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Spadaro: State of the Eagles a week into free agency

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

This is such a crucial time of the year, all of one week into the roster-building portion of 2023, and with all of the buzz there are certain elements required to build a team that has the ability to win deep into the postseason. Keen management of the salary cap, a strong eye for talent and fit into the culture and scheme of a franchise, vision not only for the here and now but also for the near future, and an accurate awareness of the market and how it is going to play out are particulars the Eagles have exhibited in the past and are certainly showing for the season ahead.

One week into the roster-building portion of 2023 ... that's all it's been, folks. We have a lot of ballgame remaining. So, what do we know about the Eagles to this point? Let's examine.

1. They've been able to retain some key veterans

Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman said weeks ago that there would be “change” from the 2022 NFC Championship team and he was correct. We'll talk about that in a moment, but let's look now at the players the Eagles kept – all of them key, all of them in specific roles, and all of them still playing at a high level.

Center Jason Kelce had one of his best seasons in 2022 and returns to anchor an offensive line that again should be among the best – I'm partial, so I think it's the best, and so do many others – in the entire NFL. Defensive end Brandon Graham played fewer snaps and had terrific production last season and he returns to mix into the edge rotation. Keep him fresh and Graham will play with energy and as the Eagles welcome back Josh Sweat and Haason Reddick to come off the edge, they have something strong to work with here.

Fletcher Cox, who was not only a very productive player last season but also a leader on the defensive side of the ball, returns to play in a defensive tackle rotation that includes Milton Williams and second-year man Jordan Davis and some young players the Eagles are excited to see. Cox will be a part of that rotation, but he also has shown that he is willing to take younger players under his wing and help them grow, which is a big part of the culture that has led to so much success over the years in Philadelphia.

Signing cornerback James Bradberry to a three-year contract was immensely important, and then a few days later working out a contract extension with Darius Slay means the Eagles can keep continuity on the outside in coverage with Avonte Maddox inside in the nickel and then continue to develop some young players the Eagles feel good about. Boston Scott helps with depth at running back and in the return game on special teams and it's good to have him back for 2023.

The Eagles knew they weren't going to be able to keep all of their unrestricted free agents, but they kept some really good ones, both from a production and leadership standpoint. That's a win for Roseman and the roster.

2. Projecting players that have gone, as expected for the most part

Perhaps the first week of the 2023 League Year hasn't gone exactly the way Roseman blueprinted, but that's why the best teams – and the Eagles are among the best teams, make no mistake about that – make contingency plans and evaluate all scenarios.

So, there are good players who have moved on – tackle Andre Dillard to Tennessee, linebacker T.J. Edwards to Chicago, safety Marcus Epps to Las Vegas, safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson to Detroit, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to San Francisco, wide receiver Zach Pascal to Arizona, running back Miles Sanders to Carolina, guard Isaac Seumalo to Pittsburgh, and linebacker Kyzir White to Arizona. The Eagles can't keep everybody – this is the part where the team has to consider the future and players to target for contract extensions – and they will receive compensatory draft picks for the 2024 NFL Draft because of those players lost, likely everything from a third-round pick for losing Hargrave to a sixth-round pick for losing Gardner-Johnson. As Roseman predicted at the NFL Scouting Combine, the Eagles could have 12 draft picks next spring.

The Eagles knew this was coming, and they know there is work to do. They have some young players waiting in the wings – the first three picks from the 2022 NFL Draft will have opportunities, so Davis, Cam Jurgens, and Nakobe Dean are in the midst of extremely important offseasons. The Eagles also reached out in free agency and added to the roster. Let's get to those players right now ...

3. Free agency is an area where the Eagles have been extremely targeted

A running back room that already has an emerging Kenneth Gainwell, the versatile Scott, and a burgeoning talent in Trey Sermon adds Rashaad Penny, one of the game’s most explosive and productive players who has, we know it, a marked injury history. Here's hoping he stays healthy with the fresh start in the Eagles' outstanding medical and strength and conditioning program to play to his enormous talent this season. Keep Penny on the field and he's going to add a big-play, slashing, power element to this running game.

Marcus Mariota has the right skill set to step into this offense with his dual-threat abilities and he becomes the No. 2 quarterback behind Jalen Hurts, replacing Gardner Minshew (Indianapolis). That's a plus move.

Nicholas Morrow started 17 games for Chicago last season and led the Bears in tackles. He has speed and playmaking ability, which the Eagles saw firsthand when Morrow recorded a team-high 11 total tackles, nine solo, in that rugged December game. With good players around him, Morrow figures to play his best football here and, really, reminds a lot of White, who signed in 2022 after the first wave of free agency following a good year with the Chargers. He had a solid season in 2022.

Justin Evans adds to the safety room and the special teams unit after his comeback from injuries that derailed his career. Let's see how he fits in and what the Eagles saw in him because, obviously, they saw enough to get him in here on a one-year contract. Same with cornerback Greedy Williams, a former second-round draft pick (same with Evans) who had four "up and down," (his words) seasons in Cleveland before signing with the Eagles on Tuesday.

When you lose players, you need answers. The Eagles are in the "answer" part of the process now.

4. We are still a long, long ways away from the completion of the 2023 roster

It's called the NFL Draft and it is the backbone of every NFL roster. The Eagles enter the last month before the draft in a position of power with two prime first-round draft picks – Nos. 10 and 30 overall. They have six selections total, so it's going to be fun seeing what kind of return Roseman gets from that kind of capital. As we've seen him do many times, there are multiple ways of adding to the roster.

The Eagles have work to do, and they know it. This is just part of the understanding of how to put together a championship-contending roster, and that's where vision and patience come into play. The teams that win in March generally don't take it the distance in January into February.

It's been fun to meet Penny and Williams, two young players who look forward to a fresh start and who felt instantly the energy and connection the Eagles present in the NovaCare Complex. It's a culture, it's a lifestyle, and it's genuine. The players feel it, and that is why so many players come to Philadelphia and have outstanding seasons as Eagles.

The Eagles have retained some players, they've lost some players, and they've added some players. There is a whole lot more to come, and you can take it to the Linc that by the time the team is set for the 2023 regular season, you're going to like the roster the Eagles have put together. The roster buzz that's happening now is just beginning, rising all the way through the season ahead.

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