Free agency isn't over yet, so don't consider this an ending piece on what the Eagles have added prior to the NFL Draft. You know that Howie Roseman is keeping his eyes open, and despite a tight salary cap situation, the Eagles have added three pieces they think will be key for 2021 – safety Anthony Harris, who could start at the position from the jump; safety/special teamer Andrew Adams, who will compete for playing time in the defense and impact the special teams; and quarterback Joe Flacco, a highly successful veteran who adds experience, competition, and depth to the QB room.
What's next? We shall see. The Eagles have 11 picks in the NFL Draft starting on April 29. After Friday’s brilliant blockbuster trade with the Miami Dolphins that netted a third first-round pick in 2022, the Eagles have the No. 12 overall pick and four of the first 84 selections, so the brunt of the offseason impact will come from those three days. But the real question right now is: How much has really changed with this football team in the offseason? Obviously, there have been sizable moves – the move to Nick Sirianni as the head coach and the trade of quarterback Carson Wentz to the Colts lead the way – but the Eagles have had other significant developments. Let's recap them here …
The Quarterback Position
Huge changes, obviously. The Eagles have great belief in Jalen Hurts as he enters his second season, but that doesn't mean they are going to hand him the starting job without him improving his game. Hurts has been hard at work in the offseason and he is projected to take his game to a new level, but defensive coordinators out there have watched every snap from his four starts in 2020 and they're gameplanning ways to take away Hurts' mobility and his strong points. So, the Eagles will need to counter with Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen and Sirianni putting together a great plan when Hurts plays.
Is he the starter? Well, as you know, there is no depth chart as Hurts and Flacco head into the spring practices as the only two quarterbacks on the roster. The idea, of course, is that competition brings out the best in the players. That's the plan across the board here.
The Eagles aren't finished at quarterback. Teams traditionally carry four into Training Camp and most carry three on the active roster in the regular season. The Eagles will consider all options – the NFL Draft, trades, players who are released, etc. Having Hurts and Flacco on board right now is a promising picture, but there is more work to be done.
Measuring the Losses in Free Agency
Some key players have moved on, so let's take a look at this picture. Safety Jalen Mills signed with New England and, combined with the knee injury suffered by Rodney McLeod, left the Eagles a bit inexperienced at the safety spots, which we will explore below. Linebacker Duke Riley, who gave the Eagles a lot of reps last season, signed with Miami. The Eagles are thin at linebacker in terms of numbers. Punter Cameron Johnston joined Houston, and the only punter currently on the roster is Arryn Siposs, a former Australian Rules Football player who punted with Auburn collegiately and spent much of last season on Detroit's practice squad. Defensive end Vinny Curry is now with the New York Jets, so the Eagles will look for help there, and Rudy Ford, an outstanding special teams player when healthy, left for Jacksonville.
Yes, there is work to be done. And when Roseman says that young players will have a chance to contribute, he's spot on. The Eagles need to have a great NFL Draft.
Safety Spots in Jonathan Gannon's Defense
Harris isn't deemed a starter because, well, there is no depth chart, but he's a proven veteran who worked with Gannon in Minnesota. He knows the defense. He's a ballhawk. He's a terrific player and he will have every chance to be an impact player on defense. Same with Adams, who has 32 starts in his five NFL seasons. Second-year man K'Von Wallace is expected to take a bit step forward after his playing time increased in his rookie season. Marcus Epps has shown flashes of playmaking ability. Grayland Arnold is a promising player. McLeod is rehabbing – will he be ready for September?
This is a position to watch and it was a group lacking in experience until the team added Harris and Adams. Both were solid moves with a lot of upside in the tight free agency market. The Eagles want to be dominating in the secondary.
Veterans Returning and Their Impact
Having center Jason Kelce announce his return makes a huge difference as the offensive line comes together – the Eagles could be really, really outstanding up front. There are still questions – who will start at left tackle? Will Brandon Brooks be ready to go and stay healthy? Is Lane Johnson on the road back to being the best right tackle in the NFL? – but the fact that Kelce is back and that Jeff Stoutland is the offensive line coach again is such great news.
Brandon Graham's new contract helps the trenches through the Pro Bowl defensive end's leadership, energy, and his all-out hustle and production on the field. Underrated is the re-signing of defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, who played well when healthy as a depth player. He's back to help Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave, and if second-year man Raequan Williams takes a big step as the Eagles hope, they'll have some good depth at the tackle spots.
Linebacker Alex Singleton signed his tender offer as an exclusive rights free agent, so he wasn't going anywhere, but now he's officially back with the contract hoping to build on his outstanding 2020 season.
Bottom line: There have been huge changes with this football team. There are going to be a lot more, mostly through the NFL Draft. But the Eagles have been smart and targeted in free agency and they've landed three players they think can really help them in all three phases of the game. It's a good start, with a lot of heavy lifting to do in the weeks ahead.