Everyone has watched the Philadelphia Eagles digress from recent Super Bowl Champions, to a .500 team, to now just being a skeleton of their former selves. Certainly, there is plenty of blame to go around. Sure, QB Carson Wentz has been awful but the Eagles really, have no weapons surrounding him to spread the field and their offensive line is in shambles. However, that’s not the worst of it.
The Eagles’ salary cap situation for 2021 might be as bad as any team in the league and because of this situation, I view this team as a total rebuild. They will probably get worse before they get better, not exactly music to Eagles’ fans ears. The problem is they are the equivalent of a car that has run off the road (by poor evaluations and salary cap decisions) and is at eye level with the cattails outside the window.
When it comes to searching for answers, this team is so far behind that they think they are in first place. SMH. I actually think that they think they need only some minor tinkering, as crazy as that sounds. Fortunately, they are in the same division with the Dallas Cowboys, who also think they are still good. With the cap being reduced in 2021, it's crazy to try to forecast what kind of Eagles team you will actually see in the City of Brotherly Love next year. It’s certainly a team that has failed to deal with the prosperity of winning the Super Bowl three years ago. The Eagles really need to get answers in several different areas, not necessarily in this order.
Hire a set of evaluative eyes from outside the building
One thing that can’t be argued is that this team has over-valued its personnel and spent carelessly on players who have underperformed. These mistakes fall on General Manager Howie Roseman. Roseman rose through the front office ranks, not as a talent evaluator, but as a contract/cap guy for the most part. He has had Tom Donahoe, former GM of the Steelers and Bills, by his side through this journey as his “go to evaluator”. Joe Douglas, the current GM of the Jets, was Roseman’s top lieutenant from 2016-2019 and definitely is responsible for a part in this mess as well.
If I was owner Jeffrey Lurie, I would insist on some OUTSIDE COUNSEL going forward. This is a poorly constructed team and their drafts the last few years have yielded little or no help. Combine that with some “press conference” signings in free agency that have not yielded anything positive on the field or contributed to the bottom line of winning. The end result of all of this is a roster in disarray.
On both sides of the ball, the Eagles simply don’t have players that fit their schemes, and numerous injuries during the 2020 season have contributed as well. I think they also have too many internal agendas at work in their building. Certain people are protecting bad choices they made in the past, etc. Their coaches are also not using the skill sets that certain players were brought in to be used for. A definite disconnect with the front office.
In my opinion, there is no better example than this year’s draft. The Eagles had the 21st pick in the first round and took WR Jalen Reagor over the likes of Justin Jefferson (Vikings), Brandon Aiyuk (49ers) and Chase Claypool, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ selection in the second round, just to name a few. Somebody evaluated these guys and stacked them in an order of preference within the Eagles hierarchy. Either the Eagles mis-evaluated or they are not using Reagor correctly, you pick the lane.
Their second-round draft choice, QB Jalen Hurts, is a whole other story. Hurts is a tool or weapon that deserves a package that utilizes his strengths. He is not a starting QB in the NFL. In Hurts, the Eagles’ front office was hoping they had a reincarnation of the Saints Swiss army knife, Taysom Hill. Instead, Hurts has no package designed for him. He lacks the explosive athletic ability of Hill and is not an accomplished passer at the NFL level. Their attempt on Monday night to get him involved in their offense was embarrassing in my humble opinion.
Within the Eagles organization, the disconnect from the top down is obvious. This group of football folks needs to hit the refresh button and find a way to all get on the same page. I think this is a tough ask, but maybe a fresh set of eyes, that has no agenda, is a step in the right direction. Otherwise, bigger changes have to be made.
Solidify the offensive line
This has to be done for this franchise to have any chance to get out of the ditch. The injury bug at this position has been extreme, to say the least, and that’s not the Eagles fault. Having said that, it might be the easiest part of the big picture to fix even though the durability of each player has to figure in when putting this group together for 2021.
Because of injury, they have used 11 different combinations on their offensive this year. Sure, getting Brandon Brooks, Andre Dillard and Lane Johnson back will help start the ditched car again but this organization must improve the quality of the depth behind the starters. Talking retired players off the couch cannot be part of the plan. I’m cutting them some slack here but, in my opinion, you can never have enough quality offensive linemen.
Make some hard cap decisions
This will be the toughest task. According to OvertheCap.com, the Eagles will count approximately 264M against their cap at the start of the 2021 league year. This year’s cap for the league was 198M per team and would normally go up 10-15M. Due to the financial hit from COVID-19, we all know the cap is likely going down because of the league’s decrease in total revenue, projected to be somewhere in the 175M range.
I’m not a math major, but that’s about 90M that has to be shaved off the current roster just to get even, and that’s not considering creating any room to “add or get better”. That’s why I think this project gets worse before it gets better. Managing the cap, might I remind you, is GM Howie Roseman’s area of expertise. A contract negotiator by trade, Roseman is going to have to earn his money this offseason.
You can say goodbye to WR’s Alshon Jeffrey and DeSean Jackson. See ya to DE Derrick Barnett as well as TE Zach Ertz (despite him entering this year with 525 catches, the most ever by a TE) and any other potential free agents at the end of the year. Those are easy decisions and come as no surprise to anyone. Once those cards are played, the Eagles will still need to trim 60M from their roster. It’s crazy to think of what the cutting room floor will look like after this film gets edited.
Part of the strategy most teams utilize is to go right to their franchise QB to help create a few millions in cap space. Yep, it's been normal for Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers to agree to turn their base salary into a signing bonus to push out cap counts. Teams have done it for years. Heck, the Rams have already done it with QB Jared Goff. As crazy as it sounds, the Eagles probably have to double or triple down on their Carson Wentz investment and hope for the best. Crazy huh? His demise has not been exaggerated, but the Eagles have put themselves in such “cap jail” that they have no choice but to guarantee more of Wentz’s base salary to free up cap space in order to function in 2021. I’d boo Santa Claus too. It’s a vicious circle, but it leads to the one and only most important next question.
Decide if Doug Pederson can fix the offense and Carson Wentz
Through this season’s first 11 weeks I have yet to see any evidence that the current offensive hierarchy can put together a game plan, or much less execute one, that gives anyone hope that Wentz, a former MVP candidate, is the best option for the future. Can Pederson redevelop his fundamentals and restore his confidence and mental state enough to sell him as the leader of the Eagles franchise (in the locker room) going forward?
As we just described, Wentz is not going anywhere, his contract precludes that. It’s been said by a few analysts that Russell Wilson or Aaron Rogers or some other franchise QB raises the level of others and carries a franchise when down. The Philadelphia Eagles have nowhere near the talent these other teams have so it’s not a fair comparison. There are five weeks left to get the answer to this most important question. Without discovering a future plan, it’s hard to not recommend changes in one form or another.