The Eagles have some significant holes on their roster, despite being a playoff team in 2021. The overachieving team was bolstered primarily by their trench play on both sides of the ball but need to make improvements to contend for a playoff win next year.
The 2021 free agency pool offers everything from premium All-Pro talent to sound, inexpensive rotational pieces. The Eagles must prioritize their defense and receiving corps in the draft and free agency to come back as a more complete team in 2022.
We explore possible options for the team, addressing their biggest needs, being wide receiver, cornerback, edge rusher, linebacker, defensive back, guard, and running back.
Tier 1: Superstar Status
Chandler Jones, EDGE
For as much as the Eagles need an infusion of youth for their defense, we strongly suggest Jones as a value add here. The 32-year-old edge rusher made his fourth Pro Bowl in 2021, after a terrific 10.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 36 pressures.
This is a significant area of need for the Eagles, who will be able to rotate Jones with aging superstar Brandon Graham and budding star Josh Sweat. This will allow Jones to reduce his 85% snap percentage and maximize his longevity.
Jones should definitely receive a significant offer from the Eagles. Slotting him into the rotation could allow them to reduce Brandon Graham’s load and mitigate the effects of Kerrigan’s decline, while also replacing Derek Barnett who is likely to depart the team.
J.C. Jackson – CB
Jackson is the best player remaining in the free-agent class. A truly elite corner, his market value will be at an all-time high.
Last season saw Jackson have eight interceptions and 23 passes defended. These are astounding numbers that galvanized his first Pro Bowl nod. Furthermore, he allowed only 52 catches on 106 targets, on route to an incredible 46.8 passer rating when the ball was thrown his way. Expect that target total to drop significantly next season as teams realize how difficult it is to pass on his side of the field.
Jackson will command huge money, something the Patriots are often not willing to pay. Look for the Eagles to place a large bid in for the future perennial Pro Bowler so that they can replace Steven Nelson, who was a disaster in 2021.
Tier 2: Solid Starters
Allen Robinson, WR
Last year was brutal for Allen Robinson II. The stud wide receiver/deceiver dealt with a dysfunctional offense that cycled through ineffective scheming, terrible offensive line play and frequent quarterback change.
In turn, Robinson produced his lowest yard and catch totals of his career (excluding his 2017 injury-plagued season). Robinson II had only 38 catches for 410 yards and one touchdown in 12 games.
Robinson clearly does not want to be a Bear and seems to have checked out. Conversely, he could be reinvigorated with complementary receivers around him as well as a team that is willing to utilize his size and skill set. The Eagles seem to fit the bill here, as Hurts develops in the play action game to incorporate more organic intermediate and deep passing opportunities.
If they can get him on a reasonable deal, the Eagles should absolutely prioritize a veteran receiver to add to the pass-catching room. The signing of Robinson may also spell the end of significant snaps for Jalen Reagor, something Eagles fans will not miss.
Laken Tomlinson – OG
The Eagles have plenty of holes on their aging defense, and three first-round picks to solve that. Also, a pressing need is the receiving corps, which if they do not address in free agency will need to be a huge factor in the upcoming draft.
To replace Brandon Brooks, the Eagles can look to Laken Tomlinson. At 30 years old, he can add a solid presence to the right guard spot after earning a sound 75.2 PFF pass-blocking grade and a 75.0 PFF run-blocking grade. He allowed only two sacks in his 598 pass-blocking snaps.
The Eagles can offer a short-term contract to have Tomlinson start and also assist in the pass-blocking development of 24-year-old Nate Herbig. This will allow the Eagles to see who they have in prospects behind the incumbent starters.
Tier 3: Inexpensive Rotational Pieces
Uchenna Nwosu, EDGE
Nwosu will likely not enter his fifth NFL season as a Charger. The team traded a second- and sixth-round pick for superstar edge Khalil Mack. They pair the former Bears pass rusher with the incredible Joey Bosa for potentially the best tandem in the league.
Unfortunately for Nwosu, this likely causes him to seek employment elsewhere. If he stays with the team, the edge will most definitely see a significant reduction in snap percentage, which was at 67% in 2021. He had just five sacks and eight tackles for loss for the year yet had 30 pressures which shows real promise of production elsewhere.
The Eagles could most certainly use an inexpensive edge presence. This is especially true if they chose to convert to a 3-4 defense with the likely departure of Derek Barnett. The transition away from aging players Brandon Graham and Ryan Kerrigan will be easier with the scheme change.
Likely two of their three first-round picks will be used on the defensive side of the ball. Edge and linebacker will be of paramount importance. Don’t be surprised if the Eagles draft David Ojabo and Devin Lloyd to pair with incumbent starter T.J. Edwards and Uchenna Nwosu to make for a very feared linebacking corps.
Anthony Barr – LB
Anthony Barr is still productive. Despite turning 30 in the coming weeks, the Vikings linebacker offers terrific value.
His eighth season in the league saw him play 96% of defensive snaps. He ended the season with 72 tackles, 2.5 sacks, ten pressures, three interceptions and five passes defended. This was in just 11 games.
The four-time Pro Bowler is certainly approaching the twilight of his career yet can add significant value to the Eagles’ weakest defensive unit. In fact, he may be exactly what the Eagles need to pair with T.J. Edwards and thus focus on edge rushers and the secondary in the draft.
Tracy Walker – S
Tracy Walker enters his fifth season at 27 years old, which may not fit the Detroit Lions youthful defensive identity. He tallied 108 tackles last season yet had only a 65.1 overall PFF (Pro-Football Focus) grade. This will make him inexpensive insurance on the back end of the defense.
One thing Walker did well was limit yards after the catch. He allowed only 133 yards after the catch on 30 receptions. The Lions safety defended six passes and had one interception yet did allow two touchdowns and a 97.6 passer rating.
Walker does offer some insurance for the back end in case the Eagles find it difficult to replace either Rodney McLeod, Anthony Harris or both.