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Eagles mailbag: Upgrading the 5th skill position on offense

Eagles mailbag: Upgrading the 5th skill position on offense originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The NFL offseason is about to pick up steam soon.

The entire league will take over Indianapolis for the combine next week and then free agency isn’t far behind.

But before we get there, let’s answer the latest batch of questions from readers:

This is a fun way to look at the offense. Because the Eagles could probably use an upgrade at both of these spots. For the last two seasons, the Eagles’ TE2 has been Jack Stoll and their WR3 (for the most part) has been Quez Watkins.

I think the third wideout should be the higher priority. Even in a heavy 12 personnel offense, the Eagles are probably still going to use three wideouts more often. And we know the Eagles want to prioritize an explosive offense so getting another viable receiver threat on the field would help.

Stoll hasn’t developed into a pass-catching threat, so I understand the desire to bring in a TE2 who offers more as a dual threat. And there’s a chance the Eagles could do that this offseason, especially when you remember that Dallas Goedert is now older than Zach Ertz was when they drafted Goedert. So if there’s a tight end on Day 2 or early Day 3 they like, it’s not out of the question to take them. But even if Stoll isn’t offering much as a receiver, the Eagles play him so much because they trust him as a blocker and that part doesn’t change. There’s more value in a tight end who doesn’t catch passes than a receiver who they can’t rely on. Stoll is a restricted free agent while Watkins, Olamide Zaccheaus and Julio Jones are all pending unrestricted free agents.

Now, adding a WR3 is a bit tricky too because the Eagles need to strike the right balance. They need to find a guy who Jalen Hurts will trust, but a guy who won’t vulture a ton of targets away from A.J. Brown or DeVonta Smith, who still need to be the focal points of the passing offense. But there should to be enough middle ground to find that player.

I decided to lump these questions together and go back-to-back. The Eagles’ top three tight ends have been the same for the last two years: Goedert, Stoll and Grant Calcaterra.

New OC Kellen Moore has been known for going with a relatively heavy 12 personnel rate. He did it in Dallas and he did it again in LA. The Chargers used 12 personnel on 24% of their offensive snaps in 2023 after being at 19% before Moore’s arrival. The Cowboys were at 22% under Moore in 2022. (If you’re wondering, the Eagles were at 20% this past season.)

But the biggest reason Moore has used 12 personnel is still to run the football. That second tight end has to be able to block. Stoll can block but he hasn’t offered much as a pass-catcher.

In LA last year, Donald Parham Jr. caught 27 passes for 285 yards and 4 touchdowns but was on the field for 48% of their snaps. He was their TE2 behind Gerald Everett, who will be a free agent next month.

Drafting a tight end on Day 2 could be a possibility. Like I mentioned above, Goedert is now older than Ertz was when the Eagles drafted Goedert. If you think back to 2018, Ertz was 27 years old and had just finished his fifth season. This offseason, Goedert is 29 and coming off his sixth season.

Smith was a first-round pick in 2021 so his four-year rookie contract runs through the 2024 season. He is under contract through this upcoming season and before May you can expect the Eagles to exercise his fifth-year option for the 2025 season. The reason you’re hearing talk about his contract this offseason is that he’s eligible for an extension for the first time in his career since he has now played three NFL seasons. The Eagles often like to get these kinds of extensions done before they absolutely need to.

If Jason Kelce decides to retire, the most obvious outcome is for Cam Jurgens to slide to center and for Tyler Steen to replace him at right guard. But the Eagles are always looking to add offensive linemen so there’s a chance they draft another guy with a Day 1 or Day 2 pick who could compete with Steen for the starting right guard spot. It probably wouldn’t shock anyone to see the Eagles use a high pick on a tackle to eventually replace 33-year-old Lane Johnson. But without a clear path to starting at tackle, maybe that player could compete to be a starting right guard in the interim.

It’s one of the biggest questions of the offseason. My gut is telling me they find a way to keep Reddick but we’ll see. I feel like we’ve talked so much about Reddick in so many places that I won’t go too deep here. But basically when a player is granted permission to seek a trade it’s about exploring his worth to the rest of the league. Even if Reddick finds a contract elsewhere, there’s still the compensation hurdle because the Eagles won’t be in a hurry to trade away one of their best players. There’s a chance they come to an agreement of a two-year extension that makes Reddick happy, keeps him in Philly and lowers his cap hit in 2024.

The Eagles like to wait for the entire coaching staff to be set before announcing it all. So that would need to happen first. They’re actually ahead of their pace from last year, though. They didn’t hire Sean Desai until they were in Indianapolis at the combine. Desai’s introductory press conference wasn’t until May. I’m hoping the Eagles don’t wait that long to let us hear from Vic Fangio and Kellen Moore.

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