Howie Roseman has been a busy man this offseason.
The Eagles GM has acquired talent on both sides of the ball and has given his team a real chance to compete in 2022. One look around the NFC East, and it’s clear the Eagles are the most improved team. Dallas took a major step back after losing Amari Cooper and Randy Gregory. New York still has Daniel Jones as their quarterback and has lost a handful of starters. As for Washington, well, they’re rolling out with Carson Wentz as their starting quarterback. Philly, on the other hand, has only lost one key starter (safety Rodney McLeod), and they’ve added multiple impact players.
Let’s take a look at each of the Eagles offseason moves and rank them from worst to best.
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6. Releasing Fletcher Cox and re-signing him to a 1-year deal
The release of Fletcher Cox caught some off guard when it first happened. But if you followed the tea leaves, it was pretty obvious that the team wanted to avoid paying Cox his $18 million in guarantees at all costs. Howie and Co. listened to trade offers, but Cox’s contract proved to be untradeable.
Almost immediately after Cox was released, it was reported that the Eagles were attempting to re-sign him to a more team friendly deal. An important side note here is that Cox was released with a post-June 1 designation, meaning the cap hit was far less severe for the team. If Howie would have pulled the plug without the designation, Cox’s release would have accounted for $40M in dead money along with a $25M cap hit. With the post-June 1 cut, Cox only accounted for $10M in dead cap while saving the team $16M in cap space.
So with the extra cash at their disposal, the team brought Cox back on a one-year, $14M deal. On the surface, that still sounds like a pretty hefty contract for a declining player, but the finer details of the contract say otherwise. Cox will carry a measly $4M cap hit in 2022 with a base salary of $1.5M. The Eagles paid $12.5 in advance salary, which essentially works like a signing bonus. The Eagles will likely prorate that $12.5M over future years.
At the end of the day, the Eagles were able to keep one of their best defensive players while cutting his salary down drastically. Though Cox is on the back nine of his career, he’s still a pivotal part of the Eagles defensive line and he can act as a mentor for both Jordan Davis and Milton Williams.
5. Trading up to draft Jordan Davis
I know I’m in the minority with this take, but just hear me out.
Jordan Davis is a fine football player. He played a pivotal role in Georgia’s championship run in 2021 and put on one of the craziest scouting combine performances we’ve ever seen. If you’ve been paying attention, Davis’ unwordley athleticism was on full display on tape. We already knew Davis had rare athletic traits; all the combine did was deliver that message to the masses. And boy did the masses eat it up.
The truth is, Davis is a one-trick pony who excels at stopping the run. We can argue until we’re blue in the face that his pass rushing potential is through the roof, but not once was that potential reached during his time at Georgia. Davis was a non-factor in two minute situations because he simply couldn’t stay on the field. He was often gassed and his snap count reflects that. In 2022, Davis played 378 defensive snaps. That mark was surpassed by 98 interior defenders in the NFL and 240 in the FBS.
You can read my entire breakdown of the Davis pick in our Eagles draft grades. The bottom line is, Davis would have been a solid selection at the Eagles original pick, 15th overall. But the team opted to trade up for him while there were a handful of better players on the board who would have actually filled immediate needs for the Eagles (i.e. Kyle Hamilton, Trent McDuffie, George Karlaftis, etc.)
4. Adding solid depth with Zach Pascal and Kyzir White
Although these moves aren’t sexy, they provide the necessary depth to compete. Pascal will likely serve as the fourth wide receiver behind DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown, and Quez Watkins. The former Colt has been a steady player throughout his four-year career. In 2019 and 2020, Pascal accumulated over 40 receptions, 600 receiving yards, and five touchdowns in each season respectively. He took a bit of a step back production wise in 2021, but that doesn’t take away from his reliability as a depth piece.
White is the more notable of the two signings and will likely get a chance to start during training camp. As a 6-foot-2, 216-pound linebacker, White has always been considered as a liability against the run. In 2021, he squashed that notion, recording 144 combined tackles while playing 84 percent of the Chargers’ defensive snaps, both career highs.
If both Pascal and White can fulfill their roles in 2022, the Eagles will be in good shape.
3. Signing Haason Reddick
One of the biggest areas of weakness for the Eagles heading into the offseason was their pass rush. They finished the 2021 season with just 29 sacks as a team, the second-fewest of any team in the NFL. On the first day of free agency, the Eagles swung for the fences to try and fix their pass rushing woes, signing linebacker Haason Reddick to a three-year, $45M deal.
As is the case with nearly every contract Howie hands out, it’s relatively team friendly. In 2022, Reddick’s cap hit will only be $4.02M, and in 2023, the hit will be $6.8. It balloons up to roughly $20M in the final year, but I’m sure Howie will look to restructure his contract well before they pay that money.
Reddick has been one of the most consistent sack artists in the league over the past two season, accumulating 23.5 sacks during that time. In 2021, Reddick posted a career-best 82.6 PFF pass-rush grade. That grade took a dip in 2022, even though he recorded more sacks.
Reddick should shore up the Eagles pass rush in a big way this season and return the Eagles defensive line to the heights they achieved just two years ago.
2. Trading for A.J. Brown
The Eagles have finally fixed their wide receiver woes. Let us all rejoice.
Adding DeVonta Smith in the 2021 NFL Draft was the first step in the process, and then Howie capped off his wide receiver makeover by trading for Pro Bowl wideout A.J. Brown during the 2022 NFL Draft. The Eagles paid a pretty penny for Brown — a first and third-round pick, along with signing him to a four-year, $100M deal. But the Eagles had close to nothing locked up financially in their wide receiver room. Before the Brown trade, Smith had the highest cap hit among Eagles wideouts with $4.577M. Brown holds that claim now, but by just over $1M.
Aside from fixing an obvious need that’s plagued the Eagles for years, this trade arms Jalen Hurts with all the ammo he needs to perform at a high level in 2022. With a top tier wide receiver duo, a top-7 tight end in Dallas Goedert, a top-3 offensive line in the NFL, along with the best rushing attack from last season, any worthy quarterback would go absolutely bonkers with this kind of weaponry.
With the luxury of having a quarterback on a rookie deal, Howie pushed all his chips into the Hurts basket — at least for this season. Hurts has no excuses heading into this season and the Eagles will be able to accurately diagnose whether Hurts has what it takes to be a franchise quarterback.
And if he doesn’t play up to par, the Eagles have two receivers under 25 to lure their next quarterback to town.
1. Drafting Nakobe Dean in the third-round
Acquiring A.J. Brown was the highlight, sexy move of the offseason for the Eagles, but getting one of the best defensive prospects in the entire draft all the way at pick 83 is truly unfathomable. Nakobe Dean was arguably the best player on Georgia’s defense last season and due to some questionable injury concerns that don’t seem to hold any merit, he was there for the taking in the third-round.
The Eagles have tried to put bandaids on their linebacker room for years now, signing veterans to one-year deals with the hope that perform better than their track records would indicate. Howie still did his due diligence on that front, signing White to a one-year deal, but this time around he actually attempted to fix his linebacking woes with a long-term solution.
Dean is already the most well rounded linebacker on the team and should be a day one starter. What separates this move from the others listed here is the value. Dean will join the Eagles as a third-round pick, getting paid approximately $5M over four years, and will be an impact player from day one at a position that’s plagues the Eagles forever. It was the steal of the draft, making it easily the best move of the offseason for the Eagles this year.