It’s going to seem odd to a lot of people to be reading an article on the Eagles a day after the draft, on a Commanders’ blog, but stranger things have happened. There will be plenty of time to reflect on Washington’s draft class, but I think Philadelphia’s absolute crushing of the draft provides fodder for several important discussions about team-building that are best tackled right now.
Like so many things in football, and in our lives, we tend to look at the impacts of the draft in isolation - how do the players selected line up with “expert” opinion, and how does adding these guys improve last year’s team?
But there are many more moving parts than that, and they all have to be considered in terms of contemplating a team’s future.
That said, at face value, it looks like the Eagles did an amazing job, and that Howie Roseman and crew are playing the game-within-the-game very well as they enter the “I am Death Incarnate” difficulty phase of team-building.
Talent Lost Through Free Agency
Falling one win short of the Lombardi Trophy last year, several big bills came due for the Eagles this offseason, and they lost a ton of starting-level talent to free agency, including:
- Javon Hargrave (IDL) - A 30-year old Pro Bowl talent.
- Isaac Seumalo (LG) - 29-years old
- Andre Dillard (Swing T) - 27-year old, first round bust
- Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (S) - A 25-year old starting safety and NFL interception leader (2022)
- TJ Edwards (LB) - A 26-year old starting LB.
- Miles Sanders (RB) - A 25-year old RB, with over 1,300 scrimmage yards in 2022.
- Marcus Epps (S) - A 27-year old starting safety
- Kyzir White (LB) - A 27-year old LB.
So Philadelphia lost at least 5 key contributors on their defense last offseason. Who did they replace them with in free agency?
- Justin Evans (S) - A 27-year old who started 4 games for the Saints last year.
- Nicholas Morrow (LB) - A 28-year old with a PFF grade of 54 in 17 starts for the Bears last year. (Edwards had an 84.8)
- Terrell Edmunds (S) - A 26-year old who started 15 games for the Steelers last year, and looks like a solid replacement for one of the vacant safety spots.
The Eagles also lost back-up QB Gardner Minshew - replacing him with Marcus Mariota - and added Rashaad Penny and D’Andre Swift in free agency and the draft in an attempt to replace Sanders at running back.
So, overall, the Eagles used free agency like it should be used, to patch critical holes in the lead up to the draft. They got warm bodies in at safety, adding a linebacker, and swapped in a QB2 and some running backs for lost talent there. Nevertheless, there’s a clear loss - at least short-term - of net talent across almost all those positions, and they had some line spots both on offense and defense, that they did not shore up significantly in free agency.
But that wasn’t the end of the offseason.
Re-Loading in the Draft
The Eagles added 7 players in the 2023 draft, and executed 7 trades as well, moving up and down in the draft to grab their targets of interest, or grabbing picks for next year, when their target didn’t materialize. At the end of the day, they ended up with the following players:
- 1st round, No. 9 overall – DT Jalen Carter (From Carolina Panthers via Chicago Bears)
- 1st round, No. 30 overall – LB Nolan Smith
- 2nd round, No. 65 overall – OL Tyler Steen (From Houston Texans)
- 3rd round, No. 66 overall – S Sydney Brown (From Arizona Cardinals)
- 4th round, No. 105 overall – CB Kelee Ringo (From Houston Texans)
- 6th round, No. 188 overall – QB Tanner McKee (From Houston Texans)
- 7th round, No. 249 overall – DT Moro Ojomo (From Detroit Lions)
The history of the pick that eventually became Carter - considered by many to be the best defensive player in the draft - is convoluted, but Washington fans will be delighted to know it came, in part from a Colts’ first round pick tendered in exchange for the services of one Carson Wentz.
Carter was an enormous get, and, for the sake of this exercise, we’ll assume he eventually fills the hole left by Hargrave, at around 30% of the cost in cap space. And, yes, they also have second-year beast Jordan Davis waiting in the wings, but in terms of this draft, the Eagles will be fortunate if - at any point in his career - Carter approximates Hargrave.
Nolan Smith was another top-rated talent who fell to the Eagles late in the first. If we assume second-year player Nakobe Dean - who had 13 tackles for the Eagles last year - is Edwards’ replacement on the inside, Smith probably lines up opposite Haason Reddick, who was an absolute monster last year. Looking at the Eagles’ roster, Smith probably can’t help but be an upgrade as an OLB.
The rest of the Eagles draft is really aimed at the future. Steen is a developmental tackle, who might be able to play in a swing role in the near term, and Ringo is - if the Eagles are fortunate - a likely eventual replacement for James Bradberry or Darius Slay, both of whom are signed through 2025, but who I could easily see Roseman leveraging as trade bait at some point in the future if Ringo lives up to his pre-draft hype.
Sydney Brown is in a similar position, and will likely contribute early on special teams, but may take a year or so to really compete at safety.
Looking to the Future
While I think it’s questionable as to whether Philadelphia’s offseason moves improve them in 2023, I also think it’s inarguable that Howie Roseman is playing the long game brilliantly. With his young QB now preparing to get increasingly expensive, he’s doing a number of key things incredibly well:
- He’s managing his top free agents at the end of their careers well:
- Signs Jason Kelce to a 1-year deal through 2023, after having drafted his eventual replacement, Cam Jurgens in 2022.
- Signs Brandon Graham to a 1-year deal through 2023, before having drafted his eventual replacement, Jalen Carter in 2023.
- He’s managing his top free agents in the middle of their careers well:
- Lets Hargrave walk for a third round comp pick in 2024, after having drafted his replacement, Jordan Davis, in 2022.
- Lets TJ Edwards walk for a 4/5 round comp pick in 2024, after having drafted his replacement, Nakobe Dean, in 2022.
- Lets Epps and Gardner-Johnson walk and replaces them with a low-cost free agent on a 1-year, prove-it deal (Edmunds) and a highly rated draft prospect (Brown).
- In all, the Eagles lost about $70M in salary cost from free agents at a cost of picking up around $10M in free agent salaries.
- He’s finally hitting on his wide receivers:
- Devonta Smith in the 2021 draft and AJ Brown, in exchange for a 2022 first round pick facilitated as part of a first round trade back in the 2021 draft that netted a future first.
I’m certain there’s more that I’m missing, but this is a glimpse in the sort of multi-year thinking that is currently happening in the Eagles front office, and that should terrify the rest of the NFC East.
I long for a day when we can do a similar sort of evaluation for Washington’s front office, and arrive at similar conclusions. I’d like to think we can get there soon.
In the meantime, as much as it pains me to say it, kudos to Roseman and the Eagles.
What do you think about how Howie Roseman is running the Eagles’ operation?
This poll is closed
I think it’s something to be emulated.
I think you’re overselling it.
They’re just playing "moneyball" and it’s unlikely to work.
I hate the Eagles, so I can’t be honest about my answer.