Now comes the fun part. We’ve waited since January for some Eagles action, and we’re going to get it when the NFL’s free-agency period opens on Wednesday at 4 p.m. The Eagles have done their part, clearing as much as $25 million off the books and they’ve got plenty of room within the $188.2 million salary cap to bring in roster upgrades. Which way will they go? Let’s take some guesses …
• Defensive line. Even with Brandon Graham returning, the Eagles have needs, and they started things off on Monday by signing veteran tackle Malik Jackson, who should be a perfect complement to All-Pro Fletcher Cox. Jackson is a penetrating defensive tackle who can win one-on-one battles. He will take some pressure off of Cox, who constantly faced double- and triple-team blocking last season. The Eagles aren’t finished along the defensive line. The NFL Draft is rich with linemen. The Eagles could very well use an early pick on and end or a tackle – or both.
• Speed at wide receiver. If the Eagles can get themselves a serious vertical threat – the decision to sign Mike Wallace last year as a replacement for Torrey Smith didn’t work out – the offense will take an entirely different dimension. A legitimate speed receiver opens up everything for tight end Zach Ertz and wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor underneath. Speed forces a defense to respect throws down the field and backs them up from suffocating the running game. Speed kills, baby. So, yeah, the Eagles are looking for speed.
• Running back (s). There are a bunch of questions at this position. The Eagles need a makeover in the offensive backfield, what with Darren Sproles about to hit free agency (or retire), Jay Ajayi recovering from a serious knee injury and also a free agent and with Corey Clement still rehabbing from his 2018 knee injury. Josh Adams? Nice rookie season, but he has a lot of work to do. Wendell Smallwood? A good backup. Boston Scott? Do you even know who he is? Didn’t think so. The interesting part here will be how the Eagles approach this position. Do they spend a lot of money in free agency on the position? (It would be shocking if the Eagles got into the Le’Veon Bell Sweepstakes). Do they use a high draft pick on a running back for the first time since LeSean McCoy was a second-round draft pick in 2009? Do they do both? The running back-by-committee approach worked well enough for the Eagles to win a Super Bowl in 2017. The ground game, though, took a step back last season. A big upgrade is needed here.
• Cornerback. Maybe Ronald Darby returns. Maybe Sidney Jones takes a huge step forward in Year 3. Avonte Maddox looks like he’ll be a starter. The Eagles need to be better at cornerback, but with the market so crazy the price may be too much in free agency, at least in the early goings.
• Safety. Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are the starters, but who is the third man in? The Eagles need someone who can run better than Corey Graham.
• Quarterback. Everybody expects Nick Foles to leave in free agency (Jacksonville?). Who is the veteran hand behind starter Carson Wentz and backup Nate Sudfeld? It could be a veteran at some point during free agency, or it could be a draft pick to develop. It’s time to shore up a quarterback position that has been the envy of most of the league the last two seasons.
Congratulations on your patience. The Eagles intend to make something happen in free agency. They’ve been working for three months to get to this point. Now we’ll see the plan unfold. ••