring back one them, my bet is that it's McLeod, who became the leader of the defense after the departure of Malcolm Jenkins.

In 2019, the Eagles gave up more pass plays of 40+ yards than any team in the league, and McLeod, coming off a 2018 ACL tear, was at least partly culpable for his share of those big plays allowed. He bounced back in 2020, and looked faster than he was in 2019, being another year removed from his injury. After tearing another ACL at the tail end of the 2020 season, there were questions heading into 2021 as to whether McLeod would be ready for the start of the season, and even if so, will he look like the slower 2019 version again?

McLeod responded in 2021 with a solid season, making 58 tackles, two INTs (including a game-sealing pick against Washington), and four pass breakups, albeit in a defense in which the safeties had easier responsibilities than they did under Jim Schwartz.

Projected payday: 1 year, $4 million, likely from the Eagles.

S Anthony Harris (30)

If McLeod is indeed back, Harris will likely be looking for a new team in 2022 after a solid-but-unspectacular season in 2021. He may linger on the market for a bit before he eventually becomes some other team's "Plan C or D."

Projected payday: 1 year, $3.5 million.

CB Steven Nelson (29)

After signing a three-year, $25.5 million deal with the Steelers in 2019, Nelson was released by Pittsburgh a week after free agency began last offseason. He didn't find any offers that he felt were suitable, so he sat on the open market until July, eventually signing with the Eagles on a one-year deal worth $4 million. Nelson made sense to the Eagles as a Band-Aid who could fill a glaring hole in the defense. The Eagles made sense to Nelson because it was a place that he could start in the hopes of cashing in again in 2022 free agency. 

Nelson was a decent starter for the Eagles in 2021, making 50 tackles, with 7 pass breakups and an INT. At a minimum, he didn't want to make you throw your TV remote at the television like many Eagles CB2's of yesteryear.

I think the Eagles would be open to bringing Nelson back, but he is eager to hit the open market in 2022 after he likely felt that he played at a bargain bin price in 2021. He won't break the bank by any stretch, but he should get a modest raise from his $4 million price tag in 2021.

Projected payday: 1 year, $6 million.

DE Ryan Kerrigan (33)

When the Eagles signed Kerrigan during the offseason, the fit was kind of odd, in that he was a 33-year-old edge rusher joining a team that was not going to contend for a Super Bowl. However, he was inexpensive enough (1-year contract, $2.5 million) that the signing was justifiable.

During the season, it became clear that Kerrigan was washed. He played 330 snaps during the regular season, making just three (!) tackles and no sacks. In the playoff game against the Bucs, he turned into Khalil Mack for the day, picking on backup RT Josh Wells, and collecting 1.5 sacks. Maybe someone saw that game and was impressed?

Projected payday: 1 year, $2.5 million, if he wants to continue to play.

RB Jordan Howard (27)

Howard began the 2021 season on the Eagles' practice squad, but after Sanders landed on injured reserve with an ankle injury suffered against the Raiders, Howard became the primary running back, and he responded with four consecutive strong performances in Sanders' absence.

Howard suffered a knee injury during the Eagles' win over the Saints. He returned to the lineup after missing a couple of games before suffering a stinger in the Eagles' win over the Giants. He was mostly ineffective thereafter. On the season, Howard rushed 86 times for 406 yards and 3 TDs. He was not a factor in the passing game, catching 2 passes for 19 yards.

Howard wasn't a big play threat, but he did a great job of seeing openings and running hard through them. He kept the Eagles on schedule on early downs, and he was able to pick up first downs in short yardage situations. Howard's success was probably a product of the dominant offensive line blocking in front of him. On another team he may not have been as effective. Nevertheless, his style worked in the Eagles' offense.

Maybe the Eagles will sign him back to the team at the conclusion of the draft, if they haven't added a running back in free agency or the draft?

Projected payday: Veteran minimum.

LB Genard Avery (26)

When Howie Roseman traded the Eagles' 2021 fourth round pick for Avery at the 2019 trade deadline, it didn't make much sense then, and it hasn't aged well. Jim Schwartz had little use for Avery in 2019 or 2020, but Avery stuck on the roster, likely because Roseman wanted it to work. In 2021, under Gannon, Avery found a home at the SAM linebacker spot, where he struggled both in run support and in coverage, with his pass rushing ability not making up for those deficiencies.

Projected payday: Fresh start elsewhere at something close to the veteran minimum.

DT Hassan Ridgeway (27)

Ridgeway seems to keep finding his way back onto the Eagles' roster each year. The Eagles won't be in any rush to bring Ridgeway back early on this offseason, but if they don't address the position in free agency or the draft, they could bring him back closer to training camp.

Projected payday: Minimum.

TE Jason Croom (28)

I don't have any Jason Croom analysis that is worth your time. Sorry. 

Projected payday: Invite to camp somewhere at the minimum.

Restricted free agents

The short explanation on restricted free agents are that they are players who have expiring contracts, but only three accrued seasons in the NFL. The Eagles have the option of tendering a qualifying offer to each of the below players at a few different levels. 

If another team were to sign any of the below players to an offer sheet, the Eagles would have a chance to match that offer, or allow him to sign with the other team, gaining a draft pick in the corresponding round with which they tendered him. The higher the draft round the Eagles tender him at, the higher the cost his 2022 contract will be if he doesn't get any offers elsewhere. Here are the tender amounts, via OverTheCap:

 Right of first refusal$2,433,000 

The Eagles will very clearly not be tendering any of the below players at the first- or second-round levels.

iOL Nate Herbig (23)

For a guy who has been a third stringer in each of the last two seasons, Herbig has played a hell of a lot of snaps. In fact, in 2020 and 2021 combined, Herbig played 1,493 snaps, third-most among Eagles offensive linemen. 

The Eagles have tried to bring Herbig along as a backup center, but he is much more comfortable at guard, and has been able to play both sides for the Eagles.

Projected payday: I view Herbig as likely to be tendered at the low tender amount ($2.4 million).

RB Boston Scott (26)

Scott seemed poised to have a role in the Eagles' offense from the start of the season, but interestingly he didn't get a carry until Sanders left with his ankle injury against the Raiders Week 7.

He finished with 87 carries for 373 yards (4.3 YPC) and 7 TDs. He also had 13 catches for 83 yards.

Like Howard, Scott was effective during the four-game stretch that Sanders was on injured reserve. With both Sanders and Howard out against the Giants Week 12, Scott got his best opportunity of the season to produce, but with a six-point deficit near the end of regulation, he lost a fumble that may have cost him playing time down the stretch.

The bet here is that the Eagles will view $2,433,000 as a little too rich for their blood for a projected No. 3 or No. 4 running back, though they would probably like to have Scott back on a less expensive deal.

Projected payday: Something in between the minimum and the low tender amount.

WR Greg Ward (26)

Ward is a good story and a true professional, and I'm sure the coaching staff likes him, but the Eagles should not tender him at $2.4 million. I could see Ward landing in Jacksonville with Doug Pederson or back with the Eagles on a reduced rate.

Projected payday: Something in between the minimum and the low tender amount.

LB Alex Singleton (28)

This may come as a surprise to some, but Singleton finished 13th in the NFL with 137 tackles. He also missed 20 tackles, according to, and he struggled in coverage.

On the one hand, Singleton probably isn't worth $2.4 million on the cap. On the other hand, he has at least been a competent backup. 

Projected payday: Something in between the minimum and the low tender amount.

Exclusive rights free agents

CB Andre Chachere (26) is an exclusive rights free agent. What's an exclusive rights free agent, Jimmy? The short-short version is that they are players with two or fewer accrued seasons whose contracts have expired. If their current team tenders them, they cannot negotiate contracts with other teams, and their current team can retain their rights while paying them a small amount of money on a one-year contract. Assuming Chachere earns an accrued season in 2022, he'll be restricted free agent in 2022.

Compensatory pick #analysis

If my above projections are correct, then the Eagles could have three departing players who qualify toward the compensatory pick formula in Barnett, Nelson, and Harris. The player with the best chance of qualifying for a worthwhile compensatory pick is Barnett, who could sign a contract somewhere in the fifth-round level.

However, comp picks are only awarded for the number of qualifying players lost minus the number of qualifying players gained.

The Eagles are still working their way through an unhealthy salary cap, so they won't be going buck wild in free agency this offseason. However, they're also not just going to sit on the sidelines either. Because they are likely to sign at least three qualifying free agents, it's unlikely that they will have more qualifying players lost than gained. As such, I wouldn't worry about compensatory picks this offseason.

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