1. Find a Trade Partner for Foles?
This might be unrealistic at this point. Since nearly every free agent QB has signed with a team the market for Nick Foles seems to be non-existent.
With reports surfacing that Wentz is ahead of schedule in his recovery process, the need to keep Foles next season is starting to diminish. But is there a trade partner out there willing to give us multiple pick for Nick Foles? I doubt it.
You can’t really blame them either. It’s hard to justify investing your future in someone like Foles – who only two years ago was contemplating retirement. He is what he is; he’ll show flashes of greatness, and then come out the following week and look like he forgot how to play quarterback. People seem to forget just how much Foles struggled during the few games he played in towards the end of the regular season. There were serious question marks heading into the postseason, and they were all surrounding Foles.
He’s a serviceable quarterback when called upon, don’t get me wrong. But he’s not a franchise QB and teams know this. If he was, then teams like the Cardinals would’ve given the Eagles multiple picks rather than signing Mr. Glass (AKA Sam Bradford). Howie has been able to rip teams before on trades so maybe he has a trick up his sleeve that we don’t know yet, but as of right now it looks like Foles will be in midnight green once again next season.
2. Find a Replacement for Patrick Robinson at Nickel Corner.
The Eagles’ biggest need right now could very well be a nickel corner. With Patrick Robinson gone, the nickel spot is up for grabs and it looks like the team may be looking to fill the need from within.
The Eagles have a plethora of young talent in their secondary so it would make sense if they decided to go ahead and develop one of their young corners into a nickel. Head Coach, Doug Pederson, was asked about this hole in the secondary at the NFL Annual Meetings down in Orlando, Florida:
“We’ve got some guys, whether it’s Jalen Mills moving in there, whether it’s [Daryl] Worley moving in there, whoever that might be, we got some young guys.”
From this, it seems clear that the Eagles plan to fill the need with one of the young corners they already have.
It’s interesting that the first name Pederson mentioned was Mills, considering he was the Eagles’ starting outside corner all season and played very well. Mills is a versatile player though, he spent some time at safety when he played in college. He’s the most physical corner the Eagles have as well, which could also be another reason why they want to move him inside. He would manhandle the small slot receivers with ease, and I think he could even match up well against some tight ends if need be. If Mills were to move inside to the nickel, I would guess that the outside guys would be Darby and Jones.
It’ll be interesting to see exactly what Pederson and company decide to do, but don’t be surprised if we see Mills make a move to the inside once mini-camp starts in the Spring. It should be noted the team tried Mills out at nickel last offseason before abandoning that plan after a week. We can only hope something has changed after another year of experience.
3. Find a Quality 2nd Tight End.
Since both Trey Burton and Brent Celek have left town, the Eagles are down to just Zach Ertz and former practice squad member, Billy Brown, at tight end. Suddenly, a position that was one of the strongest parts of the Eagles offense a year ago has become a position of need. While Zach Ertz may be a top 3 tight end in the league (right behind Travis Kelce and Gronk), Douggie P loves to use multiple tight ends in his offense. Both Celek and Burton got an ample amount of playing time last season; Celek played 41% of offensive snaps while Burton played 27%. Pederson also likes to have a blocking tight end at his disposal, which is why Celek played so much last season.
The backup that they have now in Billy Brown was an undrafted free agent wide receiver who the Eagles converted to tight end last summer during training camp. Some thought he had a shot at making the 53-man roster last season after he showed some nice ball catching ability during camp and the pre-season. With another year of development under his belt, I wouldn’t be surprised if the offensive brass decides to have Brown fill Burton’s roll in the offense. Brown is a little bigger than Burton as well, he stands at 6’4” 255 lbs. while Burton stands at just 6’3” 235 lbs.
Pederson will need to find a replacement for Celek though, and that’ll most likely happen through the draft. One prospect to keep an eye on is Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe. He may be the best blocking tight end in this draft class, he was essentially a glorified offensive tackle during most of his college career. He’s 6’5” and 250 lbs., and the blocks with the proper fundamentals – keeps his pad level low, never stops chomping the feet, and he has a very high motor. He could fill Celek’s roll in this offense for years to come if the Eagles pull the trigger on him in one of the later rounds.
4. Find a Replacement for the 3rd Safety Position.
Jim Schwartz’s defense uses a lot of nickel and 3-safety sets, which is why we saw backup safety Corey Graham get so much playing time last season. He played 36% of the defensive snaps to be exact.
He’s technically a free agent right now though and it doesn’t look like the Eagles have the money to bring him back next season. Chris Maragos is returning from injury and will most likely fill that hole. While I do like Maragos, and he’s a hell of a special teams player, I would prefer some fresh blood in the 3rd safety spot.
With the cornerback position so crowded, players like Rasul Douglas (who played well in Darby’s absence last season; 25 tackles and 2 interceptions) will have a tough time getting on the field. That is of course, if he stays at cornerback. Douglas clearly has playmaking ability and he displayed it in his limited playing time last season. He’s also the biggest corner currently on the roster at 6’2” 209 lbs.. He has the build and ball-hawking ability to make a quick and painless conversion to safety if the Eagles decide to go that route.
The Eagles have always been high on Maragos though, and he has earned his playing time through his stellar play on special teams. If I had to predict who’s the week 1 starter at the 3rd safety spot, as of now I’d guess Maragos.
5. Depth, Depth, and more Depth.
Let’s be honest, there really isn’t a glaring hole on this Eagles team right now. Yes, backup tight end and nickel corner are holes that need to be filled but they already have potential replacements on the team.
I think Howie’s strategy going into this draft is to add as many bodies as he can to this team. We saw first-hand last season what having good depth can do for a team riddled with injuries, and the Eagles lost a lot of depth in free agency. The Eagles currently only have six total picks in this year’s draft, and after their first pick and 32nd overall they don’t pick again until the 4th round. This could easily change with a trade or two, and Howie is always looking for opportunities to add draft picks. Personally, I would like to see Howie trade out of the first round to get a 2nd and a 3rd. The 32nd overall pick is basically a second round pick to begin with so if Howie could flip it for a 2nd and a 3rd I don’t think anyone would complain.
I already touched on the depth issues the Eagles are facing at tight end but there are a few more positions that could use some added depth. Wide receiver, linebacker, and offensive line should be at the top of Howie’s list when it comes to scouting prospects. Howie did just add a veteran wideout, Mike Wallace, but I think another young wide receiver wouldn’t hurt. We all know Jordan Hicks’ injury history, so adding a linebacker is pivotal. And you can never have too many linemen, so expect Howie to address that position as well.
In recent drafts, Howie has gone with the ‘take the best player available’ approach and it’s worked out great for him, so don’t expect anything different in this year’s draft.