The Philadelphia Eagles are coming off a Super Bowl appearance during a season that many, including myself believed would be a one year window. Why was it a one year window? The soon to come huge contract extension for Jalen Hurts. With Hurts previously on a rookie contract the raise would mean the money spent on luxury players like James Bradberry, and Javon Hargrave or Fletcher Cox, would no longer be available.
Apparently we all underestimated Howie Roseman and his abilities to work contracts in a team friendly manner. The move to release Darius Slay nearly gave Eagles fans an aneurism, but this move that panicked the whole team was simply a formality to getting Slay the deal he wanted. That move along with bringing back Bradberry, and retaining Fletcher Cox was huge for this defense a catalyst for the team’s success last season.
The more important factor to consider here, is these moves among others allowed the Eagles to go into the draft with a best player available approach. Typically it’s the teams that are able to pick based on talent level alone and not need, that come away the winners of these drafts. With the Eagles not really having any glaring needs per se, there are a number of different directions they could look in order to solidify this roster.
2022 Trade Sets the Stage for Continued Success
The rare and enviable position that they find themselves in, is walking into the first round of the draft with two selections. Now that in itself is not rare, what’s rare is being able to appear in a Super Bowl and still have those two first round draft picks. Typically we see this happen on teams that have a lack of overall talent, Or are in the process of a rebuild and are willingly trading away valuable veterans for Draft capitol. Neither of these situations were the case for the Eagles, in fact this whole situation all came from the decision to strike a trade with the New Orleans Saints a couple seasons ago.
Allowing the Saints to move up, set the Eagles up for the next 2 to 3 seasons to essentially rebuild the foundation of this team with high draft picks.This trade gave up the ability to select three players in last season’s first round, and instead we wound up selecting just one; Jordan Davis a nose tackle who was expected to step in as a started in 2023. They then also acquired Aj Brown in a move I believe put them over the top into the Super Bowl contender category.
Before the draft began the Eagles and Cardinals settled a tampering dispute over head coach Jonathan Gannon.
Now the Eagles headed into 2023 with just six draft picks
Round 1 10th overall
Round 1 30th overall
Round 2 62nd overall
Round 2 66th overall
Round 7 219th overall
Round 7 248th overall
Four of those picks reside in the top 66 selections. This tells me one major fact that about the Eagles, and their approach to team building over the next two seasons, (2024, 2025) and I expect that we will watch several big name veterans move on, replaced by players selected in 2022, and 2023. Guys like Fletcher Cox, Isaac Seumalo, Lane Johnson, and Jason Kelce come to mind.
Building a Year Ahead
The Eagles have always been forward thinkers when it comes to roster building. They tend to bring in players with the intentions for them to be a rotational or depth player for a season before stepping in to the starting lineup. This is even true for their first round picks. Seeing them load up in the trenches or the secondary wouldn’t be shocking in the slightest but they stepped into the draft truly able to select the best player available and figure out the details later.
With quarterbacks dominating the top five picks it appeared the Eagles could stand pat and still get a player they coveted. However Howie thought otherwise and traded a 2024 4th round pick to move up one spot to number 9 overall. He would use the selection to pick up Jalen Carter defensive tackle from Georgia, ironically the running mate to Jordan Davis in college.
Not only is it awesome to see him team up with Davis once again in the NFL, but he gets to do so learning from and rotating with Fletcher Cox. Hopefully this is the rotation we needed to shore up the run defense, and continue our unbelievable run in the pass rush department last season.
Carter is regarded as an exceptional athlete and more of the speed element from the interior the exact way I would have described Fletcher Cox early in his career. He may not be the run stopper that Davis is, but he brings the pass rushing prowess we don’t expect to get from Davis serving as our nose tackle.
In three seasons at Georgia Carter produced 83 tackles, 18.5 for a loss, 6 sacks, 4 tipped passes, and 2 forced fumbles in just 35 games. Still fairly young, and with room to develop, Carter couldn’t have landed in a better spot for his long term success. Congratulations to Jalen Carter and welcome to the Eagles.
Bottom of the First Round
With one more selection left on the board for Thursday, the Eagles held pick number 30 of 31 picks. Miami was stripped of their first round pick due to a tampering investigation. Having already selected a defensive tackle giving themselves a solid four man rotation with Milton Williams also still there.
The Eagles have loved drafting Georgia players so much, that they thought they would do it again. This time it was edge rusher Nolan Smith.
At 6’3 236 pounds he is another speed rusher, he that lit the combine on fire running a 4.39 40-yard dash, leaping 41.5 inch vertical, and 10 feet 8 inches broad jump. He’s explosive, exciting, but what is more importantly he’s not expected to be a starter right away. He also gets to learn from Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, and Hassan Reddick, and perhaps bulk up a little bit more to fight with the NFL linemen.
The scary part about drafting Smith is you’re strictly banking on potential and athleticism, not production. This is essentially the exact opposite of drafting a Derek Barnett who was extremely productive in college. Smith left college with 46 appearances, 114 tackles, 21 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, 1 interception, 4 passes deflected, 3 forced fumbles, 1 recovery, and 1 blocked kick.
Where Does Smith Fit? Who is the Odd Man Out?
If Carter is the replacement for Cox, then Smith is the replacement for Josh Sweat. Sweat signed a 3 year $40,000,000 contract, that would leave him a free agent after 2025 if he stays for the life of the contract. That essentially gives them a two year window to develop Smith, and if they believe he is ready, they have a potential out after 2024.
If they release or trade Sweat as a post June first designation they will eat only $4,727,000 in 2024 dead cap but free up $14,000,000. The big hit comes with $9,588,000 dead cap in 2025. Much like every year, Roseman has drafted and built insurance all over the roster giving his front office a lot of flexibility to work the roster around Jalen Hurts however they see fit to stay under the cap. It starts with keeping cheaper alternatives to the aging veterans on the roster. That’s where Nolan Smith, and Jalen Carter will come into play in just a year or two.
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