Through the first week of the NFL’s legal tampering period that transitioned into the official start of free agency, league shifting trades and signings have transpired.
Tom Brady is no longer a family man and is back with the Buccaneers. Russell Wilson is now the quarterback of the Denver Broncos. The Deshaun Watson fiasco has resulted in him being traded to the Cleveland Browns. Subsequently, Baker Mayfield no longer wants to be in Cleveland and has requested a trade. And, Davante Adams joined his college quarterback, Derek Carr with the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Philadelphia Eagles have made one big signing, but outside of that and a few re-signings of their own players, they’ve been mostly quiet.
Birds Ink Big Time Pass Rusher
The team signed LB Haason Reddick to a three-year $45 million deal. Reddick has been the team’s sole acquisition thus far into free agency.
Reddick is a hand-in-glove fit for Jonathan Gannon’s defense. He’ll likely slot in as the SAM linebacker role, which in Gannon’s defense is essentially a stand up pass rushing defensive end. It’s also worth noting, Reddick adds the ability to drop into coverage as a hook/curl defender somewhat as well. He likely won’t be asked to do it a ton, but he does possess the range to drop effectively and speed to take away options in the flat.
Per Pro Football Reference, Reddick has notched 23.5 sacks along with 34 QB hits in the past two seasons. He’s a quick and decisive mover who fires off the line of scrimmage and possesses a ton of moves in his repertoire to get to opposing quarterbacks.
Reddick’s combination of hand power, bend, and quick twitch movement make him a headache for offenses to plan for.
At the NFL Combine, Eagles Executive V.P. and General Manager, Howie Roseman, spoke about the need to improve the team’s pass rush.
“…the bottom line is we didn’t get enough pressure on the quarterback. We have to have pressure on the quarterback. We have to continue to have pressure on the quarterback. It’s a priority to us. We’ll have opportunities this offseason to do it, and I would be very surprised if we didn’t do something there,” Roseman said.
It’s safe to say the team has done ‘something there’ to say the least. Reddick adds a ton of versatility in the fronts that Jonathan Gannon can present and he legitimizes an Eagles pass rush that finished with the second-fewest sacks in the NFL last season (29).
The Eagles Say Goodbye (and then hello again) to a Franchise Legend
Six-time Pro Bowler, Fletcher Cox has been engulfed in trade rumors since the middle of the 2021 season when he criticized defensive coordinator, Jonathan Gannon’s scheme after a loss at the Las Vegas Raiders. The Eagles reportedly discussed moving Cox at the 2021 trade deadline.
The 31-year-old defensive tackle saw a drop in production in 2021 finishing with 35 total tackles (down from 41 the year before) and 3.5 sacks (down from 6.5 the year before).
Nevertheless, Cox is still a player opposing offenses have to game-plan for. And the attention he gets can be seen as the caveat for Javon Hargrave’s Pro Bowl 2021 season in which he notched career highs across the board (sacks, tackles, tackles for a loss, & QB hits).
The Eagles decided to release Cox on March 17 to avoid paying him $18 million in guaranteed money, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
Philadelphia was then able to re-sign the defensive tackle who’s been with the franchise since he was selected 12th overall in the 2012 draft.
Cox and the Eagles agreed to a one-year, $14 million contract on Saturday. The deal ensures Cox will get at least one more season in midnight green.
In all likelihood, it will be his last as the Mississippi alum is on the wrong side of the age of 30 and the Eagles possess 5 picks in the top 100 of next April’s draft. One (or more) of which will surely be used on an interior defensive linemen.
The obvious two names are the pair of Georgia boys, Devonte Wyatt and Jordan Davis. Each player provides something different. Davis, his massive frame (6-foot-6, 341 pounds) and stout run defense. Wyatt, his combination of pass rushing acumen and run stuffing (Wyatt was the only SEC interior defensive linemen to receive an 80+ run and pass defense grade per PFF). Other names include: Oklahoma’s Perrion Winfrey, Texas A&M’s DeMarvin Leal, and UConn’s Travis Jones.
Eagles Re-Sign Some Familiar Names
Philadelphia has been active in retaining some of it’s own free agents who hit the market.
The team re-signed WR Greg Ward, DB Andre Chachere, RB Boston Scott and S Anthony Harris to one-year deals.
The Eagles also tendered G Nate Herbig as a restricted free agent.
Unless Philadelphia acquires a veteran at the receiver position, Ward will once again be the veteran of the Eagles wide receiver room. He offers reliable hands and already made chemistry with starting quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Andre Chachere was a special teams ace with Philadelphia last season after being acquired from the Colts practice squad and being used on punt coverage.
Boston Scott has been a dependable hand in the Eagles running back room since joining the Eagles late in his rookie season in 2018. Scott has played 45 games (10 starts) in four seasons with Philadelphia. Per Pro Football Reference, Scott has racked up 290 total offensive touches for 1,491 total yards and 14 touchdowns in his career.
Anthony Harris, 30, was entrenched as one of the Eagles starters at safety opposite Rodney McLeod. Harris struggled mightily during the first half of the Eagles season, routinely appearing out of position, but came on as the season progressed. Harris is a fine one-year band-aid option as the Eagles figure out the future of the safety position. He’s an experienced player who knows the system, dating back to his days in Minnesota with Jonathan Gannon, can play as a split-field safety, and is leader in the locker room.
Per Pro Football Reference, Harris played 74 percent of the Eagles snaps last season and allowed 23 completions on 45 targets (51% completion percentage) for 12.2 yards per completion. Harris also allowed a 68.7 passer rating when targeted in coverage and amassed 74 tackles.
3 Second Wave Free Agent Signing Candidates
The Eagles have been players in the second wave of free agency since Howie Roseman was re-instated as Eagles general manager back in 2016.
They’ve sought out bargain signings to improve the roster around the margins and fill holes.
On the current free agent market there are still a few names that make sense for the team
S Ronnie Harrison
Ronnie Harrison has been a nice rotational safety since being drafted in the third round of the 2018 draft. The 6-foot-3, 214 pound safety is at his best playing downhill in the box. He struggled as a deep half safety in coverage last season, allowing a 113.0 passer rating when targeted.
In each of his four years since being drafted, Harrison has recorded at least 30 tackles (including 2019 where he notched a career high 71 tackles), an interception, and a sack. With the Eagles, Harrison would be allowed to roam opposite Anthony Harris who can operate as a primary split field safety. The Eagles are also expected to draft a safety early, who can play two high coverages like Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker or Michigan’s Daxton Hill.
Also, they could always opt to bring back Rodney McLeod…
LB Kyzir White
White is coming off his best season as a pro. White started all 17 games this past season and finished the 2021 season with career highs in tackles (144), sacks (1), and interceptions (2). White would be a nice weakside linebacker who’d compete with Davion Taylor for snaps. He moves well laterally in coverage, evidenced by his top 30 coverage grade per PFF.
WR Keelan Cole
Keelan Cole has been a steady dose of consistency since entering the league in 2017. He’s accumulated over 350 receiving yards in each of his five seasons. Last season with the Jets, Cole hauled in 28 catches for 449 yards and a touchdown.
Cole, 6-foot-1, 194 pounds can operate on the outside and inside. Eight of his 13 career touchdowns have come when he’s lined up in the slot.
Cole is also a nuanced route runner who can operate as a big play threat and win over the middle with nice contested catch ability.
Cole would give the Eagles a nice set of reliable hands and route running opposite DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins.
The Eagles have been quiet throughout the first wave of free agency with regards to acquiring new talent and to some fans it may be frustrating, however, they clearly identified a few free agents they were willing to target in the first wave, but not break the bank for (Christian Kirk, Marcus Williams, Allen Robinson).
The team re-signed it’s own pending free agents during the season and added a premier pass rusher who fits their defense to a tee.
They’ve stuck to their plans and haven’t deviated. And spending in free agency hasn’t necessarily translated into success for NFL franchises.
The Eagles hold 5 picks in the top 100 and 10 in total. The organization appears keyed in on utilizing their draft picks to build the roster and develop talent.
The youth movement is clearly on the rise in Philadelphia.
Cover Image Credit: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images