The Philadelphia Eagles were not meant to be here. After a surprising playoff berth, the Eagles go into the 2022 NFL Draft with three first-round picks, 15 free agents, and a chance to restructure their team and re-tool their deficiencies as they make a push for a second playoff run next year.
We will explore six of their free agents and decide whether they should buy another contract or sell.
Jason Kelce – Center
Jason Kelce is the heartbeat of the Philadelphia Eagles’ dominant rushing attack. He is the unquestioned leader of the offensive identity with his grit, determination, and toughness on full display on every snap. Kelce made his fourth First-Team All-Pro this year and has shown no signs of slowing down at age 34.
Kelce has a clause from his extension signed the last offseason that makes 2022 a void year. This will result in him being paid $30 million if kept on the roster post-June 2, 2022. Even so, the Eagles should retain the heartbeat of their offensive line if he decides to continue playing. If it is financially feasible, Kelce should be back next season.
Derek Barnett – Defensive Line
Derek Barnett has had some good moments as a Philadelphia Eagle, including most notably his fumble recovery of Brandon Graham’s strip-sack in Super Bowl LII.
That being said, the penalty-prone former first-round pick is likely to be a cap casualty this offseason. He had eight penalties in the 2021 season and had a career-low 2.0 sacks. Barnett has shown signs of promise but has not lived up to his 14th overall selection. Set to turn 26 in this upcoming season, Barnett is likely to depart for a team that needs a solid defensive end.
Hassan Ridgeway – Defensive Line
Hassan Ridgeway is not yet a household name on the defensive line for the Eagles. However, with the departure of Derek Barnett, and (hopefully) more of the same flashes from last season, he may earn more snaps. The 27-year-old had a fantastic outing in Week One of the 2021 season off the bench, having a sack, three quarterback hits, and a TFL in just 26 snaps.
While Ridgeway had only 2.0 sacks on the year, he managed a forced fumble and five quarterback hits, while in the game for just 33% of the snaps.
By no means is Ridgeway the next superstar of the Eagles’ trenches, but he offers solid depth and what would project to be an inexpensive salary. If possible, the Eagles should try and retain him for pass-rushing depth.
Verdict – Buy
Nate Herbig – Offensive Guard
Nate Herbig will turn 24 during the 2022 season and offers some depth at offensive guard with the retirement of superstar interior lineman Brandon Brooks. Herbig started five games in 2021 and showed flashes of promise in the run game.
Unfortunately, Herbig seemed to struggle in pass protection, not just in pressure packages but in basic four-man protection. He was sound at times but figures to lose snaps as Isaac Seumalo returns and the Eagles potentially draft Brooks’ replacement.
Verdict – Sell
Steven Nelson – Cornerback
Steven Nelson struggled in his first year with the Philadelphia Eagles. He allowed a woeful 108.4 passer rating when targeted and gave up five touchdowns. The 29-year-old corner is entering his eighth season in the league and appears to be trending backward. In the last three years, he has allowed 50%, 58.2%, and 66.7% completions.
This downward trend, coupled with the Eagles’ need for an injection of youth in the secondary and three available first-round picks, makes Steven Nelson an obvious cap casualty. The emergence of Maddox as the team’s endorsed slot corner and Darius Slay galvanized as their primary wide coverage man leaves no room for Nelson once the draft is done.
Verdict – Sell
Fletcher Cox – Defensive Tackle
There have been rumors of the Eagles looking to trade away their veteran superstar Fletcher Cox since the trade deadline last season. To become more youthful, the Eagles can consider him a premium asset to potentially deal for draft capital.
Despite a seemingly down year for the veteran, Cox still had a very solid 23 pressures and 11 quarterback hurries, as well as contributing seven tackles for loss. Despite a disappointing 3.5 sacks on the year, he is still a sound contributor that can wreck a game and demands consistent double teams in the middle.
With the Eagles looking to refresh the edge of their line, with the likely release of Barnett and the aging Graham and Kerrigan, look for Cox to anchor the middle with Hargrave during this period of change. His leadership is the heartbeat of the defense and will promote growth and the ferocious mentality he plays with.
Verdict – Buy