The Eagles ensured that one of the young building blocks along the defensive line will remain a part of the team for the future on Saturday morning when they signed defensive end Josh Sweat to a three-year extension through 2024. Sweat was in the final year of his rookie deal.
When asked during Training Camp in August about his future with the team, Sweat said his goal was to "just come in here and get better. Make improvements every day. It'll take care of itself."
He smiled when asked if he thought that he was on the verge of a career year. Sweat might not be a household name, but his rise comes as no surprise to those within the walls of the NovaCare Complex.
"I had no idea Sweat was as big as he is until I got here," said defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who signed this offseason from NFC East rival Washington. "I saw him up close and was like, 'Wow, that dude moves like that on film, and is that big? He's going to be a problem for years to come."
Sweat is the second member of the Class of 2018 to earn an extension, joining tackle Jordan Mailata who signed one last Saturday. Still only 24 years old, Sweat was the team's fourth-round pick out of Florida State.
"I take pride in my class," Sweat said in August. "We all love each other and we just keep pushing each other."
At 6-5, 265 pounds, Sweat's role has expanded each season. For example, this past Sunday in the season-opening win over Atlanta, Sweat was a force off the edge with six tackles in 39 snaps (54 percent of the defensive plays). It tied for the second-highest amount of snaps Sweat played in his career (49 in 2020 season-opener at Washington).
Sweat's emergence provides Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon with a formidable rotation at defensive end with veterans Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, and Kerrigan, along with rookies Tarron Jackson and Milton Williams, who can play both end and tackle. The Eagles publicly state the importance of building in the trenches time after time again, but the extensions early this season emphatically highlight the commitment – and development – to making the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball strong, talented, and deep for years to come.
A premier talent, Sweat was a five-star prospect out of high school, widely considered the No. 1 defensive end and one of the top overall players regardless of position. He enrolled at Florida State where he played every game as a true freshman. Sweat had 138 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, and 14.5 sacks in three seasons with the Seminoles.
He played in nine games as a rookie as he worked to combine his immense physical talent with the required technique to win in the NFL.
"It was tough. I always thought I was ready, but looking back at myself, I definitely needed to improve," Sweat said. "I always knew I could play, but I definitely needed some work. It was definitely the right decision."
Sweat played all 16 games in 2019 and emerged with 45 tackles and six sacks in 2020, good for third on the team behind Graham and Fletcher Cox. During this year's Training Camp, Sweat was dominant, working extensively with the first-team unit. The Eagles recognized what Sweat means for the present – and the future – and made the long-term commitment to him on Saturday.
The perseverance and sweat, literally paid off for Sweat.
"I've been working," he said over the summer. "That's all I can say."