And now comes the hard part. The Eagles face an offseason that ramps up in a matter of weeks – NFL free agency opens on March 13, officially, with the NFL Draft in late April – and offers some tough decisions across the board. This is not going to be a “rebuild,” say the Eagles. Instead, they are looking to “reload.”
“There is no such thing as rebuilding in the NFL these days,” executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said. “You want to challenge the roster, make it better, and then win the next year.”
How can the Eagles achieve that? They came up a few plays short in New Orleans in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game two Sundays ago, and now they’ve got some questions to answer. A few to discuss here …
• What to do at quarterback? The common thinking is that the Eagles will move on with Carson Wentz and either trade or release Nick Foles. OK, fine. There’s more to this decision than just that, because the Eagles would look at Nate Sudfeld as the No. 2 quarterback and ideally add a project to develop as the No. 3. Sudfeld is in line to make the next step of his career here as a restricted free agent and as a backup quarterback.
• Which veterans may not return for 2019? The list is a long one. The potential unrestricted free agents include running backs Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles, middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, cornerback Ronald Darby, defensive ends Brandon Graham and Chris Long and at quarterback, Foles, of course. Left offensive tackle Jason Peters turns 37 years old, has a big contract and has been in and out of the lineup the last two seasons. The goal for the Eagles is to become younger and faster and better for ’19. They’re going to have to say goodbye to some valued and loved players.
• Running back is a position that should be high atop the “need” category looking ahead. The Eagles have used a rotation the last few seasons, but it could be time to look for a true, three-down running back who can carry the offense on the ground and help as a receiver. The draft is said to have a good group here. The Eagles will invest, but unlikely in a player on the free-agent market who is looking for a huge deal. So you can scratch off Le’Veon Bell from your “wish” list.
• The prediction here is that the Eagles will use two draft picks of their first three in the opening two rounds in April on defensive linemen. They need to get better there, in a hurry. Derek Barnett returns from his shoulder injury, but the Eagles are potentially losing a lot with Graham, Long and Haloti Ngata all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.
• Here’s a question to answer: Is second-year offensive tackle Jordan Mailata, after just one year of football experience, ready to step up and play in a prominent role for the Eagles? It’s a critical decision to make.
• Speed is going to be a central theme for this football team on both sides of the ball. The Eagles need to be younger. They need to be faster. They need to be deeper. They need to be more explosive.
That’s just where we are now. The Patriots and Rams are going to the Super Bowl. The Eagles are in the midst of figuring out how they can get back there 12 months from now. ••