What Next for the Philadelphia Eagles?

Feb 19, 2018

Carson Wentz
The Eagles’ triumph at Super Bowl LII, one of the most thrilling showpiece games in living memory, represented the success of a team that is the most complete in the NFL. From the work of Eagles Executive Vice President of Football Operations Howie Roseman, who put the finishing touches to the roster he built last year, bringing in players such as Torrey Smith and Jay Ajayi, to the expert play-calling of Doug Pederson and the astonishingly calm professionalism of Nick Foles, every part of the puzzle came together to produce a victory cheered in (almost) every part of the US.


As they calmly amassed a 13-3 record during the regular season, despite a string of potentially tough match-ups, this group of players forced pundits and experts to constantly reassess their merits. At every stage, there were predictions that the good run was about to come to an end, and then, when star quarterback Carson Wentz was ruled out, they just kept on confounding the experts as Foles steered the team all the way to the final, where he outplayed the great Tom Brady in a classic encounter.


Now that they’ve won their first Super Bowl in the history of the franchise, where do they go next? Can they turn a stunning victory into the beginning of a dynasty?


Well, in case they needed any motivation, Foles, Wentz, and the Eagles players need only look at the sports betting markets. In early betting for the 2019 Super Bowl, the Eagles are ranked some way behind the New England Patriots and on the same level as the Pittsburgh Steelers. That seems to significantly underestimate the potential of this group.


Any postseason strengthening must first take account of the quarterback position. Wentz, Foles, and Nate Sudfeld represent perhaps the strongest resource in this position in the whole of the NFL. Wentz is likely to return as starter next season, injuries permitting, and the Eagles will do all they can to persuade Foles – who has a year left on his contract – to stay with the franchise in the event of any doubt on the matter.


Assuming that Foles does stay, the champions do have a number of areas for consideration, though at $9 million or so over the pay cap, they have limited room for manoeuvre.


Away from the quarterback role, the most pressing need for strengthening is at linebacker. Jordan Hicks is recovering from a serious leg injury, Nigel Bradham could be on his way out as a free agent, and Mychal Kendricks’ position is uncertain. With Najee Goode and Dannell Ellerbe also possible departures, the entire linebacker department is up in the air. If they only strengthen one area during the off-season, this should be it.


If the Eagles lose both Trey Burton and Brent Celek – who contributed 765 backup snaps during the season – the squad would be left with no cover for Zach Ertz. Ertz is one of the best in the NFL, but tight end is such an important part of this team’s offense that they need at least one quality backup. Focusing on picking up cover at the draft and then adding a reliable third-choice veteran through the open market could be a good strategy.


Perhaps the hardest decision that the Eagles have to make is whether to keep hold of Jason Peters or give the nod to Halapoulivaati Vaitai? This decision at tackle will in turn shape their strategy for the whole of the offensive line, which is one of the older units in the NFL. Adding strength in depth in this crucial department is also likely to be high on their agenda.


The need for new blood in the receiver positions isn’t as clear-cut, but would become more pressing if Smith is allowed to leave. That would likely lead to Mack Hollins stepping up to play starting receiver with Alshon Jeffery, making a cheap but reliable free agent receiver a good option to have on board in case Hollins doesn’t work out.


Finally, with question marks over Donnel Pumphrey and Wendell Smallwood and the possibility that Darren Sproles may retire, the cover for Corey Clement and Ajayi looks threadbare, so the champions may also think about drafting another running back.


This might seem like a lot of potential areas in which to make changes, but good teams, if they want to become dominant teams, don’t rest on their laurels. Strengthening in these areas would give the Eagles momentum going into the new season and put them in the ideal position to prove the experts wrong all over again!

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