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  • Writer's picturePaul Domowitch


Paul Domowitch - Breaking Down the Birds

Howie Roseman has been a busy little beaver since the start of free agency last week.

He has made significant strides in rebuilding the Eagles defense with the signings of edge-rusher Bryce Huff, linebacker Devin White and safety/slot corner C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

He surprised everyone by signing the top running back in free agency, Saquon Barkley, to a three-year, $37 million deal.

He signed left guard Landon Dickerson to a huge extension, gave both of the Eagles’ kickers – Jake Elliott and punter Braden Mann – new deals, and re-worked the contract of edge-rusher Josh Sweat.

He also traded for a backup quarterback, Kenny Pickett, who started 24 games for the Steelers the last two years, and he added some depth to the interior offensive line with the signing of veteran guard-center Matt Hennessey.

This is where I warn all of you giddy Eagles fans that Lombardi Trophies aren’t won in March. That said, I have to admit that Howie has done a pretty good job with the initial repair work on a roster that is coming off an epic late-season collapse.

That’s the good news. The better news is the Eagles still have more than $30 million in effective cap space, according to That’s the fourth most in the league.

Howard Roseman, the executive vice president and general manager for the Philadelphia Eagles, has been on a tear since free agency started. Photo by Andy Lewis.

So, with the draft still more than a month away, Roseman probably isn’t done adding free agent roster pieces or extending a contract or two.

The Eagles’ defense was an absolute dumpster fire last season. They finished 20th in points allowed (25.2 per game) and gave up 30.5 points per game in their last seven games, including a 32-9 playoff loss to Tampa Bay.

They finished 31st in touchdown passes allowed (35), 31st in third-down defense (46.4%) and 29th in red-zone defense (65.0%).

Their two first-round defensive tackles – Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter – vanished in the second half of the season. So did their two Pro Bowl edge-rushers – Sweat and Haason Reddick. 

A defense that notched a franchise-record 70 sacks the previous season, had just 13 in its last eight games last year.

Roseman gave both Sweat and the underpaid Reddick, whose 50 ½ sacks over the last four seasons are the fourth most in the NFL, permission to gauge the trade market. He eventually reworked Sweat’s deal, but there’s still a good possibility that Sweat, who will turn 30 in September, may not be back.

The signing of Huff to a three-year deal, certainly would help soften the blow if Reddick is traded. Huff had 10 sacks with the Jets last season and had the third highest win-rate among NFL edge-rushers (22.9), behind only Myles Garrett (27.3) and Micah Parsons (24.2).

But Huff was essentially used as a pass-rush specialist by the Jets and has yet to prove he can be an every down d-end. He played just 480 snaps last season. Reddick played 862.

The jury also is still out on the Eagles’ 2022 first-round pick, Nolan Smith. He played just 188 snaps as a rookie and had only one sack.

Roseman signed Saints free agent Zack Baun, a linebacker with pretty good pass-rush skills. But if the Eagles trade Reddick, they almost certainly are going to need to find another edge-rusher in the draft.

Linebacker was a major liability for the Eagles last season. They should be better with the additions of White, Baun and former 49er Oren Burks, as well as the return-to-health of Nakobe Dean (foot injury). All of them signed one-year deals and should be very motivated.

The biggest remaining defensive need right now is cornerback. With three picks in the first two rounds of the draft, Roseman figures to use at least one of those three selections, and maybe two, on corners, much like the Eagles did in 2002 when they took Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown in the first two rounds. 

Howie Roseman signed Landon Dickerson to a four-year, $84 million contract extension. Photo by Andy Lewis.

Sheppard and Brown ended up starting a combined 133 games for the Eagles from 2003 through 2008. But Roseman’s batting average hasn’t been great with corners in the draft.

The Eagles also need to get better on offense. Quarterback Jalen Hurts, who was runner up to Patrick Mahomes for the league MVP two years ago, is coming off a disappointing season. He threw 15 interceptions, the third most in the league and his yards-per-attempt average dropped from 8.0 to 7.2.

They averaged just 18.8 points per game in their last seven games and put up more than 19 just twice. Their run game wasn’t as productive last year as it was in ’22. 

They averaged nearly 20 rush yards per game and .3 of a yard per carry less in ’23 than they did the previous year.

The Eagles fired offensive coordinator Brian Johnson after just one year and replaced him with Kellen Moore. Moore no doubt had some input into the decision to sign Barkley.

Barkley, the second pick in the 2018 draft, had 2028 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns as a rookie, but hasn’t come close to those numbers since. 

He suffered an ACL injury in 2020 and has had just one 1,000-yard rushing season in the last four years (1,312 yards in 2022). He rushed for 962 yards last season, but averaged just 3.9 yards per carry.

The Eagles are looking for a little more between-the-tackles consistency from the 6-0, 232-pound Barkley than they got last season from the 5-9, 215-pound D’Andre Swift, who tended to bounce everything  outside.

Barkley also will give the Eagles a three-down back who is one of the league’s better pass-blocking running backs and has averaged 7.3 yards per reception in his career. He had 91 catches as a rookie.

Moore is expected to make the running backs a more significant part of the Eagles’ offense than Brian Johnson or Shane Steichen did.

Swift and Kenny Gainwell averaged just 5.7 yards per catch last season. In 2021 when Moore was in charge of the Cowboys’ offense and Dak Prescott threw 37 touchdown passes, Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott averaged 8.6 yards per catch. * 

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