Ever since Jim Schwartz took over as defensive coordinator in 2016, his defense has prided itself on creating pressure with their front-four.
The talent that Schwartz has had at his disposal over the past three years along the defensive line has allowed him to play this style of football. Rush four and put everyone else in coverage, with the occasional blitz here and there. For the most part, this formula has worked, but we’ve seen what can happen to this defense when that front-four isn’t getting pressure by itself.
This offseason, the Eagles could potentially lose up to four key players in their defensive line rotation. Both Brandon Graham and Chris Long are set to become unrestricted free agents; Haloti Ngata will also become a free agent (though reports have stated that he’ll likely retire); and there’s speculation that if Timmy Jernigan doesn’t restructure he could be let go to free up additional cap space.
It’s not yet clear whether all these players will leave or not, but I would venture to say that at least two of them won’t be here next season.
If that holds true, then Howie Roseman will have to replace them either through the draft or free agency.
The Eagles have a history of drafting defensive lineman in the first round and it could happen again this year. But since they used their first rounder on Derek Barnett just two drafts ago, I’m not sure if they’ll want to invest another first round pick into their D-Line. This leads me to believe that they’ll fill this need through free agency, and there are some big name pass rushers who are set to hit the open market.
On the Birds With Friends podcast, DraftAnalyst.com’s Tony Pauline suggested that the Eagles will pursue one of the top tier pass rushers in free agency this year.
“I think the Eagles will address their pass rush needs in free agency. I’m not going to release any names here but just keep your eye on when free agency opens, and some of the bigger [name] pass rushers. We’ll see what happens with the Eagles.”
If the Eagles do end up parting ways with some of the defensive lineman I mentioned earlier, they’ll have some very appealing options in free agency to replace them with.
Among the potential pass rushers there’s the Cowboys’ Demarcus Lawrence, Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clooney, and Kansas City pass rusher Dee Ford. If Howie is willing to spend in free agency this year, I would love to see him bring in one of these three guys.
They’ll all be expensive, and they may not even hit free agency with their respective teams likely to have them at the top of their to-do-lists. But even if one of them ends up on the open market, I think Howie would strongly consider breaking the bank to bring them on board.