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February 23, 2022

Ranking the Eagles' 2022 offseason needs from most glaring to most stable

Eagles NFL
Jalen-Hurts-Howie-Roseman_121320_usat Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Hurts is Howie Roseman's guy... until someone better becomes available.

Over the last few weeks, we took a look at the Philadelphia Eagles' positional groups, and decided which players should stay, and which ones should go. Now that we have completed that exercise, we'll rank their offseason needs from most glaring to most stable.

1) Edge rusher

The Eagles had 29 sacks in 2021, second worst in the NFL. Of that total, only 10.5 of them came from edge rushers. There were 14 individual players last season who had at least 10.5 sacks in 2021. Brandon Graham will return next season, and he'll help improve the Eagles' edge rush, but he's not a long-term answer as he'll turn 34 in April. All the Eagles have in terms of long-term pieces on the edge is Josh Sweat, who still has to prove that he can be a consistent disruptor. 

We're not just limiting this category to "defensive end," by the way. The Eagles need edge players who can get to the quarterback, whether that be in the Graham role in Jonathan Gannon's defense, the more traditional edge defender role that was wasted on Derek Barnett in 2021, or the SAM linebacker role that wasn't often used last season because the best option was Genard Avery.

2) Quarterback

Jalen Hurts may very well be the Eagles' QB1 in 2022, but it won't be because he left no doubt during the 2021 season that he is the definitive answer at quarterback. While Hurts has athletic ability and positive intangibles, he is also a very flawed passer, which is kind of a big deal in modern football. Can he improve drastically in that area going forward? Eh. He can still get better, but it's highly unlikely he'll ever be in the same ballpark as the league's elite passers.

If Hurts has to return as the Eagles' starting quarterback in 2022 because all other options are too cost prohibitive, it won't be the worst outcome, but it also shouldn't be "Plan A." If the Eagles can improve the quarterback position, whether that be by landing a top tier veteran like Russell Wilson via trade, or selecting a quarterback with more upside than Hurts in the draft, they should aggressively pursue those opportunities.

3) Linebacker

When you look at the Eagles' linebackers individually you can make an argument that five of them — T.J. Edwards, Davion Taylor, Alex Singleton, Shaun Bradley, and Patrick Johnson — should remain on the team in 2022. And yet, as always, linebacker remains a major need.

Is this finally the year the Eagles will take one in the first round? It does feel more likely than in previous drafts, at least if the Eagles keep/use all three of their first-round picks.

4) Wide receiver

DeVonta Smith appears to be a legitimate No. 1 type of wide receiver, and Quez Watkins made some nice strides in 2021, but major draft whiffs on J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Jalen Reagor have set the team back at wide receiver. The reality is that the Eagles only have two players at the position they can feel good about. The rest wouldn't even make a number of other rosters around the league.

The Eagles could use a steady, mid-cost veteran in free agency, while continuing to add to the position with talent in the draft. They are far from done building this group.

5) Safety

Rodney McLeod (32 in June) and Anthony Harris (31 in October) are aging players and pending free agents. The top backup is Marcus Epps. The Eagles have a clear need to get younger and better on the back end.

6) Cornerback

On the surface, it looks like the Eagles have a glaring hole at cornerback on the horizon with Steven Nelson likely(?) to leave in free agency, and Darius Slay having just turned 31. However, Slay is coming off a Pro Bowl season, the team just signed Avonte Maddox to a contract extension, and the Eagles seemed to be purposely stockpiling young cornerbacks all year in 2021:

  1. May 1: They drafted Zech McPhearson in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
  2. May 18: They traded a sixth-round pick to the Jaguars for Josiah Scott.
  3. September 2: They claimed Andre Chachere off of waivers from the Colts. 
  4. September 7: They signed Mac McCain off of the Broncos' practice squad.
  5. October 15: They traded Zach Ertz to the Cardinals for a fifth-round pick and Tay Gowan.
  6. November 2: They traded a sixth-round pick to the Broncos for Kary Vincent, Jr.

While none of those players individually should be counted on as a definitive starting option in 2022, perhaps the Eagles are playing the odds that one will stick?

But also, beyond just looking at personnel, in Gannon's defense cornerbacks weren't challenged with tough assignments the same way they were during the Jim Schwartz era, so it may not currently be viewed as a position of high priority, right or wrong.

7) Tight end

Dallas Goedert is on his way to being a top 5-ish type of tight end, and as a result this positional group is perhaps being underrated some as an Eagles need. Nick Sirianni ran his fair share of 2-TE sets in 2021, and his No. 2 TE only had four receptions. The Eagles could use a more well-rounded TE2 who can be a threat as a receiver.

The 2022 draft is thought to be one of the deeper tight end drafts in recent memory, and there could be value on Day 3.

8) Running back

The Eagles had the best rushing offense in the NFL in 2021 because (a) they kind of had to be without a functional passing offense, and (b) they had an elite run-blocking offensive line. The backs were just sort of along for the ride, and they failed to produce big plays despite plenty of opportunities provided to them by the big boys up front. On the season, Eagles backs had zero rushes of over 40 yards.

Miles Sanders is in the final year of his rookie contract, and Jordan Howard has been unable to stay healthy. 

9) Defensive tackle

To be determined if Fletcher Cox is on the team again in 2022. (I think he will be.)

If Cox is gone, this becomes a much more substantial need worthy of consideration in free agency in addition to the draft. If he stays, it's merely a draft need for more youth, talent, and depth on the interior.

10) Interior OL

One of the strange early themes of mock draft season is that many have the Eagles selecting interior offensive line help in the first round. If we're operating under the assumption that Jason Kelce is returning in 2022, that doesn't really make any sense. The Eagles are loaded with versatile talent on the interior of their line, with Kelce, Landon Dickerson, Isaac Seumalo, Jack Driscoll, Nate Herbig, and Sua Opeta.

Drafting Andre Dillard in the first round a few years ago and having him sit behind Jason Peters was a debatable decision, but justifiable given the importance of the offensive tackle position. But drafting an interior offensive lineman in the first round and having him sit until he's needed? Why? The Eagles have quality starters and proven depth. What's the rush? 

11) Punter

Arryn Siposs turned into a Shankopotomous machine at the end of the season. The Eagles shouldn't lose their minds and use some sort of valuable resource on a punter, but at a minimum, they have to give Siposs legitimate competition in training camp this year, if not just replacing him outright before camp even begins.

12) Offensive tackle

The Eagles may very well have the best OT pairing in the NFL in Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson. They also have depth in the form of Dillard, Driscoll, and Le'Raven Clark.

A Day 3 pick on a swing tackle who can fill multiple roles as a backup initially with starting RT upside down the line might make some sense, especially if they can trade Dillard for a decent return, but the Eagles shouldn't be players in the offensive tackle market in free agency or early in the draft.

13) Kicker / long snapper

Jake Elliott and Rick Lovato are safe from training camp competition.

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