The Philadelphia Eagles had arguably the best roster in the NFL last season, yet the team is going to look significantly different in a week. Thanks to the number of good players that are free agents from the 2022 NFC Championship roster, the Eagles simply won't be able to retain all of them once free agency begins.
This offseason will be a crucial one for general manager Howie Roseman, as he'll look to find ways to continue building a Super Bowl-caliber roster while paying his franchise quarterback Jalen Hurts. Javon Hargrave, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Miles Sanders, James Bradberry, T.J. Edwards and Isaac Seumalo are the high profile free agents on the Eagles set to hit the market next week. Which of the free agents will Philadelphia try to retain?
The Eagles will also have to make crucial decisions on franchise stalwarts Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox, as both are slated to hit free agency after strong seasons on a historic defensive line. Will Jason Kelce finally decide to retire, or will the future Hall of Famer decide to play another year?
Philadelphia will certainly look different in 2023, no matter if the Eagles can retain most of their top free agents. There's a free agent blueprint Roseman can follow if he wants to get the Eagles back to the Super Bowl with free agency a week away.
1. Sign Jalen Hurts -- before Lamar Jackson
The first order of business for Roseman is to get a long-term deal done with Hurts as soon as possible, no matter if Hurts wants to wait for the market or not. Set the market, don't be reactionary toward other deals that are soon coming with Jackson, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert.
Jackson is set to be the first domino to fall with the Baltimore Ravens placing the non-exclusive franchise tag on him, as any team can offer him a contract and the Ravens would receive two first-round picks in return if they decide not to match the offer. Jackson is worth at least $50 million a year and should get guaranteed money higher than the $165 million Russell Wilson received last season.
While Jackson waits to see if a team gives him a fully guaranteed contract next week, the Eagles can strike and lock up Hurts to a long-term contract. Hurts is the team's franchise quarterback and will only improve off a massive 2022 season (MVP runner-up), so why not set the market and pay him $50 million to $55 million a year before a team gives Jackson his deal.
Jackson is going to set the market for Hurts, Herbert and Burrow -- unless Roseman beats everyone to the punch.
2. Bring back Brandon Graham
Is Graham priority No. 1 or No. 2 on the offseason shopping list? No, but this is a veteran player who is a great leader in the locker room and deserves to be with the Eagles for the remainder of his career -- which is what he wants.
Graham is coming off a season in which he finished with a career-high 11 sacks and 48 pressures with 16 quarterback hits (17.1% pressure rate). The Eagles need to make sure they keep their edge rushers intact, especially with Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat back for at least the next two seasons.
Graham has said he wants to play 15 seasons and he just finished his 13th. The Eagles can just give Graham the final two seasons as he wouldn't cost much to come back to Philadelphia. The Eagles need cost-efficient players who are still productive -- and Graham is one of them.
3. Sign Tashaun Gipson to replace C.J. Gardner-Johnson
Gardner-Johnson likely isn't returning to the Eagles next season as he sent a cryptic tweet to Philadelphia thanking the organization. The Eagles would only have Reed Blankenship as a safety who played significant time last season (and he was an undrafted free agent), so they are going to have to sign a proven veteran to help Blankenship (who they like) in 2023.
Enter Gipson, who played for new defensive coordinator Sean Desai with the Chicago Bears in 2021. Gipson was excellent in coverage last season, finishing with five interceptions and eight passes defended at the age of 32. Opposing quarterbacks had just a 19.3 passer rating targeting Gipson.
Marcus Epps is also a free agent, so perhaps the Eagles get creative and sign Gipson to pair with Blankenship. Gipson's familiarity with Desai may be enticing enough to bring him to Philadelphia.
4. Improve at No. 3 WR
The Eagles have one of the best wide receiver duos in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, two players who will be in Philadelphia for at least the next three seasons. Behind them on the wide receiver depth chart, Quez Watkins had a disappointing 2022 season.
Watkins ran a number of bad routes that hurt the Eagles on deep passes, including slowing up on a throw that would have been a sure touchdown in Super Bowl LVII. He fumbled a deep ball from Hurts in Week 10 against the Washington Commanders that resulted in a loss and was responsible for poor route-running and fighting for the football in a Week 15 win over the Chicago Bears and a Week 16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Those plays resulted in two interceptions.
Does Watkins deserve to lose his roster spot? He'll certainly be fighting for it, as his blazing speed does present a problem for opposing defenses. The Eagles should still try to add a veteran No. 3 option who is more consistent and a reliable pass-catching target for Hurts.
Parris Campbell would be an ideal candidate here, even if it's hard to gauge his market given the weak wide receiver class in free agency. Campbell played under Nick Sirianni with the Indianapolis Colts, so there's some familiarity in acclimating him into the offense. Doesn't hurt he's primarily a slot receiver either.
The Eagles had interest in Robert Woods at one time. Perhaps they examine his market again. Mecole Hardman is an ideal candidate as well.
5. Get one of the good free agent RBs on the market
The ideal choice would be to bring back Sanders, but he'll be the top running back in free agency with Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard getting tagged. The market for Sanders is going to be very interesting, even if Sanders admitted he wants to come back to Philadelphia.
If Sanders is out of the Eagles' price range, where do they go on the free agent market? Philadelphia would be wise to bring back Boston Scott to pair with Kenneth Gainwell -- paving the way to draft a running back for the 2023 rotation. The Eagles should still draft a running back come April, but adding a proven back heading into his second contract would be ideal (if Sanders doesn't return).
D'Onta Foreman or Kareem Hunt are ideal candidates for this spot. Alexander Mattison or Rashaad Penny could be excellent values for the Eagles as well.
There are so many directions the Eagles could go at running back in free agency, or they can just have a cost-efficient signing and go after Bijan Robinson or Jahmyr Gibbs in the draft. Running back will certainly be worth monitoring next week.