The deadline to place the franchise tag on an upcoming free agent passed on Tuesday at 4 P.M. Despite many key players about to hit the open market for the Philadelphia Eagles, Howie Roseman opted to not use the tag on anyone. This is understandable, considering the Eagles currently only have around $3.8 million in cap space, and they still have to work out a contract extension for Jalen Hurts. However, in turn they are ultimately going to have to face the music next week, as several of the most intriguing names about to be on the free agent market are players from this past Super Bowl roster, and many of them are going to get multiple lucrative offers on the open market.
To start, it was already reported in the end of February that Miles Sanders is likely to be playing elsewhere next season:
#Eagles RB Miles Sanders is likely to depart from the team in free agency, writes @RalphVacchiano
Sanders is set for a big payday after rushing for 1,269 yards and 11 TDs, and the Eagles likely won’t pay him. pic.twitter.com/R0RHJLV5MX
— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) February 28, 2023
This honestly should not come as a huge surprise. Sanders certainly had by far his best season last year, but Roseman is just not a guy who invests a lot of valuable resources into the running back position, and Sanders might be the most coveted halfback on the market after Tony Pollard, Josh Jacobs, and Saquon Barkley were all hit with franchise tags. There were always going to be several other players the Eagles were going to prioritize bringing back over Sanders, and additionally he was outperformed by Kenny Gainwell in the playoffs and had a terrible Super Bowl. I think this is the right call.
The more concerning report, in my opinion, came Wednesday morning when Adam Schefter said that the Eagles are bracing to lose all three of C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Javon Hargrave, and James Bradberry next week, perhaps their three most important free agents:
Rumors: #Eagles will likely lose S CJ Gardner Johnson, DL Javon Hargrave and CB James Bradberry in free agency, per @AdamSchefter
Eagles have a plethora of free agents and need to extend QB Jalen Hurts pic.twitter.com/VkfwgDvDm1
— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) March 8, 2023
All three aforementioned players had stellar seasons last year.
Bradberry has been presumed gone for a while now, given he made first team All-Pro at a premium position and has openly stated multiple times that he is looking forward to cashing in this offseason. Gardner-Johnson was initially expected to receive the franchise tag if they could not agree on an extension, but that obviously did not happen, and CGJ tweeted a video that appears to be a goodbye:
All Love Philly 💚🦅 pic.twitter.com/TpdnwqhVJx
— C.J. Gardner-Johnson (@CGJXXIII) March 8, 2023
Hargrave is someone I was honestly pretty confident would return to the team. He is one of the best interior pass-rushers in the NFL, and the Eagles highly value possessing a deep defensive line. Considering Fletcher Cox, Linval Joseph, and Ndamukong Suh are all almost certainly gone next season as well, the Eagles will suddenly be paper thin at defensive tackle if Hargrave departs. Retaining all three of these players was always a pipe dream, but losing all three would have to be considered at least mildly concerning. Plus, I have not even mentioned other key free agents who should also receive at least some interest in the coming days including Isaac Seumalo, Brandon Graham, and T.J. Edwards, and who knows whether Jason Kelce will decide to retire or not.
The Eagles still have a loaded offense that includes a 24 year old franchise quarterback, plus two first-round picks, and they should receive a nice compensatory pick haul for 2024. Thus, it is not as if this should be considered the end of the road in terms of their future success. However, you have to start to wonder if this team is primed to take a least a minor step back in 2023 as they try to recover from the exodus of their players that is about to happen.
Photo: Donald Hunt/South Carolina State Tribune