It all happens in the high-tech Draft Room presented by LifeBrand on the second floor of the NovaCare Complex. The meetings are daily and they are inclusive and they cover every scenario facing an Eagles team that enters the last handful of days knowing that they control their options in this NFL Draft, 2022. How do the Eagles handle the many assets they have at their disposal – picks 15 and 18 in the first round, five selections among the top 101, nine of their 10 picks in the opening five rounds – as they plan the roster for both the short term and the long term?
We all have many questions about this oh-so-important Draft – "Hey, Dave what are the Eagles going to do in the Draft?" – and the true answer is that the Eagles understand that they are here to nail the weekend of April 28-May 1 (post-draft period included) and that includes every round and every player added to the roster. It isn't only about Round 1, but of course, the top of the Draft is important. The Eagles can go in any number of directions during Draft weekend, including trades for veteran NFL players and trades to send players on this roster for future draft capital.
Maybe a better question – or questions – to consider, as we still have some time to obsess over the actual selection of the players, is "What have the Eagles done to this point to set themselves up for the Draft? How are the Eagles a better team now than they were at the end of the 2021 season?"
Fair questions, so let's take them one at a time ...
What have the Eagles done to this point to set themselves up for the Draft?
The work started during the 2021 regular season when Philadelphia signed four key players to contract extensions – left tackle Jordan Mailata, tight end Dallas Goedert, defensive end Josh Sweat, and cornerback Avonte Maddox. All four, part of the 2018 Eagles Draft Class, have significant roles on the team and all four were due to become unrestricted free agents heading into this 2022 free-agency period. The Eagles took a proactive approach and finalized win-win deals with all four players, solidifying the roster at key positions.
With those contracts in place, the Eagles moved on to this offseason and were able to bring back center Jason Kelce for another season, lock in defensive tackle Fletcher Cox for 2022, and retain important pieces like running back Boston Scott, safety Anthony Harris, defensive end Derek Barnett, wide receiver Greg Ward, and defensive back/special teams ace Andre Chachere. Valuable restricted free agent offensive lineman Nate Herbig was also tendered a contract.
What does all of that mean? It means the Eagles kept four starting pieces with deals completed in 2021 – Mailata, Goedert, Sweat, and Maddox – for players who would have been highly sought-after had they reached the free-agent market this offseason. The Eagles entered the 2022 League Year with clarity in regards to their fiscal picture and then were able to professionally and respectfully consummate deals with Kelce and Cox. It required some creativity and some trust, and in the end, all sides are happy.
Keeping Scott provides excellent depth at running back, a position the Eagles handled masterfully last season with four players taking their turns helping the offense lead the NFL in rushing. Harris tested the waters in free agency and found that his best move was to return to the Eagles "to build on what we did last year and the way we finished strong. It's only going to get better," he said. Barnett also had a chance to see what the market was like for him and made the decision to stay in Philadelphia and play in what is going to be a deeper and more talented front-seven situation. Ward returns to lend talent, depth, and leadership at wide receiver and on special teams, and Chachere returns for a second season to continue his growth.
That's how the Eagles laid the groundwork to keep some important roster stability and retain a talented young core. And it allowed them to make some moves in free agency to improve the talent level of this roster.
How are the Eagles a better team now than they were at the end of the 2021 season?
Something that every person in the NovaCare Complex loves seeing every, single day: The sight of a smiling Brandon Graham bouncing around, excited to get back on the field and ready to play at his usual high-energy, high-production self. Losing Graham to a torn Achilles tendon in Week 2 last season hampered the punch off the defensive edge, so the hope is that Graham can recover fully and resume his outstanding Eagles career.
In free agency, the Eagles landed their big target, linebacker Haason Reddick, and expect him to attract a lot of attention from offensive blocking schemes concerned about a player who has been one of the most disruptive at his craft in the NFL these last couple of seasons. The Eagles now look at an edge situation with Reddick, Sweat, Graham, and Barnett, along with some developing young talent in Tarron Jackson, Cameron Malveaux, and Matt Leo, and feel like they've got more proven skill there and more options for Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon.
Later in free agency, the Eagles added an intriguing piece in linebacker Kyzir White, a starter with the Chargers who found a good fit in Philadelphia for his athleticism and get-to-the-ball ways. A college safety, White has a chance to earn playing time for his coverage skills and his off-ball versatility. White helps give the linebacker room a noticeable new look from 2021.
On offense, the Eagles added wide receiver Zach Pascal in free agency and he's a player who knows this system, who understands what Head Coach Nick Sirianni wants, and who is going to bring, in Sirianni's words, toughness and leadership and production to a talented group.
The Eagles improved their pass rush, they upgraded their athleticism and experience at linebacker, and they built depth at wide receiver with their free-agent additions. Progress made.
So, in the Draft the Eagles will ...
That's what we all want to know. And it's what the Eagles are working so steadily in their NovaCare Complex Draft Room to prepare for as Thursday, April 28 closes in. The Eagles are in a position where they don't have to reach. They have enviable assets. They have plenty of options.
This is, as General Manager Howie Roseman has said throughout the offseason, a "building" situation. The Eagles are climbing, with the biggest weekend of the offseason almost within reach.