Despite my lack of NFL general managerial experience, I’m going to play one anyway on the internet machine.
I’m going to offer the Eagles some solid advice on what they should do this offseason. The advice is free — no paywall.
The Eagles probably had the NFL’s best roster in 2022. That’s fine for the 2022 yearbook and memory banks, but life moves fast in the NFL — a win-now, win-always league.
Another season beckons. After losing the Super Bowl, the Eagles are hungrier than ever to get back and win the franchise’s second Lombardi Trophy.
Fourteen-win teams generally just need tweaks. But with 20 free agents — a staggering eight defensive starters; 11 of the starting 22 — the Eagles have a mammoth mathematical and logistical hill to climb.
Here is my six-point plan to maintain excellence.
1. RE-SIGN JALEN HURTS
Pay Hurts a market-value contract without angst or animosity. Overpay him. He’s your quarterback. He’s your franchise. He’s your leader on the field and in the locker room. Treat him as such.
The Eagles might feel a little singed after the massive Carson Wentz contact extension. But Hurts isn’t another Wentz.
It’s not my money, but make sure negotiations are smooth. Take care of your respected quarterback and goodwill resonates throughout the organization.
Don’t be the Ravens, who have squabbled over a contract with Lamar Jackson for a year. Don’t get into a back-and-forth as the Giants and Daniel Jones seem to be doing.
Paying a quarterback often means not having enough cash for other positions. And, the Eagles are not salary-cap healthy — $5.6 million under according to Overthecap.com. But salary-cap management is one of general manager Howie Roseman’s strengths. You should always play to your strengths.
Don’t get weak-kneed when you talk money with Hurts; it’s the cost of doing business. If you enjoyed 2022’s success, make sure Hurts’ contract has the correct number of zeroes. It’s just money. Can’t take it with you.
2. RE-SIGN C.J. GARDNER-JOHNSON
Safety isn’t an Eagles’ strength. You can’t let your best safety walk out the door. Accept that he will get some big-money offers. That’s what happens to talented free agents. Be prepared to match them.
CJGJ is a 25-year-old hitter with a nose for the ball. He tied for the league lead with six interceptions and he missed five-plus games with a lacerated kidney.
Your other starting safety, Marcus Epps, also is a free agent. For continuity sake, sign them both. Keep playing Reed Blankenship, who looks to have an NFL future.
3. DRAFT A STARTING CORNERBACK
Free agent James Bradberry is going to get paid, but probably not in Philadelphia. Darius Slay will turn 33 on Jan. 1. Use the 10th overall pick to draft a shutdown cornerback who can play in 2023 and in 2033. Draft a rookie you don’t have to redshirt.
Don’t fall in love with Bijan Robinson, the running back from Texas. You *need* secondary help.
With the annual rush to draft quarterbacks, there should be quality cornerback choices available at No. 10. Pick the right guy.
NFL teams threw the ball on 58.3 percent of plays in 2022. Teams need quality secondary pieces. Can’t short-change this position.
The Eagles’ defense didn’t make a single second-half play to stop Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl. Had they made just one, they likely would have won the game.
4. DEFENSIVE LINE
Free agent Brandon Graham turns 35 next month. Underachieving Derek Barnett is coming off a torn ACL. We witnessed a defensive formula for success this season — hammer the quarterback and turn over the ball. When that didn’t happen — in the second half of the Super Bowl — the Eagles’ defense failed.
Your defensive ends last year were Graham, Josh Sweat, Robert Quinn, Barnett and Tarron Jackson. You need help on the edge. The Eagles’ leader in sacks was linebacker/edge Haason Reddick, with 16, plus 3.5 more in the playoffs.
There are quality edge rushers available. Make sure you get one. Re-sign Graham, who had a career-high 11 sacks last season. Your locker room will benefit and so will your pass rush.
There also is potential trouble with defensive tackles. Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave are free agents. Back-ups include underplayed Jordan Davis, old guys Ndamukong Suh and Lineal Joseph, Milton Williams and Marlon Tuipulotu.
You better keep either Cox or, preferably, Hargrave. Cut Suh and Joseph. Hope that Davis, Williams and Tuipulotu step up.
5. FORTIFY THE OFFENSIVE LINE
The Eagles led the NFL in rushing in 2021 and were ranked fifth last season. The offensive line opened holes for the backs and gave Hurts time to make plays. If the line’s top priority is to keep Hurts healthy, get him the best protection you can.
Until Jason Kelce decides to play or retire, there is uncertainty. Isaac Seumalo might leave in free agency. Lane Johnson is coming off surgery and says he might only play two more seasons.
Draft a stud offensive lineman, maybe at No. 30 or in the second round, enroll him at Stoutland University, buy him a SU sweatshirt, and keep the tradition of having a dynamic offensive line rolling.
The offensive line situation isn’t as urgent as the defensive line but it needs attention and nurturing.
6. FIGURE OUT THE RUNNING BACK SITUATION
Figure that free agent Miles Sanders is gone. Figure that Bijan Robinson will be gone before you draft at No. 30.
There are some impressive, but probably unreachable, free-agent backs — Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Tony Pollard, Jamaal Williams, Kareem Hunt, David Montgomery.
At running back, the Eagles generally don’t spend big money. If they did, they would bring back Sanders.
Is Kenny Gainwell your lead back? If so, the Eagles can pick a back later in the draft. Since the offensive line is so successful, maybe the Eagles can get a lower-round running back. With Hurts’ running ability, the Eagles have another quality runner anyway.
In 2017, the Eagles acquired moderately priced Jay Ajayi on Oct. 31, teamed him up with Corey Clement and LeGarrett Blount and won the Super Bowl.