Armed with a plan they had been building for many months, the Eagles entered 2020 free agency intent on adding impact in a market that didn't necessarily appear to be overloaded with many of those kinds of players. The Eagles knew they had some cap room – they had the 19th-most in the league as of Sunday, per OverTheCap.com – so the team had to be smart and strategic and direct in the way they crafted their targets.
That the Eagles were able to go out and reportedly (per NFL rules, that's the official terminology for teams at this point until a contract is signed) agree to terms with defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, a wrecking ball of a player along the interior of the defensive line, and then reportedly swing a trade to acquire Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay changes the landscape of a defense that relied on scheme, versatility, a heckuva lot of effort and some big-time talent up front in the form of tackle Fletcher Cox and end Brandon Graham to rally in 2019 and win the NFC East and reach the postseason for the third consecutive season.
The team isn't permitted to comment on Hargrave or Slay until the deals become official, but rest assured that the Eagles were extremely specific in their free agency targets. Remember how this team builds: From the line of scrimmage out. So, to bring Hargrave – a young, ascending player who recorded 10.5 quarterback sacks the last two seasons as a nose tackle in Pittsburgh – on board helps build a dominating defensive line that plans to wreck offensive blocking schemes from the inside out. Anyone who suggests that adding impact at defensive tackle is a luxury didn't pay attention last season when the position was taken down by a flurry of injuries. Yes, Malik Jackson is expected to come all the way back from his Lis Franc injury, but why stop there when you used eight tackles (Cox, Jackson, Tim Jernigan, Hassan Ridgeway, Anthony Rush, Akeem Spence, Bruce Hector, and Albert Huggins) in 2019?
Depth is king.
And the Eagles added a player in Hargrave who they think will take his game to an even higher level playing in a scheme that gives defensive linemen the freedom to win with a big get-off and an attacking, up-the-field style. Hargrave is going to create havoc. He and Cox are going to be nightmares for offensive lines. And with Jackson back and hungry and part of a great rotation, the Eagles are really set. Plus, they can flex Jackson out to the edge at times and give offensive tackles something different to contend with in the pass rush game.
Adding Hargrave puts an already-good defensive line into a different category. The parts all need to come together, of course, but on paper it's really exciting to think what the Eagles can become up front with new line coach Matt Burke.
On the back end of the defense, Slay brings a high-level cornerback talent who was drafted into this scheme – by then-Detroit Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz – and, so, the fit is natural. Slay upgrades the remade secondary in a big way. He's a perfect fit – a player at the top of his game having been named to the last three Pro Bowls – and Slay joins a winning culture after battling through losing times in Detroit.
Two impact players.
Along with that, the Eagles re-signed safety Rodney McLeod and defensive back Jalen Mills, who could have a chance to slide into the role Malcolm Jenkins played – more of an in-the-box safety/quasi-linebacker/inside cornerback – the last couple of seasons. Interesting stuff. And they have Ridgeway back for added depth. The defense got a whole lot better. More work to be done, yes, but the defense is better now than it was a week ago.
Offensively, the Eagles return quarterback Nate Sudfeld to provide backup depth behind Carson Wentz, a nice move for a player who left the locker room following the 2019 season feeling he had unfinished business in Philadelphia.
That's the flurry of free agency, and the Eagles handled it very well.
Next comes the trickle, where the Eagles have historically had success. Howie Roseman knows how to let the market come to him. That's what is happening now.
In a matter of a week, or a couple of weeks, we welcome in the turn toward the NFL Draft. That's how this process works.
What's next for the Eagles? Everyone asks that question. They are going to keep their eyes on free agency and trades and any way they can improve the roster. They have eight draft picks. They have a really good roster.
Work continues for the Philadelphia Eagles. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone everywhere during these very difficult times. Just know that the Eagles are pleased with the progress made, knowing that the roster isn't yet complete, and that there are positions to address as free agency goes from frenzy to trickle and soon to fizzle with opportunities aplenty on April 23 when the NFL Draft begins.