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January 06, 2020

Ranking the Eagles' 2020 offseason needs from most glaring to most stable

The Philadelphia Eagles have suffered an inordinate number of injuries over the last three seasons, and yet still managed to win a Super Bowl (2017), make an "elite 8' appearance (2018), and win the NFC East (2019). 

They are ahead of most NFL teams in that they have a franchise quarterback and some good surrounding pieces, but they also have quite a few glaring needs that must be filled this upcoming offseason. And so, let's take an initial look at the Birds' biggest needs.

1) Wide receiver

There is a decent argument that cornerback is the most glaring need, but for me, it's wide receiver. 

• DeSean Jackson will probably return to the team in 2020. If he does, the team cannot view him as a player they can rely on from week to week, because of his age and injury history.

• The team should be doing everything they can to trade Alshon Jeffery so that the painful dead money hit he leaves in his wake is minimized. If that means that Jeffery is shipped out along with an asset such as a draft pick in order to coax another team to take on his bad contract, then that option should be on the table. But he has to go.

• Nelson Agholor very likely played his last game as an Eagle. The team needs to move on.

• J.J. Arcega-Whiteside cost a second-round pick, but he did not show enough to be viewed as some kind of long-term answer. If the Eagles are honest about their evaluation of his first year in Philly, anything that he gives them going forward should be viewed as a bonus, not an expectation.

• All the practice squad guys were a great story, and they'll all be competing for roster spots next training camp, but none of them can be viewed as an answer.

And so, the team needs to find multiple starters, whether that be in free agency (where the pickings are slim), or through trades. They need veteran pass catchers who can contribute positively in 2020, and then on top of that, the 2020 NFL Draft is going to be loaded at the wide receiver position, where the Eagles would also be smart to invest premium resources.

2) Cornerback

They're just not good enough at corner. At one time the corner position was viewed as maybe "a bunch of No. 2's, but no one real 'lockdown' type of guy." That seemed fine for a roster that was otherwise thought to be stacked, but I'm not sure they even have a legitimate No. 2. Jalen Mills is probably the closest thing to that, and the unfortunate reality is that his price tag as a free agent might actually become costly this offseason. 

This is a position where the Eagles are highly likely to have to overpay a player in the free agent market, and again, with Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas having shown to be disappointing second- and third-round picks from the 2017 draft, they'll need to draft another corner as well.

3) Defensive tackle

The Eagles looked like they might be stacked at DT heading into the season, with Fletcher Cox being the star player, Malik Jackson an established pass rushing complement, Timmy Jernigan a No. 3 with some upside, depending on his health, and trade acquisition Hassan Ridgeway.

And then then they weren't. 

• Jackson's season was over before it ever really got started.

• Jernigan showed some flashes late, but his season as a whole was quite unproductive.

• Ridgeway looked like a nice find, but he went on IR after just 7 games.

If the Eagles want to be a defense that gets pressure on the quarterback without the aid of blitzers, they need two good, dependable defensive tackles, and they can really only be sure about one right now.

4) Interior offensive line

At some point soon Jason Kelce is going to retire, so the Eagles either need to have a player ready to step in at center when that happens, or have a LG ready to start if they view Isaac Seumalo as the center of the future.

5) Safety

Malcolm Jenkins said on Monday that he isn't playing for the Eagles in 2020 under his current contract, so the Eagles are going to have to either move on or give him a new deal. The guess here is that he'll get a new deal, especially considering he hasn't missed a snap since 2017, and has proven to be the one true constant in the Eagles' defense.

Meanwhile, Rodney McLeod will be a free agent, and his price tag could be higher than you'd think, but the bet here is that he returns.

If Jenkins or McLeod are gone, the Eagles' need for a safety becomes more obvious, but even if they both stay, the Eagles could use a young No. 3 safety, who might even be closer to a starter in a scenario in which Jenkins takes on more linebacker-type responsibilities. That safety could then develop into a long-term starter. 

6) Defensive end

The Eagles love Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett, and Josh Sweat took a step forward this season, but the Eagles pretty much need to constantly reload here, again, if they want to be a team that is going to create pressure without the aid of blitzing.

7) Offensive tackle

As long as Andre Dillard pans out, then the Eagles are set for the long-term with Dillard at LT and Lane Johnson at RT. With Halapoulivaati Vaitai potentially moving on, the Eagles will likely need a swing tackle.

8) Linebacker

Yes, I know. "You should have linebacker higher, Jimmy." Perhaps, but that's just not how the Eagles build their roster. If Nigel Bradham comes back at a reduced rate, the Eagles need to fortify their linebacker spot with some depth, but I think we can all acknowledge at this point that they simply aren't going to dump significant resources into the linebacker position. If the Eagles decline an option on Bradham and he subsequently leaves in free agency, then we'll move this up the list.

9) Running back

The Eagles have found a really talented back in Miles Sanders, and they should be able to bring Jordan Howard back on a cheap deal if they like what he did when he was healthy in 2019, as it's unlikely that he'll draw major interest elsewhere. Beyond Sanders and Howard, Boston Scott looks like an acceptable RB3/RB4, but they could certainly use another young back to add to the mix, given the injury rate at that position.

10) Quarterback

Before the start of the season, it looked like the backup job was Nate Sudfeld's, but then he broke his wrist in the preseason, and the Eagles signed Josh McCown. If McCown retires and/or the Eagles don't believe in either guy as the No. 2 in 2020, they'll need to add a veteran backup. If one of Sudfeld or McCown is back, then a Day 3 developmental quarterback would make sense, but whoever stood on the table for Clayton Thorson should be locked in the closet during all quarterback prospect discussions.

11) Tight end

The Eagles have the best 1-2 tight end combo in the NFL. They're unlikely to use a valuable resource on a No. 3, and will probably add a player on a veteran minimum deal.

12) Kicker / punter / long snapper

They're fine there.

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