Shots of mezcal and a hearty hug from general manager Howie Roseman celebrated Jason Kelce’s decision to return for a 13th season on Tuesday.
The Eagles have two other free agents on offense: Miles Sanders and Isaac Seumalo, both central to the offense. Their most valuable player, quarterback Jalen Hurts, relies heavily on all three.
Kelce nearly retired last season. At 35, he was a first-team All-Pro. He is a future Hall of Fame. His retirement would have been monumental to the NFL’s best offensive line and the Eagles’ third-ranked defense. The offense runs through Kelce, Hurts and the offensive line. Kelce returning means the line’s key player and one of the team leaders remains in place.
Kelce’s retirement plan was second-year center Cam Jurgens. That ultimately might work out, but Jurgens has taken only 35 career offensive snaps.
Plan B is to move Jurgens into right guard if they lose Seumalo, who started all 17 games.
The Eagles’ biggest offensive issue now seems to be how to replace Sanders, who gained 1,269 yards last season.
Today we’re going to evaluate the offensive position groups. We’ll assess each group’s strengths and weaknesses. Yesterday, we looked at the defensive position groups. Link: https://www.iggles.com/eagles-2023-defe…r-evaluation0313/
In our evaluation, we will include The Athletic’s roster stability ranking of NFC East teams. The rankings are from 1 (most stable and strong) to 32.
Compared with their NFC East rivals, the Eagles are considered the most stable in two of the five position groups and tied in one group.
Uncertainty reigns. The Eagles need to make a move.
Sanders has played his way into a big contract, one that might be too expensive for the Eagles. Free agent Boston Scott is likely to return.
The wild card in the backfield is Kenny Gainwell, who came on strong toward the end of the season and in the playoffs. Roseman said he is impressed with Gainwell but added that the Eagles needed another back.
Running backs generally can be found in later rounds of the draft or the Eagles could search for a reasonably priced free agent. Analysts say this is a good draft for lower-round backs.
Another wild card is the 10th overall draft pick. Texas’ Bijan Robinson is expected to be available. Will the Eagles look past their expected deficiencies on defense and go all-in with Robinson?
The Eagles’ running game, ranked fifth last season, is bolstered by Hurts, who gained 760 yards on the ground in 15 games.
- Eagles 14
- Cowboys 8
- Giants 25
- Commanders 17
Hurts finished second in league MVP voting. Had he not missed two games, he might have won the trophy. Hurts made an enormous improvement last offseason, going from an uncertain, sometimes inaccurate passer to one of the best in the league.
The greatest uncertainty is the back-up. Free agent Gardner Minshew, who went 0-2 when Hurts was injured, fancies himself a starter and is going to pursue an opportunity to compete for a QB1 job.
I don’t expect Minshew to return. Third-stringer Ian Book is inexperienced. He has played one NFL game, a 2021 start for the Saints. He completed 12-of-20 passes for 135 yards and two interceptions.
If Minshew leaves, is Book is good enough to be Hurts’ back-up? Remember, Hurts missed games in each of the last two seasons with injury.
If Book isn’t the answer, veterans are available. The most intriguing could be Marcus Mariota, who was cut by the Falcons. Mariota is a pass-run threat and could fit comfortably in the Eagles’ offense.
- Eagles 7
- Cowboys 7
- Giants 13
- Commanders 27
This position group is a real strength with starter Dallas Goedert playing at a Pro Bowl-level — both catching and blocking.
Behind Goedert are Jack Stoll and second-year player Grant Calcaterra. Both had their moments in 2022. Stoll, like Goedert, clears blocking lanes. Calcaterra has shown the ability to catch the ball downfield.
When Goedert missed five games with a shoulder injury, Stoll and Calcaterra filled in admirably. It’s a strong draft for tight ends but I expect the Eagles to pass and concentrate on their immediate defensive needs.
- Eagles 4
- Cowboys 8
- Giants 25
- Commanders 27
The roster stability slot of 16th surprised me. DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown are two of the NFL’s top receivers. The grade might have come from the lack of production from the slot.
Quez Watkins only had 33 catches. He fumbled in a key spot against Washington when he might have scored a touchdown. He was outmuscled twice for interceptions by the Cowboys. Expect an upgrade.
Free agent Zach Pascal had 15 receptions but was an effective blocker. The guess is he’ll return.
- Eagles 16
- Cowboys 10
- Giants 25
- Commanders 20
The roster stability rating of No. 1 was made before Kelce decided to return.
The line remains stable and strong. All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson, who turns 33 in May, said he wants to play two more years. Jordan Mailata, who turns 26 this month, and Landon Dickerson, 25, played at a Pro Bowl-level.
If Seumalo leaves, Jurgens should take over at right guard.
Jack Driscoll was effective in three starts. Andre Dillard reportedly will sign with the Titans.
Given the Eagles’ enthusiasm regarding the offensive line, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them sign a free agent or use a draft pick.
ROSTER STABILITY (before Kelce decision)
- Eagles 1
- Cowboys 6
- Giants 29
- Commanders 22