What the Eagles Should do With Every Player on Their Team, Vol. 5: Defensive Linemen
Here we will continue our series of what I would do with every player on the Eagles roster if I were Howie Roseman, this time looking at the defensive linemen.
Super Bowl 52 hero and one of the most beloved players in team history, Graham’s presence was missed both on and off the field when he tore his Achilles in Week 2 against the 49ers. Their run defense suffered and they were second-to-last in sacks with 29. While he turns 34 in April and is in a contract year, Graham can still play and he brings an invaluable and almost proprietary energy to the team. He is almost certainly going to retire as an Eagle, and could maybe stick around long enough to go on one more playoff run if the Eagles can build their team up in the near future.
What I would do: Keep him, obviously.
It really was not that long ago when Cox was arguably the second best defensive tackle in the NFL behind Aaron Donald. That is far from the case now, and while his play improved as the team became more competitive over the season, Cox is clearly regressing and there are some who believe the Eagles should trade him while he still has any semblance of value left. Four months ago, I would have completely agreed. However, the Eagles are now trending upwards, and are paper thin at defensive tackle after Cox and the two guys after him on this list. If they want short-term results (they always do), then I think at this point having Cox on the team is more valuable than the, say, third or fourth-round pick they would get for him in a trade, as it would add another need to a roster that already has quite a few of them entering this offseason. I would not be appalled if he were dealt, but I am not expecting it to happen, and I tend to lean towards just letting him play out his contract here.
What I would do: If I was offered a second-round pick for Cox in a trade, I would very strongly consider it. Assuming that does not happen, I think I just keep him and hope to squeeze a couple more productive years out of him.
Hargrave had the best season of his career last year thanks to a ridiculous first five games of the campaign, and was good enough the rest of the year to earn his first career Pro Bowl nod. Hargrave has quickly become the best interior rusher on this team and a vital part of the defense. Entering his age-29 season and his contract year, I am torn on whether I want to give him an extension now or wait to see if he has another good year first. Frankly, I lean towards the latter because I think the performances of both him and the team will play a factor in whether I want to give him his third contract.
What I would do: Maybe this is a little risky, but I would personally wait until next offseason to make a decision on extending Hargrave. If the Eagles take a step backwards or he reverts back to the mean, it would not make a lot of sense for him to take up a bulk of the cap space during his 30’s. Keep him, for sure, but do not extend him.
After Howie Roseman’s fist bump was notoriously turned down following his passing up of Alim McNeill in favor of trading down for Williams, that assistant executive is now eating his words. Williams displayed his incredible athleticism and quickness during his rookie season and got better as the year progressed. A high-energy guy who loves to play and can line up anywhere on the defensive line, Williams looks like a great pick in Round 3, and at age-22 should only continue to improve as a short-term rotational piece and long-term starter.
What I would do: Keep him, unquestionably.
Similarly to Mailata, the Eagles rolled the dice and bet on Sweat’s potential, giving him a three-year, $42 million extension very early in the season. While he did not quite light the world on fire like Mailata, Sweat appears to be a great investment as a 25 year old edge rusher with some juice on a roster with very little pass-rushing talent in general. With Graham as pretty much the only other talented outside rusher on the team, Sweat is here for the long haul.
What I would do: Keep him.
I will never hate Derek Barnett like seemingly most of the fanbase does, as he played a huge role in getting the Eagles a Super Bowl with his strip sack on Case Keenum in the NFC Championship as well recovering the Tom Brady strip sack in the Super Bowl. However, there is no denying that his five-year Eagles tenure was a massive disappointment considering he was the 14th overall pick. Amazingly, Barnett has 26 accepted penalties in his career compared to 21.5 sacks, and a lot of those were 15-yard unnecessary roughness calls. He is just too undisciplined and unproductive to warrant an extension, and he probably needs a fresh start somewhere else.
What I would do: Let him walk in free agency.
After an arguably hall-of-fame-worthy career with Washington which included a lot of big games against the Eagles, Kerrigan signed a one-year deal in Philadelphia and was a complete dud. In 330 regular-season snaps, Kerrigan had 3 tackles and no sacks. He did obliterate the Buccaneers’ backup right tackle in the playoff game, but this was just a total whiff of a signing that has no reason to be prolonged.
What I would do: Let him walk in free agency.
A sixth-round rookie out of Coastal Carolina, Jackson did not have an egregious debut season, but he is clearly far from a finished product. With the Eagles’ lacking quality edge players, he is certainly worth keeping around as pass-rush depth on a dirt-cheap salary
What I would do: Keep and continue to develop.
Another sixth-round rookie, Big Marlon (no one calls him this, I just don’t feel like typing his last name) did not play much in his rookie season and was honestly slightly disappointing, recording just 5 tackles in 5 games played. He is at least worth keeping into training camp, but I do not think his roster spot is guaranteed this year.
What I would do: Let him play in training camp and preseason, but he will probably need to earn his spot this year.
Ridgeway has always just kind of been there as a backup defensive tackle since the Eagles traded a 7th-round pick to the Colts for him three years ago. Again, keeping him into training camp is fine, but I think you are picking up on the theme here that the Eagles need depth at defensive tackle.
What I would do: Same as Big Marlon.
Longshots/Clear Training Camp Bodies
Marvin Wilson, Cameron Malveaux, Matt Leo
Photo: Andy Lewis/Getty Images