Eagles: 4 biggest questions facing Howie Roseman as free agency is set to begin

NFL free agency isn’t officially set to begin until Wednesday, March 16, at 1 p.m., but the legal tampering period will open at noon today. Which means we’ll hear all about where the pending free agents will be heading.

Howie Roseman and his Eagles have a lot of work to do this offseason. They’ll have a solid amount of cap to work with and with three first-round picks at their disposal, Howie can really get the ball rolling towards another Super Bowl if he plays his cards right.

With free agency about to get underway, here are some last-minute thoughts to keep in mind regarding the Eagles’ offseason plans.

Will Fletcher Cox get traded?

There’s reportedly been some interest for Fletcher Cox around the league. It was reported that he was almost dealt at the trade deadline last season, but it never materialized.

On the surface, a Cox trade makes a lot of sense for the Eagles. The former Pro Bowler took a significant step back last year under new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, he just turned 31 in December, and he’s expensive. Howie quietly restructured Cox’s contract prior to the 2021 season, freeing up cap space during the season and subsequently for this offseason. While that was all good and dandy at the time, it’s made trading the aging talent nearly impossible. The team will incur a $20M dead cap over the next two years if they trade Cox.

Cox’s regression coupled with the Eagles desire to get substantial compensation for him will make any trade talks difficult. If they’re going to eat $20M, Howie is going to want some sort of tangible value in return. Cox could have salvaged a second-round pick potentially if he was traded a year ago. Now, the Eagles would be lucky to get anything higher than a fourth rounder.

Still, it’s something to keep an eye on. We know there’s interest from multiple teams around the league. If Howie can get the right deal, he’ll almost certainly pull the trigger.

How can Roseman clear up more cap space?

According to Spotrac, the Eagles have about $15M to work with in cap space this offseason. This number accounts for the rookie deals, which will eat up about $8M. There are a few ways the Eagles can clear up more space before Wednesday, most notable through restructures.

Darius Slay and Javon Hargrave are clear restructure/extension candidates. Restructuring Slay and extending Hargrave could free up as much as $20M, giving Howie a nice cushion of $35M in cap. Howie could also look to extend Isaac Seumalo as he enters the final year of his rookie deal, or restructure Jake Elliott, but these moves won’t free up nearly as much space and aren’t as necessary.

Expect the Slay restructure and Hargrave extension to happen within the next few days.

Do the Eagles have legitimate interest in upgrading the QB position?

I think they do, but the best bet to do that was acquiring Russell Wilson. Now that he’s off the table, the options to upgrade over Jalen Hurts aren’t as tantalizing.

The big fish of the quarterback market, Houston’s Deshaun Watson, is expected to get traded within the next few weeks after avoiding criminal charges for his sexual misconduct allegations. I broke down why the Eagles should avoid Watson last week, you can read that article here. In short, replacing Hurts, a standup guy on and off the field, with Watson, a questionable character at best, just doesn’t jive with me.

Call me old fashioned, but I want my quarterback to be the best human being on my football team. Leading by example, cultivating relationships with teammates, and being the hardest worker on the team are all things Hurts has. Despite all of his shortcomings on the field, at least fans can hang their hats on that. Watson doesn’t check all of those boxes, therefore, I’m out.

Some of the other quarterbacks expected switch teams this offseason include: Jimmy Garoppolo, maybe Kyler Murray, Jameis Winston, and Mitchell Trubisky. Yeah, no thanks. I’ll stick with Hurts for another season.

I’d imagine Howie sees it similarly. Wilson was probably his top option and now that he’s a Bronco, Howie will most likely be content with running it back with Hurts for at least one more season.

Which positions will Howie target the most in free agency?

If I had to widdle it down to two positions, one on offense and one on defense, wide receiver and defensive end seem like to logical positions to allocate contracts to.

On the offensive end, the team could opt to address this need in the draft (again), but there are a ton of alluring options on the open market that would be great fits alongside DeVonta Smith. D.J. Chark of the Jaguars has been drawing a lot of interest from Eagles fans, along with Allen Robinson and Juju Smith-Schuster. All of whom would be welcomed additions to the Eagles wide receiving corps.

Defensively, there’s been a lot of debate over which position is actually the biggest need. For me, it comes down to which position makes the biggest impact and which position will Howie favor. The answer to both of those questions is defensive end. Gannon’s defense only accumulated 29 sacks last year, second-worst in the entire league. Fixing the pass rush should be priority number one this offseason. Some names to keep an eye on are Chandler Jones, who has actually drawn interest from the Eagles according to reports, Jadeveon Clowney, and Emmanuel Ogbah.

At the end of the offseason, I’d be shocked if Howie didn’t spend on a free agent pass rusher and also draft one in the first-round, that’s how big of a need this position is.

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