Philadelphia Eagles' Offseason To-Do List
Bad teams looking to remodel should use the Philadelphia Eagles as their tear-it-down template.
In one offseason, executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman almost completely erased the Chip Kelly era. He found a familiar coach. He identified their quarterback of the future. And they wheeled and dealed to get him, swapping unwanted players for the necessary extra draft-pick capital. It was a three-year demolition and rebuild, all in one busy calendar year.
Playoff contention is the next logical step for this Philly franchise. Roseman and Co. can follow these 10 steps to get there.
Keep Developing Carson Wentz’s Game
Carson Wentz was slinging footballs in the FCS not too long ago.
That we’ve forgotten how far he’s come is a testament to his talent. But the kid out of North Dakota State is by no means a finished product; coach Doug Pederson needs to keep developing him as a professional passer.
The next stage of his quarterback upbringing should trend in the vertical direction. Pederson’s West Coast offense stresses short throws by nature, but Wentz is a special intermediate-to-deep thrower who has the arm strength to attack any opening down the field. It’s time the Eagles incorporate those skills in their passing game.
Mix It Up at Wide Receiver
Every receiver atop the Eagles’ depth chart brings the same skills to the table.
Dorial Green-Beckham, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews—these pass-catchers are big, physical, slow and unthreatening. Wentz can only do so much with them plodding downfield.
He needs a bona fide No. 1 receiver, either via free agency or through the draft. A reunion with DeSean Jackson makes sense; the ex-Eagle could resume his role of taking the top off defenses, something no current Eagle is capable of doing.
And how about a shifty third receiver? Philadelphia is the only team in the NFC East without a viable option in the slot. Wentz would benefit greatly from a guy who can ditch cornerbacks or linebackers and get open on third down.
Feature Trey Burton in the Offense
You can’t miss Trey Burton when you watch Eagles tape.
Yet somehow, Pederson and his staff have. They continued to stress other tight end/receiver combinations in 2016, leaving one of their more gifted contributors out of the big offensive picture.
That can’t happen again next season. Burton is dynamic with the football in the air and does a great job getting open underneath. If he doesn’t have a niche in this Eagles offense, Pederson ought to carve him one.
Find a Bell-Cow Running Back
Who’s going to be the guy who can pound the football 20-25 times per game in December?
He might not be on the roster. Philadelphia’s running back stable is overflowing with complementary talents (they were called scatbacks in my dad’s day), but not a true RB1. Ryan Mathews is often injured, and Darren Sproles is entering his final season. It’s time to find a long-term answer.
We know Pederson’s offense works best with a Jamaal Charles-type from his days in Kansas City. One option: Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, the college runner most scouts liken to Charles himself. He could be available when the Eagles pick at No. 14 or No. 15 overall (pick is pending a coin flip).
Prepare for the End of Jason Peters
Father Time comes for everyone, even nine-time Pro Bowl left tackles.
The Eagles would be wise to prepare accordingly. Jason Peters is stringing the last few years of his career together with a bad back (and probably about 19 other ailments). The end of a borderline Hall of Fame career is at hand.
Maybe Roseman takes a look at the tackle market, hoping to find a bulky right-sider (think: Baltimore's Ricky Wagner). Then he could swap Lane Johnson over to the left tackle spot and feel more secure. But for the utmost insurance, Roseman should consider a Marshall Newhouse-type to play swing/emergency tackle
Figure out If Jason Kelce Is Salvageable
Maybe Jason Kelce can shake out of a two-season slump.
Or maybe the Eagles center is on the downswing of a pretty good career. Either way, Roseman and Pederson need to do their homework on the 29-year-old before weighing their center options.
One option involves Kelce and the chopping block. According to Philly Voice's Jimmy Kempski, Philadelphia could shave $3.8 million off its cap number by releasing him. It would be justified in doing so; Kelce led all centers in penalties (eight) and misfired too many shotgun snaps in 2016.
I think the Eagles will opt for a second option, though. Kelce can slash his top-10-center salary and give rookie third-round pick Isaac Seumalo another year to develop before taking his spot.
Go All in on A.J. Bouye
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz would’ve loved to roll out more man-coverage looks in 2016.
He just didn’t have the personnel. Nolan Carroll, a serviceable CB2 or CB3, topped Philadelphia’s less than ideal cornerback depth chart. Behind him were few promising names.
Roseman should reclaim Carroll off the free-agent market if the price is right. If it isn’t, he should roll that salary over into one giant offer for A.J. Bouye, star Texans cornerback and free-agent-to-be. He’s exactly the cover corner Schwartz needs to make his defense run, but he won’t come cheap.
Bring Bennie Logan Back
Now is not the time for an NFC East team to lose big defensive linemen.
Re-signing Bennie Logan should be a top offseason priority for Roseman and his staff. He’s the run-stuffer Philadelphia needs to combat the division-rival Cowboys and Redskins, two major offensive lines that’ll only get better in 2017.
Fletcher Cox would approve of such a move. The former All-Pro knows Logan can bring enough pass-rushing push to the table to make offenses take notice—and that, in turn, helps Cox hit home.
Find More 4-3 Defensive End Help
The last glaring remnants of the Kelly era aren’t on offense.
They’re on defense, where Kelly’s old 3-4 players were plugged into 4-3 positions they hadn’t played in years. Some of them were able to; others couldn’t make the switch.
Two names to watch: Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin. Both players are approaching a decade of service in the league. Before their skills start dwindling, it might be time to acquire more natural end rushers behind them. One name that would make sense: Carolina's Mario Addison, who's played in a 4-3 his entire career.
Sort out the Linebacker Position
First things first: Wrap Jordan Hicks in bubble tape and tell him to stay indoors until training camp.
He’s a budding superstar and a soon-to-be cornerstone defensive player. But the former Longhorn (had to get that in) has suffered two devastating lower-body injuries in his playing career. A third could rob him of his awesome future in Philadelphia.
After that’s taken care of, attention must be turned to Mychal Kendricks. He’s far too talented and athletic to sit on the Eagles bench for weeks on end. Roseman and Pederson need to figure out if he has a home in Schwartz’s defense—or some other team’s via trade.
This cat-and-mouse game is getting old.