The Eagles deserve credit for bringing in a lot of solid contributors in free agency. Instead of handing out one massive contract, they were more selective, and will have a bunch of opening day starters to show for it. Of course, that’s not to say that the Eagles didn’t overpay for guys like Patrick Chung or James Casey, but they made up for it by signing Kenny Phillips and Bradley Fletcher at bargain prices.
After going 4-12 last year, there is unfortunately no quick fix for this roster. With the draft approaching quickly, the Eagles still have a few glaring needs. In order of importance, here are the Eagles’ most pressing needs:
- Franchise quarterback: The draft’s cardinal rule stats that if you don’t have a franchise quarterback, don’t pass on one. It’s a rule I believe in, but the Eagles’ current situation complicates things. The Eagles do not have a franchise quarterback, we know that. However, will a franchise quarterback be sitting on the board at 4? I don’t think Geno Smith is that guy. I don’t think it’s E.J. Manuel, either. Also, Chip Kelly is confident that he can win without a superstar quarterback, so I don’t think he’d pressure the front office into taking one. The need at quarterback is critical for the team’s long-term success, but not for 2013. I expect the Eagles to roll with Michael Vick and Nick Foles and wait until next year for a better fit at quarterback.
- Right tackle: In 2013, the Eagles will go as Chip Kelly’s offense goes. At Oregon, Chip Kelly’s offense went as the running game went. In order to execute offensively, the Eagles need an athletic and punishing offensive line and running backs who can follow blocks and make people miss in space. This offensive approach places a premium on all five offensive line positions, and the Eagles only have four good ones. The Eagles could opt to take Eric Fisher or Lane Johnson in the first round and plug them in at right tackle, or could draft a guard like Travis Frederick or Brian Winters in the third round and keep Todd Herremans at tackle.
- Defensive end: In a 3-4 defense, more interior defensive linemen are on the field at one time. After releasing Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson, and Derek Landri, the Eagles need to replace some of that beef on the inside. Fletcher Cox will start at one defensive end spot, Isaac Sopoaga will man the nose, and Cedric Thornton is a solid rotational player. The Eagles still need one more piece along the defensive line. Sharrif Floyd and Star Lotulelei are options in round one, but the Eagles may find better value in the second round, where Johnathan Hankins or Margus Hunt could still be available.
- Explosive slot weapon: In a spread offense, slot receivers log as many snaps as many other starters, and Chip Kelly loves to get the ball to playmakers in space. That’s not Jason Avant. I love Avant, but he’s a west coast, possession receiver who doesn’t have the speed to gain yardage after the catch. The Eagles should be looking to add yet another threat to their offense. If the Eagles trade back in the first round, Tavon Austin would make sense. Marquise Goodwin, Ace Sanders, and Sam McGuffie could also potentially fit the bill, although they are lower profile prospects and would not be much of an upgrade over Damaris Johnson.
- Secondary depth: The Eagles invested heavily in their defensive backfield in free agency, but are still thin at corner. The safeties all have extensive injury histories, too. The Eagles have to strongly consider injecting the back four with some youth in the middle rounds of the draft. Some of my favorite prospects are Dwayne Gratz, Duke Williams, and Marc Anthony.
- Youth on offensive line: The Eagles have some very talented players up front, but Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, and Todd Herremans only have so many good years left in the tank. It’s important for the Eagles to identify some late-round projects who can compete for roster spots and develop.
- Running back depth: Chip Kelly figures to run a lot of plays in Philadelphia, and a lot of running plays. The Eagles will need to keep LeSean McCoy fresh and draft some insurance for him in case of injury. Bryce Brown is a solid backup, but the Eagles probably need a third guy. Kerwynn Williams, Andre Ellington, and Kenjon Barner seem to be good fits in the mid-to-late rounds.