Despite the limited cap the Eagles front office had to work with this offseason, they still managed to add several players to key positions of need.
Given the circumstances surrounding Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson, I’d argue this offseason was a successful turning of the page into a new era of Eagles football. Howie Roseman was able to add a blend of solid veteran players while also addressing some of the team’s biggest needs through the draft.
On paper, the Eagles upgraded at a number of positions this offseason. Although the most important one, quarterback, is still up for debate, most of the holes on this team were addressed in meaningful ways. Except for cornerback, which may or may not see an upgrade before the start of training camp.
Let’s take a look at which positions were upgrade by Howie and Co. this offseason.
Departures: Corey Clement
Additions: Kerryon Johnson, Kenneth Gainwell
Once upon a time, Corey Clement was supposed to be the utility back in Philly for years to come. Following his outstanding Super Bowl performance, the only player in that game to go over 100 yards receiving, he’s dealt with numerous injuries and has failed to recapture what made him so good in his rookie campaign.
The Eagles decided to part ways with Clement this offseason, as he traveled north to join the hated New York Giants. The team didn’t waste any time looking for adequate replacements for Clement, and what they got should ultimately prove to be an upgrade over him. For not just this year, but for the foreseeable future.
Snagging former Lions back Kerryon Johnson off waivers was one of the more overlooked acquisitions of the offseason. Johnson will only be 24 years old entering this year and he’s only toted the rock 802 times since high school. He’s a ways away from breaking down, especially placed in an Eagles backfield where he won’t be relied on to be the every down back.
Howie also went out and drafted Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell in the fourth round of this year’s draft, adding a true receiving threat to Nick Sirianni’s backfield. Gainwell is arguably the best receiving back in this year’s class of rookie running backs. He’s a polished route runner who’s a natural pass catcher, and he understands the importance of pass blocking from the running back position. Something that you don’t see in many rookie backs nowadays.
The Eagles legitimately have four backs who can all contribute to the offense this year. It’s one of the most promising positions on this offense heading into 2021.
Departures: Vinny Curry
Additions: Ryan Kerrigan
Although Vinny Curry has been a very consistent presence along the Eagles defensive line for years, he was never a real pass rushing threat. He did reach 9 sacks in 2014, but that’s the only year in which he recorded over 5 in his career. Ryan Kerrigan, on the other hand, has made a living by getting after the quarterback.
Even at 32 years old, Kerrigan still has plenty in the tank. He’ll be a situational pass rusher here most likely, and he’s coming off a year where he played just 38 percent of the defensive snaps, the lowest of his career. He still managed to record 5.5 sacks in 2020 despite the reduced playing time.
With Kerrigan in the fold, the Eagles have a dynamic duo of situational pass rushers that they can unleash on opposing offenses. Josh Sweat proved last season that he can get after the passer at a high clip, racking up 6 sacks while playing 38 percent of the defensive snaps.
Kerrigan’s track record of playing as both a pass rushing outside linebacker and a traditional defensive end is intriguing and something I expect Jonathan Gannon to utilize in his defense. The Eagles have a number of pass rushers who can play both outside linebacker and defensive end, and Kerrigan is the best of that group.
Departures: Nate Gerry, Duke Riley
Additions: Eric Wilson, JaCoby Stevens
Nate Gerry was one of the worst starting linebackers in football last season. I could list all the stats to prove that, but you watched the games last year. You saw the putrid play with your own eyes.
Truth be told, Gerry should have never started in Jim Schwartz’s defense. The team just never adequately added talent to the position and before you knew it, Schwartz was forced to start a special teams ace as the signal caller in his defense. So in that respect, I can’t even blame Gerry for playing as badly as he did. He was miscast as a safety-linebacker hybrid and it was never close to the truth.
This offseason, Howie actually went out and upgraded the position effectively, signing 26-year-old linebacker Eric Wilson. Wilson is an ascending player who has ties to the Eagles defensive coaching staff. He’ll know the system for the most part, which will help the rest of his fellow linebackers adjust to the new scheme.
Aside from losing Gerry, Duke Riley also left after a so-so 2020 campaign with the Eagles. Like Gerry, he was forced to play more defensive snaps than expected due to the circumstances, even though he’s naturally just a special teams player. JaCoby Stevens should be able to adequately fill that role as he develops his game behind Wilson and the rest of the Eagles’ backers.
Departures: Jalen Mills, Rudy Ford
Additions: Anthony Harris, Andrew Adams
Despite his flaws, Jalen Mills wasn’t as terrible a safety as some would lead you to believe. The contract he received from New England (four-years, $24 million) is an indication of the potential he presents when his skill set is utilized correctly. But he never has, and likely never will, reach the level of play that Anthony Harris has throughout his NFL career.
From 2018 to ’19, Harris tallied 9 interceptions, 6 of them coming in 2019 which led the league. He’s also coming from a Vikings defensive system that should look very similar to the one Gannon implements here in Philly. Harris excelled in that scheme and I expect him to continue being effective in 2021. Not to mention the criminally cheap price tag the Eagles got Harris for. One-year at just $4 million is ridiculously low for a player of Harris’ caliber.
The team also went out and acquired Andrew Adams from Tampa Bay, while subsequently letting Rudy Ford walk. There’s not much give or take with these two players — they both present similar skill sets and Adams will essentially play the special teams role that Ford did last season.
Overall, it’s hard to deny the safety position was upgraded this year. The duo of Harris and McLeod should be exciting to watch from day one.
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