Eagles fans are no strangers to uncertainty about upcoming seasons, and the 2022 team is spectacular in its speculation factor. One of the late Roger Segal’s posts on Facebook addressed the near-future improvement he wanted to see in his home team. He pretty much addressed the following issues:
As background, you have a slightly confident management staff (including coaches) which is feeling okay about its past season (9-8, 0-1 in Playoffs). According to Tim McManus at ESPN, the Philadelphia Eagles exceeded expectations in Year 1 under coach Nick Sirianni and quarterback Jalen Hurts, finishing 9-8 to secure the final NFC wild-card playoff spot. That’s pretty good considering team brass openly described 2021 as a transition year. General manager Howie Roseman said the team is now “in building mode” as the Eagles look to strengthen the roster around standouts like wide receiver DeVonta Smith, tight end Dallas Goedert and cornerback Darius Slay, and take advantage of having one of the best offensive lines in the game.
Okay, sounds good… but things could go the wrong way fast without further improvement and with worse injury luck. The 2022 schedule will also pose a higher degree of difficulty— on paper, anyway.
The budget was tight last year, thanks in large part to quarterback Carson Wentz‘s $34 million dead-cap charge sitting on the books while he played for the Indianapolis Colts. This offseason, the Eagles will be able to delve deeper into the free-agent pool, and are as well-stocked as any team for the 2022 NFL draft with three first-round picks. The question is whether Philly will use those assets to build methodically or make a gigantic splash.
The big question: Will they pursue a veteran quarterback? Hurts acquitted himself pretty well in 2021, guiding Philadelphia to the postseason in his first year as a full-time starter. He led all quarterbacks in rushing yards (784) and rushing touchdowns (10) last year while completing 61.3% of his passes and throwing 16 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Roseman said he entered the offseason with the mindset that Hurts would be the starter in ’22. We also know the Eagles are aggressive when it comes to upgrading at quarterback and are armed with 10 selections in April’s draft. With big-name quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson potentially available via trade this offseason, the Eagles could have a unique opportunity to land one of the better ones in the game. They’ll have to weigh that versus the benefits of rolling with Hurts, who costs just $1.6 million against the cap (vs. Wilson’s $37 million projected cap charge, for example) and has developed into a team leader at 23 years old.
Projected salary-cap space: $22 million
Best-case scenario for the offseason: They land an impact edge rusher and quality veteran receiver to address two areas of need. The Eagles finished second-to-last in sacks last year (29). With defensive end Brandon Graham coming off a ruptured Achilles and Barnett likely to depart in free agency, they need to pour serious resources into this position. Haason Reddick and Jadeveon Clowney are among some of the notable names scheduled for free agency. The offense, meanwhile, is screaming for a seasoned receiver to pair with Smith. A Smith-Mike Williams duo could be pretty nasty.
Early look at the NFL draft, from ESPN analyst Jordan Reid: Armed with three first-round selections inside of the top 20, Roseman has several different routes he could take. Here are three eye-popping stats about the franchise and the first round of the NFL draft, though: the Eagles haven’t drafted a linebacker on Day 1 since 1979, a cornerback since 2002 (Lito Sheppard), and have never selected a safety on the opening night of the event in franchise history. Expect them to hit the defense with one or two of these picks. Top needs: DB, EDGE, LB Top picks: Nos. 15, 16 and 19
Now EYE can’t expect Howie to actually draft players with those picks due to their intense trade value, but if he does, here are the early prognosis picks from SI.com:
“Despite seeing star defender Payton Turner taken in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Houston Cougars’ defensive line is full of intriguing prospects. Among that group, Logan Hall stands out as the most notable 2022 prospect.”
“Tall and long-legged wideout who lines up at X receiver and operates on a vertical route tree. Watson has great build-up speed when he opens his long stride which he uses to run past coverage.”
“Sweet footwork when pressing at the line of scrimmage. Crossover steps are always reactionary in the right direction. Maintains the edge on outside runs and has a quick trigger to fill lanes.”