Breaking down the Eagles' edge rushers after Haason Reddick trade

Breaking down the Eagles' edge rushers after Haason Reddick trade originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles on Friday afternoon traded two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Haason Reddick to the Jets for a 2026 conditional second-round pick.

In order for that pick to be a second-rounder and not a third, Reddick will need to play 67.5% of the Jets’ defensive snaps and get 10 sacks.

There’s a good chance Reddick can do that. Because the 29-year-old edge rusher is a proven and productive player in the NFL. Heck, he’s done that in each of his last four seasons, with the Cardinals, Panthers and the Eagles twice.

Still, all things considered, it’s a pretty disappointing return for a player who has had double digit sacks in each of the last four seasons. But the market clearly never developed for Reddick and the only leverage the Eagles had was the threat of holding on to an unhappy player. So they pulled the trigger on a trade.

After moving on from Reddick, the Eagles still have a lot of talent at the edge rusher position but a lot of questions too.

There’s certainly a chance the Eagles could add an edge rusher in the draft, perhaps even on Day 1 or 2. But, for now, here’s a look at the players they have at the position:

The starters: Josh Sweat, Bryce Huff

Earlier this offseason, the Eagles were open to trading Reddick and/or Sweat but found a way to keep one of them. Sweat ended up agreeing to a restructure that will keep him in Philadelphia for the 2024 season. During each of the first five years of his career, Sweat was more productive year-over-year. That ended in 2023 when he finished with 6 1/2 sacks and didn’t have one in the final eight games of the regular season.

Sweat is still just 27 and has plenty of good years ahead of him. There’s a chance that he could simply walk after this year but maybe the Eagles will find a way to bring him back if he produces again. The 2018 fourth-round pick has been a good player for the Eagles and will presumably be the Eagles’ starting edge rusher on the right side of the defensive line.

While Reddick is heading to the Jets, former Jets edge rusher Bryce Huff signed a three-year, $51.1 million deal to come to Philly. While he has never been a true starter, Huff had a breakout season with 10 sacks in 2023 and his advanced metrics have been elite for a couple of seasons. And Huff will be just 26 when the 2024 season begins. So the Eagles lost the more productive player but are clearly hoping they got an ascending talent who will be hitting his prime during the length of his three-year contract and perhaps beyond. It's a gamble.

The biggest question about Huff is how he’ll handle an increased workload. Huff was part of a deep rotation with the Jets after working his way up from being an undrafted rookie out of Memphis in 2020. He played a career-high 480 snaps in 2023, which accounted for just 42% of the Jets’ defensive snaps. To put that into perspective, Reddick played 862 last year and Sweat played 828. So it’s fair to expect Huff to see a major jump in his snaps and be in way more situations that aren’t clear passing downs.

A bit of good news is that while Huff played on both sides of the line for the Jets, he saw more snaps on the defensive left. So it ought to be a natural fit to put him there and keep Sweat on the ride side of the line.

The top rotational guys: Brandon Graham, Nolan Smith

The Eagles brought back Graham on a one-year deal this offseason for what is expected to be the final year of his 15-year NFL career, all with the Eagles. The Eagles might have made this move even if it was only ceremonial, but this isn’t. Graham, even at 35, was a solid rotational player in 2023. He didn’t have 11 sacks again like he did in 2022 but he still played in all 17 games and had 3 sacks, 6 QB hits and 4 tackles for loss. His snaps dropped from 474 (43%) in 2022 to 395 (34%) in 2023. He was still the third guy in the rotation, which was a bit of a problem.

Because perhaps the biggest question facing the Eagles’ edge rusher position is not Huff, but Smith. The No. 30 overall pick out of Georgia had an underwhelming rookie season. He played in all 17 games but played a grand total of just 188 snaps (16%) and had one sack. After showing a ton of juice in the preseason, that explosion didn’t translate into the regular season. Even with the knowledge that Smith was an undersized (6-2, 238) yet athletic prospect who would need time to develop, his rookie season was still a disappointment. The Eagles will be counting on him to be an important part of the rotation in 2024 with the hope of Smith becoming a starter in 2025. His shoulder has been an issue going back to college.

The other fresh faces: Julian Okwara, Terrell Lewis

The Eagles added a couple of veterans who were third-round picks in the 2020 draft. There’s no guarantee both (or either) will be on the roster but there is a chance one could become an important part of the rotation in 2024.

Okwara (6-4, 239), 26, spent the first four years of his carer with the Lions after going 67th overall out of Notre Dame and has had 9 sacks in 38 games. His best season came in 2021, when he had 5 sacks and 9 QB hits in 13 games. He seems like the more likely of the two to stick.

Lewis (6-5, 262), 25, was the 84th overall pick out of Alabama. He spent the first three years of his career with the Rams, playing in 30 games with 7 starts. He had 6 sacks, 8 TFLs and 10 QB hits. Last season, Lewis spent time on the Saints’ practice squad but didn’t see any game action.

The returning depth guys: Patrick Johnson, Tarron Jackson

Two Day 3 picks from the 2021 draft still remain.

Johnson, 26, was a seventh-round pick out of Tulane in ’21. He has been on the roster in each of the last three years but has primarily been a special teamer. He has been very good on special teams but hasn’t played much on defense, totaling just 362 defensive snaps. He played a career-low 38 in 2023 after playing 111 and 213 in the first two years of his career.

Jackson, 25, was a sixth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina. He spent the 2023 season on the practice squad after playing very sparingly the first two years. As a rookie, Jackson played 253 defensive snaps but played just 27 in 2022. He also hasn’t been the same type of special teams player that Johnson has been.

The wild card: Zack Baun

The Eagles signed the former third-rounder of the Saints as a free agent this offseason. The Saints used the Ohio State product as an off-ball linebacker with underwhelming results for the first three years of his career. In 2023, after some injuries, Baun got a chance to rush the passer and showed some juice. The Eagles are hoping to make Baun a hybrid off-ball linebacker/edge rusher in Vic Fangio’s scheme. The hope is that he will fill the role Andrew Van Ginkel had with the Dolphins under Fangio in 2023. Van Ginkel signed a two-year deal with the Vikings this offseason after a six-sack season in 2023.

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