Retooling, rebuilding, looking to the future, those terms have been tossed around all offseason in regards to the Philadelphia Eagles.
A rookie head coach with a very young staff surrounding him, a first year starter at quarterback. At a glance, it’s easy to see why so many NFL pundits have pinned the Eagles as a rebuilding franchise heading into the 2021 season. But if you take the time to look just a little bit deeper, it’s fairly obvious that this organization plans on competing in 2021.
With the limited amount of cap space at Howie Roseman’s disposal, he made several moves over the offseason to improve his roster — most notably on the defensive side of the ball. He added four players who figure to have major impacts for Jonathan Gannon’s defense. Anthony Harris, Steven Nelson, Eric Wilson, and Ryan Kerrigan were all signed to one-year deals.
Kerrigan may be the only non-starter of that group, but he’ll be one of the first defensive ends off the bench in their pass rushing rotation. Wilson is a 26-year-old linebacker coming off his best year as a pro, so he should help fill a big need for this team. And then you have Harris and Nelson, the two cornerstones of this secondary makeover.
The starting group on the backend should look something like this:
- CB1 — Darius Slay
- SS — Anthony Harris
- FS — Rodney McLeod
- CB2 — Steven Nelson
- Nickel — Avonte Maddox
- Box Safety — K’Von Wallace
Although that group is far from elite, they’re certainly an average to above average bunch. If everyone stays healthy and plays their role, they could be a top-15 secondary in the league. There’s no doubt this is the best secondary the Eagles have had over the past five years — maybe even the past decade.
What solidified the “Eagles are looking to compete this year” notion was the signing of Nelson just a few days ago. Any rebuilding team that was going to use this year as a quasi-tryout for their young talent would’ve been fine with someone like Zech McPhearson or Michael Jacquet lining up at the CB2 spot.
Filling every single hole isn’t always necessary when you’re in a retooling phase. And while members of the media, and even the owner of the team, may say things like that, the team’s actions speak much louder.
Without much cap room at all, Howie filled damn near every single hole on this team entering the 2021 season. From cornerback, to linebacker, to wide receiver, to quarterback depth, to running back depth, to safety. Not every single one of these signings will pan out, but Roseman went out and at least attempted to make a difference for his team.
The only real question mark remaining on this team is at the quarterback position with Jalen Hurts. Howie has put enough talent on this team to win right now. If Hurts is truly “the guy” moving forward, this team should be battling for a playoff spot in 2021. He’ll have a completely healthy offensive line in front of him, a handful of solid running backs, two Pro Bowl caliber tight ends, and his former teammate and reigning Heisman Trophy winner in DeVonta Smith on the outside. There are no excuses for Hurts this year.
Hurts will be the deciding factor in how far this team goes in 2021. If he shows up and his development as a passer is apparent, the 2021 Eagles are going to be a lot better than people expect.