"We'll do what's best for the football team."
That's the overarching message from Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman as the NFL Draft approaches. We're in the homestretch now – the first round begins on April 27, so you do the math – and the Top 30 visits are wrapping up and teams in the league are putting the finishing touches on their draft boards.
How much is going to change between now and April 27 in terms of a team's evaluation of players? Not much. Barring the unearthing of new information, teams will rely on the work they've put in on prospects the last several months, which began in August. What kind of trade talks are happening? As always, the teams have been in touch with each other since the NFL Annual Meeting, so Roseman and his colleagues will continue to have conversations.
What are the Eagles going to do? That's why you're here, right? I guess the proper answer would be that the team is still finalizing its board and considering all of its options with free agency still bubbling and with the draft ahead.
The Eagles have been selective in free agency, retaining some key players from the 2022 roster and reaching out with one-year contracts to address the safety room, the linebacker position, the defensive line, depth at cornerback, a running back, and a No. 2 quarterback. They have been quiet about their intentions holding, at this moment, the No. 10 and No. 30 selections in the first round. What is Roseman thinking? How does he maximize his assets? Where do the Eagles place their priorities for this 2023 NFL Draft?
Here are some questions the Eagles will try to have answered by the time the 2023 NFL Draft weekend is complete.
1. How does the linebacker room look?
The Eagles have added Nicholas Morrow in free agency and they expect second-year man Nakobe Dean, a third-round draft pick in 2022, to make a big jump. There are other players to consider with new Linebackers Coach D.J. Eliot here. Christian Elliss made plays in the limited time he was on the field last season. Davion Taylor is looking to break through. Patrick Johnson and Kyron Johnson join Haason Reddick on the edge, but we aren't quite sure how it will all play out in Sean Desai's new defense. The Eagles lost T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White in free agency, so there is going to be some competition here and both Morrow and Dean will have chances to earn significant roles.
2. Is the offensive line complete and ready to dominate again?
Retaining Jason Kelce was huge, and the All-Pro center is back to play at an extremely high level again. Lane Johnson is happy and healthy after playing through that adductor injury in the postseason. The question is at right guard, where Isaac Seumalo departed in free agency to sign with Pittsburgh. There are players the Eagles know can play at multiple places along the line of scrimmage – veteran Jack Driscoll has experience at right guard, as does Sua Opeta. Second-year man Cam Jurgens started in the preseason last summer at center and then cross-trained at guard during the season, so he will try to earn some playing time as well.
3. What does the competition look like at wide receiver?
A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith are your starters and they are dynamic players who are both just hitting the prime of their careers. Quez Watkins is a valuable piece in the offense with his ability to stretch defenses and win vertically. Zach Pascal signed with Arizona in free agency, so the Eagles need to find a receiver or two to add depth and replace the toughness and blocking ability and third-down production Pascal brought to the offense last season. Currently on the roster: Greg Ward, Britain Covey, Devon Allen, Tyrie Cleveland.
4. A new look at running back means what for the offense?
Rashaad Penny is a physical, downhill back who is going to be a problem for defenses, especially running behind this offensive line. He's had injury problems in his career, but Penny has been extremely productive when he's been healthy. Penny joins a dynamic room that includes returning backs Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, and Trey Sermon. The Eagles have size, speed, versatility, and explosiveness in a room that saw Pro Bowl back Miles Sanders sign with Carolina during free agency.
5. New faces at safety with veterans: How quickly can they come together?
The Eagles will integrate veterans Terrell Edmunds and Justin Evans into the safety room after both of the 2022 starters, C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps, left in free agency. Edmunds and Evans join Reed Blankenship, K'Von Wallace, and Andre Chachere in the room and will battle it out for playing time. Edmunds started for five seasons in Pittsburgh and Evans impressed in 2022 after returning from a knee injury that kept him off the field for most of three NFL seasons.
6. How do the Eagles line up in the defensive trenches?
The Eagles retained end Brandon Graham and tackle Fletcher Cox in free agency, so there is a lot of continuity here. End Derek Barnett is back after suffering a season-ending torn ACL in Week 1 of last season. The Eagles added versatile and productive Kentavius Street in free agency. Pro Bowl tackle Javon Hargrave signed with San Francisco in free agency, so the Eagles have his production to replace. But this is a group that right now has a lot of depth and some position versatility and the Eagles could add to the group in the NFL Draft, given the assets at hand.
What's great to know is that the Eagles have covered their positional bases and enter this period of time in good shape and in a position of strength. They can move around the draft as they wish, if they wish. They can add the best players on their draft board and not reach for positions. The depth chart will look quite a bit different when the draft weekend is over. How different it will look? We just don't know.
That's the beauty of this time in the offseason: The Eagles have done so much work to reach this point and they have more to do. They have cards to play with, and you know Roseman will do what he does to maximize his hand.