PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles exceeded expectations in Year 1 under coach Nick Sirianni and quarterback Jalen Hurts, finishing 9-8 to secure the final NFC wild-card playoff spot. That's pretty good considering team brass openly described 2021 as a transition year. General manager Howie Roseman said the team is now "in building mode" as the Eagles look to strengthen the roster around standouts like wide receiver DeVonta Smith, tight end Dallas Goedert and cornerback Darius Slay, and take advantage of having one of the best offensive lines in the game.
The budget was tight last year, thanks in large part to quarterback Carson Wentz's $34 million dead-cap charge sitting on the books while he played for the Indianapolis Colts. This offseason, the Eagles will be able to delve deeper into the free-agent pool, and are as well-stocked as any team for the 2022 NFL draft with three first-round picks. The question is whether Philly will use those assets to build methodically or make a gigantic splash.
Projected salary-cap space: $22 million
Potential cut candidates: Two guys to watch are wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and tight end Richard Rodgers. Arcega-Whiteside, a 2019 second-round pick, has found a niche as a special teams player/blocking receiver and maybe that's enough to keep him around in the Eagles' run-heavy attack. But they'll be looking to upgrade the position this offseason and Arcega-Whiteside has just 16 catches over three seasons. Rodgers has found his way onto the roster each of the last four years but with Goedert, Jack Stoll and Tyree Jackson in the mix, it's probably time to move on.
The big question: Will they pursue a veteran quarterback? Hurts acquitted himself pretty well in 2021, guiding Philadelphia to the postseason in his first year as a full-time starter. He led all quarterbacks in rushing yards (784) and rushing touchdowns (10) last year while completing 61.3% of his passes and throwing 16 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Roseman said he entered the offseason with the mindset that Hurts would be the starter in '22. We also know the Eagles are aggressive when it comes to upgrading at quarterback and are armed with 10 selections in April's draft. With big-name quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson potentially available via trade this offseason, the Eagles could have a unique opportunity to land one of the better ones in the game. They'll have to weigh that versus the benefits of rolling with Hurts, who costs just $1.6 million against the cap (vs. Wilson's $37 million projected cap charge, for example) and has developed into a team leader at 23 years old.
Best-case scenario for the offseason: They land an impact edge rusher and quality veteran receiver to address two areas of need. The Eagles finished second-to-last in sacks last year (29). With defensive end Brandon Graham coming off a ruptured Achilles and Barnett likely to depart in free agency, they need to pour serious resources into this position. Haason Reddick and Jadeveon Clowney are among some of the notable names scheduled for free agency. The offense, meanwhile, is screaming for a seasoned receiver to pair with Smith. A Smith-Mike Williams duo could be pretty nasty.
Worst-case scenario for the offseason: Center Jason Kelce retires and the Eagles fail to properly retool the defensive secondary. Kelce, an 11-year veteran and four-time All Pro, has been flirting with retirement for several years now. It will be a blow to the front whenever he hangs them up, though there's optimism of late he will return. There's sure to be change in the secondary with three starters from last season (McLeod, Harris and Nelson) all set to hit free agency. Philly would be wise to re-sign at least one of these players (McLeod would be the choice here) in the name of stability, and fill out the rest of the group via the draft and free agency.
Early look at the NFL draft, from ESPN analyst Jordan Reid: Armed with three first-round selections inside of the top 20, Roseman has several different routes he could take. Here are three eye-popping stats about the franchise and the first round of the NFL draft, though: The Eagles haven’t drafted a linebacker on Day 1 since 1979, a cornerback since 2002 (Lito Sheppard), and have never selected a safety on the opening night of the event in franchise history. Expect them to hit the defense with one or two of these picks.
Top needs: DB, EDGE, LB
Top picks: Nos. 15, 16 and 19