When the legal negotiation window opened on Monday, March 16 ahead of free agency, the first player that the Eagles agreed to terms with was one of their own – defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway.
"I'm happy to be back with Philly. It's a great organization and a great group of guys. I couldn't be happier," he said.
Lost in the wake of the additions of Javon Hargrave and Darius Slay, among others, Ridgeway was coming into his own last season, thrust into an expanded role after injuries fell the defensive tackle rotation.
A former fourth-round pick of the Colts, the Eagles acquired Ridgeway on the final day of the 2019 NFL Draft. With Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, and Tim Jernigan forming what was expected to be arguably the best trio of defensive tackles in the game, Ridgeway was a nice depth piece with 34 career games under his belt from his time with Indianapolis. The time behind the scenes would serve Ridgeway well as he adjusted to the way the Eagles unleash their defensive linemen and attack up the field.
The learning curve was accelerated, however. Malik Jackson suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 1, which was followed by Tim Jernigan suffering a foot injury of his own the next Sunday in Atlanta.
Just like that, Ridgeway was starting alongside Cox. Then, Ridgeway fell victim to the injury bug as he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 7 at Dallas.
For the year, Ridgeway had 10 tackles, nine quarterback pressures and hits, six tackles for loss, and two sacks in 252 snaps over seven games (five starts).
"A lot of ups and downs, but a lot of positives to take from it," Ridgeway said of the roller-coaster season that ranged from the trade to the injury. "It was slow going at first and getting into the season, but I felt like I was catching my rhythm right before my injury."
The 6-3, 305-pound Ridgeway is still only 25 years old. He returned to Philadelphia to take care of "unfinished business" coming off the injury.
Once again, Ridgeway will be in the shadows as Cox and Jackson return, and the Eagles agreed to terms on the first day of the new League Year with Javon Hargrave, who had 10.5 sacks for Pittsburgh over the past two seasons. The Eagles hope that the triumvirate at the top of the defensive tackle depth chart works out. Ridgeway will do everything in his power to push for the role that he had at the time of his injury.
"We can't ask for a better, better group to be a part of. These are tackles that are elite. All you're going to do is push each other to be better," Ridgeway said. "When you know that the person next to you is going to be doing their job, it's the expectation that you're going to have to do yours. If you have somebody elite like Fletcher, somebody who can rush like Malik, and then you have Javon coming in, you've got three guys that know how to do their job and know what to expect. You have to step up and make sure you're doing your job just as well so there's no drop-off."