NFL News & Analysis

Monson: How the Philadelphia Eagles built a Super Bowl contender in an offseason

The Philadelphia Eagles have bridged the gap in the NFC in one offseason with a masterclass in roster construction.

The Eagles earned an A-grade for their draft in PFF’s analysis, and the team deployed its draft capital in a number of impressive ways

The team pounced on the opportunity to upgrade their secondary and pair James Bradberry with Darius Slay

Estimated reading time: 5 mins

The Philadelphia Eagles made the playoffs last season, but they were summarily dispatched by Tampa Bay in a game demonstrating how far they had to go to be seen as true contenders. They have bridged the gap in one offseason with a masterclass in roster construction that saw them make incremental improvements in every facet of team building.

Their ultimate success may still rest on how well Jalen Hurts can perform at quarterback, particularly in the postseason, but they have drawn level with Dallas as the betting favorite for the NFC East and seem likely to overtake them quickly. It’s hard to fault any move they have made.


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Big-Money Free Agency

EDGE Haason Reddick: Three-year, $45 million contract ($30m guaranteed)

The first period of roster construction is one of the most flashy — NFL free agency. The first wave of proven, veteran players hits the open market and teams pay big money for the relative certainty of an already established NFL commodity. The Eagles prioritized their defensive line this offseason, and it started with the addition of Haason Reddick, once the 13th overall pick in the draft and now an impact speed rusher off the edge.

Reddick has exactly 100 pressures over the last two seasons and brings the kind of explosion and burst off the edge that makes every tackle in the league nervous. He may never have developed into a truly elite all-around edge defender, but the role he has found for himself is a valuable and coveted one, especially for a team that platoons their defensive linemen like the Eagles.


The Draft

The Eagles earned an A-grade for their draft in PFF’s analysis, but it was the number of ways in which they deployed the draft capital that was most impressive.

Trade: WR A.J. Brown for No. 18 overall

The Eagles have been drafting wide receivers for a while, trying to get Jalen Hurts some elite playmakers. Jalen Reagor didn’t pan out, and as good as DeVonta Smith looked as a rookie there are still questions about whether he can be an elite No. 1 receiver.

The Eagles removed that doubt by grabbing a player who has already established himself as one. A.J. Brown is one of the best in the game against man coverage and can dominate in any given week. He provides a very different target compared to the rest of the Eagles receivers and should be able to raise everybody’s game as a knock-on effect. The Eagles also had the money to invest in his contract because of how cheap the rest of the receiving corps is on their rookie contracts.

Immediate Impact

After using one first-round pick to acquire Brown, the Eagles drafted mammoth defensive tackle Jordan  Davis. Few human beings have ever possessed his combination of size and athleticism, and he at least flashed the ability to dominate in college at Georgia. Davis allows the Eagles to roll at least five guys deep across the defensive front and stress opposing offensive lines due to his unique physical qualities. Where his ceiling lies is to be determined, but he will make an impact in year one.

Linebacker Nakobe Dean — drafted in the third round — was the best-graded player on a Georgia defense that was one of the best college football has ever seen and saw five players drafted in the first round this year. Dean was a playmaker for the Bulldogs and was the best-graded defender on the Eagles this preseason (among players that played for more than five snaps). Off-the-ball linebacker has become one of the toughest positions in football to transition into the league, but Dean has rare cognitive ability and is a step ahead of the typical rookie processing time because of it.

Depth

In between Davis and Dean, the Eagles selected center Cam Jurgens, who likely doesn’t feature as a rookie but has a perfect skill set to eventually succeed Jason Kelce at center and provides an exceptional contingency plan until that point. Only Jalen Hurts had a better PFF grade among Eagles offensive players this preseason, and Jurgens allowed one pressure across 34 pass-blocking snaps. 

Often, the teams left standing at the end of the year are the healthiest, but teams with an injury backup plan can go a long way toward offsetting those potential grenades throughout the year.


Post-Draft Free Agency: CB James Bradberry – one-year, $7.5 million

Once the dust settles in the offseason, teams have to make difficult cuts for salary cap reasons. The New York Giants released James Bradberry — their best cornerback — because they couldn’t justify the $8 million it was going to cost to keep him around. The Eagles, in a much healthier salary cap situation, pounced on the opportunity to upgrade their secondary and bring Bradberry in to pair with Darius Slay

For a reasonable sum of money, the Eagles went from a position group that was thin outside of Slay to having one of the best duos in the league.


Cut Day Trade: S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and a 2025 seventh-round pick for 2023 fifth and 2024 sixth.

The final masterstroke from Howie Roseman was to execute a trade on cut day for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, allowing them to cut Anthony Harris, who had been disappointing since arriving from Minnesota.

Gardner-Johnson has spent the majority of his career in the slot but has the size of a safety. He has 21 pass breakups over the last three seasons and allowed a passer rating of only 83.6 into his coverage. He is also one of the most frustrating players in the league for opposing players to line up against and has induced multiple opponents into trying to punch him during games. He will bring an attitude and swagger to a defense that now looks to have the personnel to go along with it.


The Bottom Line

The NFL offseason brings with it several avenues for improvement. The draft and big-money moves early in free agency are the most obvious, but the Eagles worked every possible angle this offseason and improved the team in a material way every step of the way.

The NFL is loaded with contenders in 2022, but an offseason of flawless team-building has propelled the Eagles into the midst of them.

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