Gearing up for a busy week for Eagles in free agency

Gearing up for a busy week for Eagles in free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

This is going to be a busy week for the Eagles.

NFL free agency kicks off today and the Eagles are going to be heavily involved in the news cycle.

As a reminder, the NFL’s two-day negotiating window opens up at noon on Monday. This is the first time teams are allowed to enter negotiations with pending free agents and we’ll start hearing about free agent moment.

But nothing can become official until 4 p.m. on Wednesday. That’s when the new league year begins.

Entering free agency, the Eagles are projected to have just shy of $43 million in cap space, according to OverTheCap.

Moves so far

The Eagles haven’t reached free agency yet but there have been some moves already:

• Two Eagles legends retired in the last week. Jason Kelce retired after 13 NFL seasons and Fletcher Cox retired after 12 seasons. Not only will the Eagles miss these guys on the field, but they’ll also miss their presence in the locker room as leaders. It won’t be easy replacing two all-time Eagles greats.

Brandon Graham is coming back on a one-year deal in 2024. The veteran defensive end has always had a goal to play 15 seasons and he’ll get to do it in an Eagles uniform. He’ll be the first Eagle to ever play 15 seasons with the team.

• The Eagles released S Kevin Byard and CB Avonte Maddox. Byard’s release was a no-brainer because he wasn’t very effective last season and the Eagles saved around $13 million in cap space. The Maddox release wasn’t a major shock either. The veteran nickel cornerback has been a good player but durability has been a concern and he had a base salary of nearly $7 million. Maddox will test free agency but don’t completely rule out a return.

After the Eagles traded for him at final cuts last season, Albert Okwuegbunam barely played in 2023. But he’s back on a one-year deal and will at least have a chance to compete for a roster sot in training camp.

Trading an edge rusher?

The biggest news surrounding the Eagles entering this week is about their starting edge rushers Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat. Earlier this offseason, Reddick was granted permission to seek a trade and establish his league-wide value. Even though Reddick has said he didn’t ask to be traded, he clearly wants a new contract as he’s entering the final year of a three-year, $45 million contract he’s outplayed.

And this past weekend we learned that the Eagles have reportedly been entertaining the thought of trading Josh Sweat as he enters the final year on his contract. Sweat is still just 26 but his production fell off in the second half of the 2023 season.

If the Eagles move on from Reddick and/or Sweat, they’re going to need to replace them. Edge rusher is an important position. The Eagles have Nolan Smith returning after a disappointing rookie season but they still believe in him. A name to watch is the Jets’ Bryce Huff; the Eagles are reportedly very interested in the 25-year-old free agent.

Eagles pending free agents

Here’s a look at the full list of Eagles’ pending free agents: OL Jack Driscoll, WR Julio Jones, QB Marcus Mariota, RB Boson Scott, RB D’Andre Swift, OG Sua Opeta, RB Rashaad Penny, TE Jack Stoll, WR Quez Watkins, WR Olamide Zaccheaus, LB Shaun Bradley, LB Zach Cunningham, S Justin Evans, DE Brandon Graham, LB Shaq Leonard, LB Nicholas Morrow, CB Bradley Roby, LS Rick Lovato, P Braden Mann.

And here’s a look around some top league-wide free agent lists to see where Eagles rank:

The Ringer top 50

35. Jason Kelce
38. Fletcher Cox

Notes: The only two Eagles who made this list are aging veterans and both have retired. These are two all-time great Eagles but it’s not like they weren’t pulling their weight last year. Kelce was an All-Pro for a sixth time in 2023 and Cox was the Eagles’ most consistent interior defensive lineman. top 101

36. Fletcher Cox
76. D’Andre Swift
84. Brandon Graham

Notes: The addition to this list is Swift, who had a career season with the Eagles in 2023 after getting traded from the Lions. Swift returned home to Philly and had a 1,000-yard season and made the Pro Bowl. And it’s fair to wonder if the Eagles even fully utilized him last year. Of course, the Eagles had a Pro Bowler two years ago and let Miles Sanders walk. Sanders got a big contract from the Panthers and had a disappointing season.

On this list, Swift is the fifth running back listed behind Saquon Barkley (6), Derrick Henry (23), Josh Jacobs (27) and Tony Pollard (43). The Eagles have been hesitant to pay running backs in recent years but perhaps the devaluation of the position league-wide might play into their favor. With Swift, the Eagles will probably let him test free agency but keep the lines of communication open. If Swift can’t find the deal he wants with one of the 31 other teams, the Eagles should be open to a reunion.

ProFootballNetwork top 100

72. Fletcher Cox
87. D’Andre Swift
99. Brandon Graham

Notes: The Eagles have brought back Graham for Year 15 in 2024. It has always been Graham’s goal to play 15 seasons in the NFL and he was still a productive member of the defensive line rotation in 2023. It wouldn’t be right to see him play in any other uniform. Graham gets one more season and then hang ‘em up.

The Athletic top 150

21. Jason Kelce
56. Fletcher Cox
59. D’Andre Swift
78. Sua Opeta
117. Brandon Graham
150. Marcus Mariota

Notes: This is the only list to include backup guard Opeta, who started six games for the Eagles in 2023 and has started 10 for them over the last several seasons. Opeta signed with the Eagles after going undrafted out of Weber State in 2019 and OL coach Jeff Stoutland turned him into a viable backup option. It’s worth noting that Opeta and Jack Driscoll are both pending free agents. They represent two of the Eagles best and most reliable backup offensive linemen. Mariota also made the list. We’ll see if the Eagles are ready to turn over the QB2 job to second-year QB Tanner McKee or if they’ll sign someone for that role.

ProFootballFocus top 200

72. Fletcher Cox
89. Brandon Graham
104. D’Andre Swift
140. Nicholas Morrow
162. Zach Cunningham
180. Shaq Leonard

Notes: The linebackers. Of those three, it seems like Cunningham would be the most likely to return. Howie Roseman talked him up in the year-end press conference and Cunningham was the Eagles’ best overall off-ball linebacker in 2023, although the bar was set pretty low. The Eagles need to improve at linebacker in 2024 and the way to do that is to let these guys walk and find more talent to add with Nakobe Dean for this upcoming season.

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