More Sports:

March 21, 2023

Ranking the Eagles' positional needs, prior to the 2023 NFL Draft

The Eagles need help in free agency at safety, linebacker and a couple other spots on their roster ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Eagles NFL
032123NakobeDean Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Nakobe Dean (17)

When Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles have tried to fill needs in the NFL draft, the results have often been disappointing. To avoid drafting for need, the team typically does a good job of at least finding reasonably competent starters at each positional group so that they have the flexibility to select the best players available instead of reaching for needs.

Once free agency has run its course, we'll rank the Eagles' positional needs in the 2023 NFL Draft, which will be more geared toward long-term roster building and positional importance. Those rankings will look a lot different. Here we'll take a look at the positions the Eagles could look to fill before the draft so they won't be tempted to draft for short-term needs.

1) Safety

With Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps both bolting for new teams in free agency, the Eagles' depth chart at safety now looks something like this:

Reed Blankenship Justin Evans 
K'Von Wallace Andre Chachere 

The Eagles still only have four safeties on their roster after adding Justin Evans on Monday. Reed Blankenship showed as a undrafted rookie in 2022 that he could perhaps step into a bigger role at safety, and maybe even start, but otherwise the Eagles are paper thin. They will be adding multiple safeties between now and the start of training camp, and will likely try to add a starting-caliber safety prior to the draft.

2) Linebacker

Just like at safety, the Eagles lost both of their 2022 starting linebackers in free agency, with T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White moving on. If we're excluding SAM linebackers like Haason Reddick, Patrick Johnson and Kyron Johnson from the equation, they only have four off-ball linebackers on the roster.

 Nakobe DeanShaun Bradley 
 Christian Elliss Davion Taylor 

Like Blankenship above, Nakobe Dean is expected to take on a bigger role in 2023. He will likely start. Elliss has a good chance of making the roster as a core special teamer, and he actually looked pretty good in some garbage time moments in the regular defense last season, but he cannot be reasonably counted on for any sort of important role at this stage of the offseason.

Again, the Eagles will add multiple linebackers before the start of camp, and should add a competent player before the draft.

3) Wide receiver

Wide receiver is a little bit of an under-the-radar need. A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith are star players, but beyond them there's almost no depth.

A.J. Brown Tyrie Cleveland  
DeVonta Smith Devon Allen  
Quez Watkins Britain Covey Greg Ward 

Watkins is an interesting player to watch this offseason. He earned a "player performance escalator" bump in pay for reaching playing time benchmarks, and his 2023 cap number is now $2,785,415. Will the Eagles be content to pay that after Watkins had a bad season in 2022? My guess is that they will ask him to take a pay cut, and if he refuses there's a non-zero chance that he could be released. Add in that Zach Pascal left to play for the Cardinals, and the Eagles have questions at their No. 3 and No. 4 receiver spots.  

Britain Covey will likely be back as the team's primary punt returner, but he did not get involved in the offense as a rookie.

The 2023 crop of free agent wide receivers was not very intriguing, which for the Eagles' purposes is fine. It's possible — though not necessarily likely — that they could add a slot receiver to the mix, or try to find another unselfish "dirty work" type who doubles as outside receiver depth prior to the draft.

4) Running back

If the season started today (it doesn't), Rashaad Penny would replace Miles Sanders as the early down back, Boston Scott would be his backup in that role, and Kenny Gainwell would be the third-down / two-minute back, with Trey Sermon kinda hanging around as depth.

Penny was a terrific "high upside" free agency play, as he signed a one-year contract worth just $1.35 million. However, given Penny's injury history and the fact that the league valued him near the league minimum salary, it's very likely that the Eagles will bring in another legitimate back, whether that be in the form of another low-cost vet, or in the draft. 

5) Punter

Last year, after Arryn Siposs had a shaky season punctuated by an ugly finish, we watched as the Eagles did nothing about the position throughout the offseason:

• March: Maybe they'll sign a free agent punter. Nope.

• April: Maybe they'll draft one. Nope. 

• May: Maybe they'll sign an undrafted free agent. Nope.

• September: Maybe they'll add someone from another team that got beaten out in camp by another punter. Nope.

They definitively should not go through that series of events again, after Siposs had yet another disastrous end to a season. I mean, at least give him some training camp competition for God's sake.

Honorable mention: Defensive tackle.

Follow Jimmy & PhillyVoice on Twitter: @JimmyKempski | thePhillyVoice

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports

Add Jimmy's RSS feed to your feed reader