NFL free agency: Eagles entering contract seasons in 2021

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Looking at key Eagles entering contract seasons in 2021 originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The 2021 season will be important for many players on the Eagles’ roster but there are several notable names who are entering into contract seasons.

For this list, we didn’t look at all the players who signed one-year deals — Ryan Kerrigan, Anthony Harris, Eric Wilson, etc. Instead, we are going to point out 15 of the most notable returning players who are entering the final years of their contracts in 2021.

We’re also leaving off Zach Ertz, who is entering the final year of his contract but seems likely to play elsewhere this season.

TE Dallas Goedert (UFA)

We’ll start off with the Eagles’ 2018 draft class and we’ll go in the order they were picked, starting with the second-rounder. Goedert is an interesting case because he’s already a top 10 tight end in the NFL and he hasn’t yet even fully reached his potential. Really, you can argue that he simply hasn’t reached that potential because he’s shared the field with Ertz. But Goedert, even as the second tight end, is off to a very good start in his career. He played just 11 games in 2020 but still managed to have 46 catches for 524 yards and 3 touchdowns. It would make plenty of sense for the Eagles to try to lock up the 26-year-old to a long-term deal now but Goedert might want to bet on himself. He could get a huge deal next offseason.

CB Avonte Maddox (UFA)

After playing the first three seasons of his fourth-round contract on very low base salaries, Maddox hit a big escalator because of how much he played in those first three years. So he has a base salary of $2.18 million in 2021. Maddox’s versatility has been big for the Eagles over the last few years but he didn’t have a great season as an outside corner in 2020. You can certainly argue that’s on the Eagles for playing him out of position. When Maddox has been at his best, he’s been the nickel corner or even a safety in his rookie season. Maddox has also struggled to stay healthy. Even if the Eagles add another cornerback for 2021, Maddox still figures to have a sizable role in the Eagles’ defense.

DE Josh Sweat (UFA)

Another fourth-rounder from 2018, Sweat has been a good situational pass rusher for the Eagles the last two seasons after basically having a redshirt year in 2018. In 2020, he had 6.0 sacks in just 421 defensive snaps. Sweat had a sack every 70.2 snaps per game, the highest rate in the Eagles’ rotation. But with Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett back in 2021, Sweat is still a rotational player. Can he be a starter? We don’t know. But another six-sack season and he’ll earn some money on the open market next year.

OL Matt Pryor (UFA)

The Eagles’ sixth-round pick from 2018 has been given chances and has played a decent amount for the Eagles but has at times been a liability. The Eagles seem to like his versatility, playing Pryor in 27 games over the last two years, but they might simply have better options in 2021. He’s definitely on the roster bubble entering this season.

OT Jordan Mailata (UFA)

Even if Mailata never played another snap for the Eagles, he has already been worth that seventh-rounder they spent for him in 2018 as a project. But there’s also a chance he could be the long-term solution at left tackle. This is a tricky one as you look at the potential for a contract extension. Mailata is still so new to the game and has so much potential. He’ll be in a training camp battle with Andre Dillard for this job, but there’s a very good chance Mailata wins it. If he does, maybe the Eagles try to lock him up long term during this season.

DE Derek Barnett (UFA)

The Eagles’ 2017 first-round pick will play this upcoming season on his fifth-year option, which comes with a price tag of around $10 million with a matching cap hit. While it seems crazy that Barnett is going to get paid that much, pass rushers are generally overpaid in the NFL. And Barnett hasn’t been bad … he just hasn’t been worthy of the No. 14 pick. The Eagles gambled by paying Nelson Agholor on his fifth-year option in 2019 and then let him leave as a free agent after a disappointing year. This is a big season for Barnett.

S Rodney McLeod (UFA/VOID)

The Eagles brought back McLeod on a two-year deal before the 2020 season and renegotiated with him this offseason as McLeod comes back from an ACL tear. The Eagles put four void years on McLeod’s contract for salary cap purposes when they renegotiated this offseason, so he’ll become an unrestricted free agent early in the 2022 league year. McLeod has been a good player for the Eagles but will turn 31 this month.

CB Craig James (UFA)

James might be one of the most forgotten players on the Eagles’ roster, especially after injuries limited him to just four games in 2020. But remember, the Eagles actually kept James over Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas last year. Maybe James doesn’t really figure into the Eagles’ plans at cornerback but he is a pretty good special teamer and the Eagles missed him as a gunner last year.

DE Genard Avery (UFA)

I listed Avery as a defensive end but we’ve heard a report that he’s moving to linebacker. He’ll likely be some sort of standup rusher in 2021 if he makes the team. The Eagles traded away a fourth-round pick for Avery a couple years ago and aside from his big game against the 49ers last year, he hasn’t been worth it. Last chance for him in Philly.

LB Alex Singleton (RFA)

The Eagles have a bunch of pending restricted free agents but Singleton deserves his spot at the top of the list. He was a tackling machine in 2020 after he became the starter and will likely be a starter heading into the 2021 season as well. Singleton was an exclusive rights free agent this offseason, which didn’t give him options. We’ll see if the Eagles tender him next offseason and at what level. If he has another big year, a second-round tender isn’t out of the question.

WR Travis Fulgham (RFA)

Fulgham signed a two-year deal with the Eagles last season and had a magical month last year. But as quickly as he ascended, Fulgham’s stats then dropped and we really don’t know what to expect from him in 2021. He could be a starter and a star or he could be off the team. It’s pretty wild. In any case, Fulgham will likely have three accrued seasons after this year, making him a restricted free agent in 2022.

WR Greg Ward Jr. (RFA)

It’s pretty crazy that Ward is the Eagles’ most experienced receiver and he won’t even become a restricted free agent until the 2022 offseason. But that’s where this is heading. His role in 2021 and the success of other receivers should determine what level tender the Eagles place on him or if they move on.

RB Boston Scott (RFA)

Scott was another player, like Singleton and Ward, who was an exclusive rights free agent this past offseason. Scott was the Eagles’ No. 2 in 2020 but now they’ve added Kenny Gainwell and Kerryon Johnson. Scott’s role isn’t very defined right now.

LB T.J. Edwards (RFA)

The Eagles signed Edwards as an undrafted player in 2019 and he’s played in 28 games with 16 starts over the last two seasons. So they’ve gotten a lot out of him. While Edwards might be a starter in 2021, at least at the beginning of the season, the Eagles have draft picks Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley waiting for bigger roles.

OL Nate Herbig (RFA)

Another UDFA in 2019, Herbig ended up playing in 15 games with 12 starts last year. Believe it or not, the only offensive player to get more snaps than him last year was Jason Kelce. But the draft pick of Landon Dickerson means Herbig won’t be the first guy off the bench this season.

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