After a flurry of three days during the legal negotiation period, the NFL's new League Year is officially here. It's past 4 PM on Wednesday. The fun is just beginning.
What do we know about the Eagles to this point? Well, everything is in the "reported" stage. Those are the rules of engagement for NFL teams, who are prohibited from OFFICIALLY announcing the addition of unrestricted free agents because teams, per NFL rules, are not permitted to conduct physicals for new players with team personnel present before contracts are signed. It's a bit of a process to work through, and every team is in it together.
With that, we move forward on what we know, and what has been reported to be happening …
1. The Eagles have reportedly agreed to terms with defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, a 6-2, 305-pound nose tackle with the Steelers in his four seasons there as a starter after they made him a third-round draft pick from South Carolina State in 2016. Hargrave would be a force in a deep and talented defensive tackle rotation along with Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway – who is also reportedly back with a new contract – and Anthony Rush. The Eagles were devastated by injuries at the position in 2019. They can't have enough depth and talent there for 2020. And Hargrave would add youth – he's only 27 years old – and explosiveness as the Eagles look to collapse offensive lines from the inside out. Hargrave wins in one-on-one battles in the trenches, he plays on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage – he had 10.5 quarterback sacks the last two seasons, a huge number for a nose tackle in Pittsburgh's 3-4 scheme – and he's relentless. The Eagles felt they had a great situation at defensive tackle heading into 2019 with Jackson signing as an unrestricted free agent and Tim Jernigan signing just before the draft and the team making the trade for Ridgeway. A rash of injuries decimated the position group. Fortunately, Cox showed what a dominating player he is and the Eagles rallied around the defensive line and the defense stopped the running game and battled in the passing game and the team won the NFC East and reached the postseason. The goals are higher. Reportedly adding Hargrave improves the defensive tackle position – along with that, the defensive line and the entire defense.
2. Reportedly keeping quarterback Nate Sudfeld provides good, quality depth behind Carson Wentz and it gives Sudfeld a chance to complete some unfinished business in Philadelphia. He was heartbroken in 2019 after suffering a broken wrist in the preseason and he battled those emotions all year as Josh McCown came in as replaced Sudfeld as the No. 2 quarterback. Will the Eagles add another arm? That's something to watch in the draft. Kyle Lauletta is here and working hard developing his game and he's going to get a long, long look whenever the Eagles get back on the field.
3. The secondary is interesting. Malcolm Jenkins is reportedly joining the Saints after playing the last couple of seasons basically in a quasi-linebacker role. His versatility cannot be discounted here. It meant a lot to Jim Schwartz and the defense. So, reportedly re-signing Jalen Mills – listed as a defensive back now, not as a cornerback – is an important move. Mills has the size and the tenacity to line up over the slot receiver. He can play as a dime back. He can line up and support the run and he can still drop back into deep coverage. If the Eagles do, indeed, experiment with Mills in the Jenkins role, it's a credit to their trust in Mills to know his responsibilities in the defense and to be in the right place at the right time. Good tackler. Physical player. Smart. Instinctive. Mills knows how to prepare. He would be a fit – and how many people have talked about moving Mills to safety in the last couple of years? This could be really good for his career if it happens like that.
4. Rodney McLeod is reportedly back on a two-year contract and he is just a solid, do-everything-right kind of player. He's good in the locker room. Schwartz trusts him. He is smart. He has great eyes. He knows the defense inside and out. Solid move.
5. Now, do the Eagles still have needs? Yes, they do. And you know how it goes here: The Eagles have had tremendous success after the first – and even after the second – wave of free agency. You know the names – Chris Long, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, Jordan Howard, Patrick Robinson, etc. There are plenty of good, quality players out there. Sometimes, you have to let the market come to you. And, more importantly, the Eagles have 10 draft picks at this moment. That's very important. They've got questions remaining on defense – cornerback is an area many have discussed – and they are always looking out for offensive linemen and playmakers to help Wentz. The plan is very much in place here. The Eagles have some wiggle room within the salary cap, and they've got plenty of draft capital.
This is just starting, folks. You have been a fan long enough to know that we don't judge the roster until the games are set to begin. Here's hoping we're all ready to go and excited about what's ahead for the 2020 Eagles starting in early September.