The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the hardest teams in the NFL to project this year. They have so many unknowns laced throughout their roster. From their quarterback and head coach, to their secondary and linebacker position, nobody truly knows what the 2021 NFL season has in store for the Eagles yet.
But there is optimism in the air around Philly, especially after Monday’s signing of veteran defensive end Ryan Kerrigan. That’s not a signing you make if you’re fully embracing a rebuild — Howie Roseman and Co. are looking to compete for the division title this year.
Regardless of what your thoughts are on the Eagles at the moment, they absolutely should be going into this season with the NFC East crown in mind. After all, it’ll only take eight or nine wins to get it done, and the Eagles have the easiest strength of schedule heading into the year.
While I’m in the camp of ‘the Eagles will be better than expected this year,’ I do understand there are a few holes that need to be shored up before I can fully convince people that the Eagles will be decent this season.
Two moves could get this done. Let’s take a look at both and see how these moves make the Eagles legit NFC East contenders.
Trade Zach Ertz for Jordan Hicks
We’ve written on this already, and the rumors surrounding this have died down a bit, but this move would still make sense for both sides.
The Cardinals are in a position to contend this year and the moves they’ve made this offseason clearly indicate they’re going for it. They acquired future Hall of Fame pass rusher J.J. Watt, along with Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler and the now underrated A.J. Green to pair with DeAndre Hopkins. After these signings, the team still has $12.5 million in cap space.
While the Cardinals are pretty loaded across the board offensively, they do have a need at tight end. That’s where Ertz comes into play. They have the cap space to take on his contract and they’ve already granted Jordan Hicks permission to seek a trade. The Eagles save $8.5 million by trading Ertz, giving them enough cap to take on Hicks’ contract.
This Ertz trade saga has lasted long enough, and it’s even made some fans think that he may actually stay in Philly this season (guilty as charged). But with the new reports indicating Ertz won’t attend offseason workouts until his situation is resolved (either cut or traded), the team ultimately doesn’t have a choice here.
Howie wasn’t able to acquire fair draft compensation for the disgruntled tight end, but getting a solid linebacker who hasn’t missed a game since leaving Philly while recording 268 tackles and four interceptions is a pretty good backup plan.
The Eagles need at linebacker isn’t the biggest need facing the team, but Hicks would certainly be the best backer on the team if they were to acquire him. I’d feel pretty comfortable with Hicks and a combination of Eric Wilson and Alex Singleton hovering around the middle of the Eagles defense.
Sign Steven Nelson
It’s pretty remarkable that Steven Nelson is still available at this point in the offseason. He’s only 27 years old and coming off a three year stretch in which he recorded seven interceptions and 32 pass defenses.
Nelson has added some fuel to the Eagles rumors recently too, following the team on Twitter and liking a few pro-Eagles tweets.
I’m not here to convince anyone that Nelson is confirming that he’s signing with the Eagles based off a few clicks on social media. I’ve been down that road before with the Yannick Ngakoue saga and I vow to never stoop that low again. But hey, it’s at least a little interesting.
The Eagles have a massive hole at their second cornerback spot. Darius Slay is solidified as CB1, with Avonte Maddox likely sliding in to the nickel this season. That leaves fourth round rookie Zech McPhearson, Craig James, Michael Jacquet, Nate Meadors, Grayland Arnold, and Kevon Seymour. Those six players combined have nine starts in the NFL.
I find it hard to believe that Howie would go into a season with such an obvious hole going unfilled in some capacity. The fact that a corner as good as Nelson is still available is a godsend for the Eagles.
If Howie is able to add both Hicks and Nelson before the season starts, we should all feel pretty good about this defense in 2021.
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