Why the Philadelphia Eagles Had the Best Offseason in the NFL.

August has arrived, which means one thing for NFL fans: Football is nearly upon us. Free agency, trade season, and even the draft are all months behind us, the dog days of summer are beginning to wind down, and the NFL has shifted its focus from roster shakeups, to practicing, preparing, and making the fall small roster tweaks and cuts as we move into the preseason. Every team has made changes. Some teams made big trades and made moves that will ensure success, other teams seem to have missed the bus and will be fighting an uphill battle to win two or three games in 2022 with everyone on the team fighting for a job. With this changes that come every year, the question becomes what team had the best offseason? And what makes an offseason good? The Giants, Jets, and Ravens all had spectacular drafts, being able to land multiple talents who are in line to start and see a significant role in 2022. The Raiders and Dolphins were able to make big trades to bring in a true number one wide receiver. The Broncos made the move of the decade to bring Russell Wilson to Denver. The Bengals sured up their offensive line. You could even say the Buccaneers and Rams had phenomenal off-seasons just because they were able to retain so many players who were vital to the success of the team in 2021. However, if you’re looking for one team who sticks above the rest, look no further than the Philadelphia Eagles.

Going into the 2021 NFL season, the Philadelphia Eagles looked like a team that was dead in the water. Just three seasons after their franchise’s first Super Bowl winning season in 2017, the Eagles were entering 2021 with a new starting quarterback, a new head coach, and coming off of a 4-11-1 season in 2020. The fans wanted the Eagles’ General Manager, Howie Roseman fired. Nobody thought the Eagles would be able to put together a successful 2021 season. Not with a new coach who wasn’t getting much interest from other teams and gave some interesting press conferences, and certainly not with a roster of players who many were saying were either too old and overpaid, or too young and drafted much too high. Less than ten players from the team that won the Super Bowl even remained on the roster, with Zach Ertz being the only one who wasn’t an offensive lineman, defensive lineman, or the kicker, and he too would be traded halfway through the season. When the Eagles traded Ertz, they were 2-4, coming off of a loss to the Buccaneers. The Eagles looked lost as a team still. They didn’t run the ball enough, they couldn’t win games with their passing game alone, and the defense could not get off the field. It seemed as if the Eagles would be looking at another offseason of potentially needing to once again move on from their quarterback, Head Coach, and maybe even General Manager. The birds were in Las Vegas for a date with the Raiders for their next matchup in week seven, when something changed. The Eagles came out of the gate running the football. They ran it on every play during their first drive, and topped it off with a touchdown on the ground. The Eagles may have lost 33-22 but they gained something even more valuable; an identity. The Eagles ran the ball 32 times against the Raiders for 135 yards and a touchdown. At the time it was a season high in attempts, and the Eagles would have 33 rushing attempts or more in every game remaining in 2021. The Eagles would also go on to lead the league in rushing yards by the end of 2021, and after the loss to the Raiders the Eagles would turn their season around, going 7-3. This was good enough to clinch the Eagles a playoff berth, in fact, they had a playoff berth clinched in week 17, leading the Eagles to rest their starters in week 18 against their rival, the Dallas Cowboys, another team with a playoff berth clinched. Dallas would not rest their starters, as they were still fighting for a higher seed, and defeated the Eagles. Running the ball became the Eagles bread and butter. They had a top three rushing quarterback in Jalen Hurts, who had over 700 yards on the ground in 2021. Miles Sanders, who averaged 5.5 yards while battling injuries in 2021 and still had over 700 yards, just like his quarterback, also more than Saquon Barkley, De’Andre Swift, and James Connor, who all played in more games than Sanders in 2021. Jordan Howard had over 400 yards and three touchdowns. Boston Scott had 373 yards and seven touchdowns. Even their fourth string running back, fourth round rookie Kenneth Gainwell, managed 291 yards and five touchdowns, and was able to gain another 250 yards receiving.

Going into 2022, the Eagles know their system. Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts have had a year together, and this season they know their a run-first team. Future hall-of-fame center Jason Kelce will be returning to Philly for 2022, who has a huge impact as the heart and soul of not just the offensive line, but the whole offense. Power back Jordan Howard may not currently be under contract with the Eagles, but that doesn’t necessarily matter. Howard may have been with the Eagles this time last year, but he was released when the Eagles had to cut the roster down to 53 men. Howard wouldn’t be called back to the 53 man roster until November, and the same thing could happen again if the Eagles, who have already had four different stints over the last three seasons with Howard in the lineup. But we know Philadelphia has a great running game. They made the playoffs because of it. There moves outside of the running game is where the Eagles won the offseason.

To start, the Eagles were able to rework their salary cap, while keeping their talent. On top of retaining Jason Kelce, they were able to restructure Darius Slay Jr’s contract, as well as Fletcher Cox. They resigned Derek Barnett, Anthony Harris, Greg Ward Jr, and Boston Scott, and while they may not be star players, they have been available and have stepped up when called upon due to injuries late in the season for multiple years. Scott has just under 1500 total yards and has scored 14 times in his three years in Philadelphia, while Ward has had over 750 yards and ten touchdowns in three seasons as well with the Eagles. Derek Barnett was a first round pick in 2017, and recovered the fumble that won the Eagles a Super Bowl, and Anthony Harris is also at the very least great depth in the birds secondary. These moves may not jump out as big moves, but creating salary cap space and retaining role players is a solid way to start reloading a roster, and they will also ensure the Eagles are one of the deepest teams in the league.

Next, came free agency. The big, first day signing the Eagles made was to bring in edge rusher Hasson Reddick. The Temple product returned to the city he played college football in on a three-year, $45 million deal. Reddick has had over 300 tackles and over 30 sacks in his five years in the league, and he will be a part of one of, if not the best defensive lines in football, which we will revisit later. The Eagles were also able to add wide receiver Zach Pascal and linebacker Kyzir White in March when free agency. Players who will help fill two of the Eagles weaker positions (at least in March 2022), and for a combined $4.5 million in one year contracts for the pair. Later on in free agency, the Eagles would make another splash in free agency, signing cornerback James Bradberry after he was released from their division rival New York Giants. While Bradberry turned 29 on August 4th, he is a great player to have on the boundary opposite Darius Slay, as he has 15 career interceptions and over 80 passes defended. The addition of Bradberry also allows Avonte Maddox to play exclusively in the slot, where he excels. In fact, pro football focus deemed Maddox the ninth best slot cornerback in the league. The Eagles would also sign safety Jaquiski Tartt in June to help add even more depth to the secondary. In free agency alone the Eagles were able to improve at every position group on defense, and on offense they were able to reduce their losses to Brandon Brooks, who was never healthy for the Eagles anyway, and Jordan Howard, who will likely be back in midnight green at some point in 2022 anyway. The last thing the Eagles needed was a good draft, and they had three first round picks to do it.

The Eagles and their three first round picks were in the thick of quarterback rumors earlier on, as Jalen Hurts may have been serviceable, but one of the most trade happy teams of the last decade was doing diligence on potentially landing one of the three top-ten caliber quarterbacks who were, at one point or another, potentially available for trade. For one reason or another, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson all received closure in a city that is not Philadelphia with a team that is not the Eagles. This did not stop the Eagles from making trades. The Eagles trade two of their 2022 first round picks (16 and 19 overall), as well as a 2022 sixth round pick (194 overall, to the New Orleans Saints for a 2022 first round pick (18 overall), two 2022 mid-late round picks (101 and 237 overall), the Saints 2023 first round pick, and the Saints 2024 second round pick. This gave the Eagles two first round picks in both the 2022 and 2023 drafts, when they previously had three in 2022 and one in 2023, and they were able to net a mid round pick in 2022 and a second rounder in 2024 in doing so, which is great value, especially for a team that loves to trade and move picks. Going into the 2022 NFL draft, the Eagles held the 15th and 18th selections in the first round. Everyone knew the Eagles wanted a receiver but then what? Would they draft a linebacker to help bolster a position that badly needed it? Would they add an interior offensive lineman to help fill the guard spot across from 2021 second rounder Landon Dickerson? The Alabama player was solid and versatile for both the Crimson Tide and the Eagles, but the Eagles would need more around him, especially when Kelce does retire. Could the Eagles go another corner or something for the secondary? They still had not signed Jaquiski Tartt or James Bradberry when the draft came in April. There were even rumors they could go for another defensive lineman or pass rusher, as players such as Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Brandon Graham were and still are in the twilight of their careers. Could the Eagles still be looking for a plan B for Jalen Hurts? Well, the Eagles stayed true to themselves with their draft picks. The Eagles couldn’t simply wait to take the apple of their eye at 15th overall, so the Eagles made a trade with the Texans to move up to 13th overall to leap frog the Baltimore Ravens, and gave up a fourth rounder and two fifth rounders, all in 2022, to do so. They used the 13th selection on Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis. Davis is an absolutely unbelievable athlete who began turning heads and gaining national attention for his sheer size. Davis stands at 6’6″ and weighs in at 336 pounds, but the numbers will never do his massive appearance justice. Davis is a true presence in the middle, but that’s not how he became one of the most well-known players in the 2022 draft. He completely stole the show at the NFL’s scouting combine in March. He ran a 4.78 second 40-yard dash. Davis also weighed 341 pounds at the time of the draft and is believed to have the fastest 40-yard dash for anyone weighing over 340 pounds, according to ESPN. Davis also had a vertical jump of 32″ and a broad jump of 123″. Both outstanding marks for not only a player of Davis’s size, but any defensive tackle. Even Aaron Donald, at 6’1″ and 285 pounds, ran a 4.68 40-yard dash, had a 32″ vertical jump, and a 116″ broad jump. The Eagles have loved to draft lineman since Howie Roseman took over as General Manager in 2010, offensive or defensive. Especially in the first round. Roseman selected Jordan Davis in 2022, Andre Dillard in 2019, Derek Barnett in 2017, Marcus Smith in 2014, Lane Johnson in 2013, Fletcher Cox in 2012, Danny Watkins in 2011, and Brandon Graham in 2010. A man committed to building a team through the trenches. The Eagles also stayed true to their identity by making another trade during the first night of the 2022 Draft. This time, the Eagles traded for a player. The Eagles traded the 18th selection (their second and final first round pick in 2021) and pick 101 to the Tennessee Titans for stud young wide receiver A.J. Brown. The Eagles immediately signed the 25 year old to a four year $100 million extension. Brown was a fantastic addition for the Eagles, as in just three seasons in the NFL, Brown has had over 3,000 total yards and 25 touchdowns, and has over 180 career catches. Brown is also great friends with Jalen Hurts, showing that the Eagles continue to value team chemistry and try to accommodate their players as much as possible.

The Eagles didn’t just make their team better during the first night of the draft, however. On day two of the NFL 2022 Draft, when rounds two and three were held, and the Eagles had a pick in each round. Their second round pick was pick 51 overall, and they used it to select Nebraska center Cam Jurgens. The Eagles were in need of a player who can take over whenever Jason Kelce retires, and they did a spectacular job to get him on the roster before Kelce hangs up his cleats. The Eagles even asked Kelce to help them scout centers, and Jurgens was the one hand picked by Kelce, and it’s easy to see why. While Jurgens is slightly undersized, at 6’3 and 303 pounds (the league average for a center is 6’5″ and 312 pounds), he is not small but any means, and is still incredibly strong and agile. Jurgens ran a 4.98 40-yard dash, when the average for centers is 5.20 seconds. Jurgens also put up 25 reps on the bench press, which is about the combine’s average. While it can be difficult to evaluate the center position from a stat sheet, Jurgens put enough on tape to gain confidence from the Eagles, Howier Roseman, Jason Kelce, and Jurgens has continued to impress throughout the Spring and Summer. The Eagles second pick of day two came in the third round, 83rd overall. The Eagles selected Nakobe Dean, a linebacker from Georgia, an arguably the biggest steal of the draft, at least from the perspective of Summer 2022. Dean was an absolute stud at Georgia. In 2021, Dean had 72 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, two interceptions, five passes defended, two forced fumbles, and he even managed to score a touchdown. Nakobe Dean was arguably the best player on one of the best defenses college football has ever seen (and another name being debated was Jordan Davis), but why did he fall to the Eagles in the third round? At the combine, Dean did not participate in any of the drills, and measured in at what scouts believed to be just a bit too undersized to play the position at 5’11” and 229 pounds. Howie Roseman, however, had a defensive coordinator and a fanbase begging him to finally give some extra attention to a linebacking core that has needed it for nearly a decade. Nakobe Dean was a spectacular selection, especially at 83rd overall. NFL.com projected Dean to go in the first two rounds of the draft, and it was hard to find a mock draft that didn’t see Dean get taken in the first round. It seemed a consensus going into the draft, even after not participating in the combine and scouts and teams knowing his size may be an issue, that Dean would be selected in the 20s or 30s of the draft. Nobody expected Dean to free fall to pick 83. Allegedly, Dean fell due to a shoulder injury. Apparently the linebacker suffered an apparent shoulder injury, and was refusing surgery. Reports were saying it was a torn labrum, while others were saying it was a torn pectoral muscle. Nobody knew the extent of this injury, and many believed Dean could miss the entire 2022 season with this mystery injury and his refusal of surgery. Following the selection of Dean at 83rd overall, Dean came out and said he was told by doctors his shoulder injury was minor and not in need of surgery, but fans were still unsure. So far, Dean has participated in training camp, but hasn’t generated much buzz, and hasn’t been seeing many first team reps. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Dean is only 21, and everyone ahead of him on the depth chart has multiple years of NFL experience, and if Dean is recovering from a shoulder injury, no matter how minor, using Dean in a role where he comes in when the starters need a rest, then the Eagles have incredible depth at yet another position group on defense. All in all, the Eagles came away as one of the overall winners of the NFL draft. Compare the Eagles to another team that came into the night with similar needs and also had two first rounders, the Green Bay Packers. The Packers also drafted a Georgia defensive tackle and a Georgia linebacker with first round buzz, and they came away with a new talented wide receiver for Aaron Rodgers, but the trio of Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean, and A.J. Brown seems much more desirable than leaving the draft with Devonte Wyatt, Quay Walker, and Christian Watson. Despite the upside possessed by the Packers draft class, they haven’t put as much on film as the Eagles trio, while the Eagles trio is still an average age of 22.7, while the Packers trio has an average age of 23.0. Age isn’t the only number that works in the Eagles favor. Jordan Davis had more sacks during his time at Georgia than Devonte Wyatt, while being doubled teamed by blockers significantly more than Wyatt. Nakobe Dean was also able to drastically outperform Quay Walker, and on film it was obvious Dean was more of a leader to the defense than Walker. Dean was able to put up 168 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, and two interceptions, while Walker was only able to put up 137 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, five sacks, and no interceptions. Christian Watson is also no A.J. Brown. While I am high on Christian Watson, Brown has over 3,000 yards in his first three seasons in the league. And the Eagles also got a future starter on their offensive line as well.

Another contributor to the Eagles phenomenal offseason is what the other teams from the NFC that made the playoffs in 2021 did. The Packers lost Davonte Adams. The Buccaneers lost Rob Gronkowski, Ali Marpet, and Antonio Brown even had 42 catches for 545 yards and four touchdowns before storming off the field in the meadowlands. The Cowboys lost Amari Cooper. The 49ers had contract disputes with Deebo Samuel, and will be changing to Trey Lance at quarterback. The Cardinals lost Christian Kirk and will be without DeAndre Hopkins for the first six weeks of the season. Even the defending Super Bowl champion Rams lost Odell Beckham Jr, Von Miller, and Andrew Whitworth, and even though they were able to add Allen Robinson II and Bobby Wagner, but even still, it won’t be the same group that they won a Super Bowl with.

To take one final look at the Eagles roster, they are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. Their secondary has two spectacular boundary cornerbacks in Darius Slay Jr and James Bradberry, a great slot corner in Avonte Maddox, and a solid mix of veterans and youth at safety with Jaquiski Tartt, Anthony Harris, and K’von Wallace, and Marcus Epps. Linebacker may be the weakest position group on the team, but still features lots of young talent with T.J. Edwars, Kyzir White, Nakobe Dean, and the possibility of Hassan Reddick also getting some snaps at outside linebacker. The defensive line is where this Eagles defense is set up to shine. They have depth at edge, with Hassan Reddick, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham, and Derek Barnett, a group with three former first round draft picks, who have combined for 129 career sacks. The defensive line’s interior features Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and rookie Jordan Davis. Both Cox and Davis were first rounders and Cox and Hargrave have combined for 84.5 career sacks. A defensive line rotation with over 200 combined career sacks and a rookie who is the biggest physical phenomenon to come into the NFL in a long time will surely be able to demolish and bulldoze opposing offensive lines all season. The offense is where the team needs to come together. The Eagles have a great offensive line, both with their starters and in depth, featuring future hall-of-famer Jason Kelce, former All-Pro Lane Johnson, and another physical beast in left tackle Jordan Mailata. The Eagles also have a deep and talented receiving core. A.J. Brown is the elite wide receiver one the Eagles have wanted since Chip Kelly ran Desean Jackson out of town. 2021 Heisman trophy winner Devonta Smith has a chance to be the best number two wideout in the league while still under his rookie contract. The Eagles also have the speed of Quez Watkins, Devon Allen, and Jalen Reagor, as well as the sure hands of Greg Ward Jr and Zach Pascal, and Dallas Goedert at tight end, who has been great in Philadelphia so far, especially since the departure of Zach Ertz. Even the Eagles running backs have great potential, with Boston Scott being able to perennially step up his game in December and Kenneth Gainwell moving up the depth chart. Lead back Miles Sanders, while entering a prove it year in 2022 after failing to see the endzone in 2021, still has a career average of 5.1 yards per carry. The biggest question mark for this Eagles team is under center. Will we see Jalen Hurts excel with a great team built around him for his second year as a full time starter? There’s no reason that the 24 year old shouldn’t succeed given the talent around him. Hurts has put his head down and worked all offseason, and throughout training camp may have gotten some mixed reviews, but from every recorded rep I could find, Hurts has looked poised, polished, smart, and Hurts even looks significantly stronger going into 2022. The Eagles were able to right the ship incredibly fast, in no small part to their trust in Jalen Hurts as a passer and their restraint to not give up three first round draft picks and then some to get another quarterback. The Eagles now are in the conversation for one of the most complete rosters in the NFL, and look to be the favorites to win the NFC east, just one year removed from what seemed like many gearing up to see the Eagles be a bottom feeder in the beginning of the 2021 season, and that doesn’t happen without serious offseason magic. Something Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles are no strangers to.

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