Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave might be the most important free agent the Eagles need to re-sign.
You can make a strong case for safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson being the one defensive free agent the Eagles need the most. If the Eagles place the franchise tag on Gardner-Johnson, Hargrave should be their next priority — presuming James Bradberry will sign elsewhere.
With eight free-agent starters on defense, the Eagles’ urgency is obvious. Given the interest he will generate from other teams, keeping Hargrave might be fiscally difficult. Teams likely will be willing to pay top dollar for one of the NFL’s top defensive lineman, who was the Steelers’ 2016 third-round pick from South Carolina State.
Hargrave was ranked the third-best free agent by ESPN. He just turned 30 last month. He started all 17 games in 2022, recording a career-high 11 sacks and earning his first Pro Bowl berth.
HARGRAVE’S OTHER KEY STATS:
- 16 quarterback hits
- 60 tackles
- 10 tackles for loss
- 57 pressures
- 40 hurries
- 1 forced fumble
- 2 fumble recoveries
He was a run-stopping force all season. He dominated the interior and racked up sacks. Hargrave had five tackles in the Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs.
Hargrave played 712 snaps, 64.3 percent — one fewer snap than fellow tackle Fletcher Cox. One of Hargrave’s best games was Week Nine at Houston. He had three sacks and seven tackles in a surprisingly tough 29-17 victory for the 8-0 Eagles.
PFF: SEAHAWKS A GOOD FIT
ESPN matched its top free agents with the best team fit and for Hargrave it was the Seahawks.
- From ESPN: “Coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks can upgrade the defensive front with Hargrave, adding a disruptive tackle with pass-rush juice. This past season … his pass rush win rate of 17.2 percent when lined up on the interior ranked third overall in the NFL.
- “And Seattle’s 33.5 percent pass rush win rate was No. 28 last season. Hargrave is slippery off the ball with the upfield burst to attack the pocket, and he can hold a gap in the run game, too.”
Pro Football Focus ranks Hargrave the top interior defensive lineman free agent.
- From PFF: “Hargrave moved from western Pennsylvania [he played for the Steelers from 2016-19] over to the East Coast during 2020 free agency and has been a force in Philadelphia, blossoming into one of the elite interior pass-rushers in the NFL over the past few seasons.
- “Since 2020, Hargrave’s 92.2 pass-rush grade trails only Aaron Donald and Chris Jones at the position, with his 18.8 percent pass-rush win rate also ranking third.”
PFF say Hargrave is looking at an $18 million a year contract. Spotrac has Hargrave’s projected value at $20.1 million a year over three years — a $60.3 million windfall. Hargrave is coming off a three-year deal with the Eagles that was worth $39 million.
Coach Nick Sirianni made it clear he wants the Eagles to re-sign the 6-foot-2, 305-pounder. Hargrave’s 11 sacks and his forceful pressure up the middle were a big part of the Eagles’ NFL-leading 70 sacks.
- “Yeah, he’s awesome,” Sirianni said. “He’s awesome and he’s been a big part of this team for the past three years. I’ve only been here for two, but he is a big-time player and obviously you want all your guys back.
- “You want all your guys back because you just went through a super special journey together. The journey is what you will always remember. I know that loss will stick with us, but there was a lot of good moments in that journey.
- “And Javon, just being around him every day at practice, he’s just an awesome guy to be around.
- “He’s a great teammate – and he’s quiet, but he’s a quiet leader – but a great teammate, a great person, and a great player. You want to try to get as many guys back as you can, but knowing that that’s not always possible.
- “Again, [general manager] Howie [Roseman] has to do what he feels is best for the team. I have my input just like we talked about, and we’ll see what happens. But I love Javon Hargrave.”
Loving a player is one thing, being able to pay him is another. At 30, Hargrave knows this might be his last shot at a big payday.
We’ll see how serious the Eagles are about bring Hargrave back. The free-agent decisions they make starting March 15, especially on defense, could have an enormous impact on the 2023 season.