When the Philadelphia Eagles first clinched their spot in the NFC Playoffs after Week 17, there was a fleeting moment of optimism amongst most Philly fans that their favorite team would be able to make some noise.
After all, the Eagles had built a newfound identity around running the football and looked somewhat unbeatable when this facet of their offense was churning.
However, one disaster-filled playoff game from Jalen Hurts later, and the Eagles swiftly find themselves out of the postseason. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sent Philly packing 31-15, giving the Eagles organization a whole lot to think about moving forward into the offseason.
Biggest offseason questions
The undisputed number one question that needs answering in Philadelphia is what to do at quarterback. Jalen Hurts had a nice second year in the NFL, all things considered. However, when the lights shined brightest, and Nick Sirianni needed his quarterback to move the ball through the air, Hurts could not deliver.
In a typical year, Hurts’ promising 2021 would likely be enough to earn him a spot in the Eagles’ starting lineup next season. However, the Eagles have three first-round picks in hand. If general manager Howie Roseman wants to make a change at quarterback, the time is now.
The follow-up question that needs answering is what to do if the three first-rounders are not spent on a quarterback.
Should the Eagles triple up on defensive help? Should they draft another starting receiver alongside DeVonta Smith? What about investing into what got them to the postseason in the first place, the offensive line?
It all circles back to Hurts and what the Eagles decide to do with him. That decision dictates how the team will use their war chest of draft capital this spring.
Top free-agency decisions
Key free agents: Brandon Graham (EDGE), Jason Kelce (C), Anthony Harris (S), Derek Barnett (EDGE), Steven Nelson (CB), Rodney McLeod (S)
When assessing the Eagles’ impending free-agent situation, there’s good and bad news. The good news is that they’re only set to lose one starter on offense. Of course, that starter is Jason Kelce, who’s coming off an All-Pro season at center. The Eagles would happily re-sign him for the 2022 season, but he’s been mulling retirement for quite some time. He could easily hang the cleats up this offseason.
The bad news for Philly is they’re currently slated to lose several starters on the defensive side of the ball. Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Anthony Harris, Steven Nelson, and Rodney McLeod are all impending free agents. Linebackers Alex Singleton and Genard Avery are also hitting the open market.
The Eagles would presumably like to bring back Graham and maybe even Nelson. However, they can’t bring back everyone. They only have $13.6 million in cap space. The Eagles will likely let most (if not all) of these players walk in free agency, turning to the draft for their replacements.
2022 NFL Draft needs and potential targets
Top picks: First round (Miami Dolphins via draft-related trade), first round (Indianapolis Colts via Carson Wentz trade), first round (own), second round, third round
Draft needs: LB, CB, S, EDGE, WR
With so many defensive starters set to depart in free agency, the Eagles should be keeping a close eye on the defensive side of the ball during the draft. Assuming they keep all three first-round picks, they’re in a unique situation where they could add three impact defenders all at once.
Linebacker Nakobe Dean and cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner are two names who’ve been connected to Philadelphia as of late.
The Eagles could also look to the early draft rounds as a way to beef up their WR room. 2019 first-round pick Jalen Reagor looks like a complete bust, and current WR3 Quez Watkins is probably better suited in a depth-based role. Philadelphia could easily justify spending a premium pick on another WR to add talent alongside last year’s first-rounder, DeVonta Smith.
Edge is another underrated position that Philly should look to target. However, top-rated edge prospects Aiden Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux will likely be off the board before the Eagles are on the clock.
1 player on each side of the ball who must step up in 2022
Of course, this hinges on his ability to remain the starter or not, but Jalen Hurts is the obvious answer regarding who needs to step up on offense for Philly next year. His running was fantastic this past season, but he too often left throws on the field when it came to passing.
If Hurts is serious about becoming the long-term starter in Philly, simultaneously earning himself a second contract, he needs to show he can hang with the better passers of the NFL.
On defense, Josh Sweat is the first name that comes to mind. Sweat was handed a rather lucrative contract extension at the start of the season (three years/$39 million), and after one year, it appears the Eagles may have overpaid.
Sweat did finish the year with 7.5 sacks. However, his TFL (seven) and QB hits (13) numbers weren’t up to par for someone who’s being paid like a borderline elite pass rusher. The Eagles need better production out of their defensive line moving forward, and Sweat is the first guy who needs to start performing better. Double-digit sacks need to be a thing for him in 2022.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.