Salute Magazine’s Exit Interview series examines the status of each NFL team heading into the offseason, along with their free agents, team needs and more. Click here for the rest of the exit interviews. Up next: the Philadelphia Eagles.
After over 50 years of waiting, the Eagles brought home a Super Bowl win to their devoted fanbase, over the dreaded New England Patriots no less. It was an amazing feat considering that they did it with their backup quarterback. They’re left with one question: now what?
The Eagles have arguably the best all-around roster in football. Carson Wentz was playing like an MVP candidate before his injury. Their offense was the seventh best statistically in the league, including third in the rushing attack. Their defense was even better, coming in fourth in total defense, mainly due to their top-ranked run defense. They have virtually no weaknesses in any of their position groups.
The problem is how long they keep everyone together. The Eagles are currently way over the cap heading into the offseason, and while losing the free agents they have wouldn’t be backbreaking, they’re also not in a position to replace them right away. It’ll get even worse next year.
It sounds callous, but maybe trading Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles for extra draft picks is the right move. After all, Foles proved that he’s more than capable of acting as a starting QB, so it would give him the opportunity to try his luck with another team. The Eagles would then have enough ammo to try and keep their roster fresh for the future.
Still, they’ll ultimately be just fine in 2018 as long as head coach Doug Pederson maintains the success he had this season. Sooner or later though, the Eagles have to prepare for another rebuild.
Current number of draft picks: 6 (#32 in the first round)
Cap space: $-6-12 million
Notable free agents
LeGarrette Blount, RB: Cast aside by the Patriots following their Super Bowl win last season, Blount came to Philly on a one-year deal and remained a solid runner, leading the team in rushing yards with 766. He did score just 2 touchdowns, however. Blount could easily start for most teams, but he and Jay Ajayi formed an effective partnership at running back, so he should consider sticking around if the price is right.
Patrick Robinson, CB: Robinson has been viewed as a middle-of-the-road defender since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2010. He only got a chance with the Eagles via a one-year prove-it deal. Well, he did that and then some, leading the team in both interceptions and pass breakups with 4 and 18, respectively. He also had the sixth-best Pro Football Focus cornerback grade at 89.8. Robinson could be just a one-year wonder, but he’s likely played himself into a big-money contract.
Nigel Bradham, LB: Bradham was a bit overlooked on the Eagles defense this season, but he had a noticeable impact, leading the team with 88 total tackles and also showing off his pass coverage skills by breaking up 8 passes. Given how needy other teams are at linebacker right now, he could be in for a huge payday.
Darren Sproles, RB: Sproles was a pass-catching monster out of the backfield in his prime, but he may be nearing the end. He played in just three games this year before breaking his arm and tearing his ACL on the same play. He’ll be 35 before next season, so it’s fair to wonder if his time is running out.
Corey Graham, S: A regular starter during his time with the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills, Graham decided to take a one-year deal with the Eagles as a quasi-backup who received regular time as a sub-package player. He did well, picking up 32 total tackles, 2 interceptions and 4 pass breakups in just 488 snaps. Graham could probably return to being a starter somewhere next year, but he could also stay in this specialized role.
LB: Linebacker is the one position where the Eagles may end slightly weaker heading into next season. In addition to Bradham hitting the open market, two of their backups, Dannell Ellerbe and Najee Goode, will also be free agents. They’ll definitely need to restock if they can’t retain the former.
T: The offensive line didn’t miss a beat when left tackle Jason Peters went down with a torn ACL/MCL midseason, but it may have the team thinking about the future at tackle. Hal Vaitai had his moments as a replacement, but he’s still very raw and may never be an elite option on the blindside. The Eagles could certainly use the last pick of the first round on a long-term prospect.
CB/S: The Eagles would still have a dangerous secondary if Robinson and Graham depart, but it would leave their depth a bit thin. Re-signing one of them is certainly doable.
RB: Seeing both Blount and Sproles leave in free agency wouldn’t be a huge detriment to the Eagles running game, but they’re both talented players who should be kept around if possible.
TE: While Zach Ertz and Brent Celek will remain a productive duo at tight end, Trey Burton is a free agent. He was an underrated asset on offense and could easily get a starting opportunity elsewhere.
QB: It’s way too early to say if the Eagles are going to trade Foles away or not, but if they do, they’ll need to find a replacement at backup QB to Wentz to compete with Nate Sudfeld.
P: Donnie Jones is a 37-year old free agent.
Best player/building block
Brandon Graham, DE: There’s a reason Graham is in the featured image for this article. His strip-sack of Tom Brady late in the Super Bowl clinched the first Lombardi Trophy for the Eagles, and it finally showed the world just how good of a pass rusher he is. He led the team with 9.5 sacks, a career high, and also racked up 60 total pressures across the season. In addition to that, he had 47 total tackles and got the eighth-best edge rusher grade from PFF at 91.6. Graham is in the prime of his time as a pro, and he may only get better from here.
Jason Kelce, C: After a relatively down season in 2016, Kelce bounced back and played like a top talent for the Eagles this season. He earned the highest PFF grade of any center in the league at 91.3. His run blocking grade of 95.1 was the best they’ve ever given out for a center as well. His pass blocking wasn’t as consistent; he did allow 22 total pressures. However, the turnaround was encouraging, and Kelce was a huge reason why the Eagles offensive line stayed productive after the loss of Peters.