Perhaps the Eagles have embraced the “build” philosophy this offseason best evidenced by the defensive tackle position.
In the short term, things are looking good with the return of Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox and promising second-year player Milton Williams is set to take the next step in his career.
Hargrave and Cox, however, are set to become free agents after the 2022 season, making the job a sneaky need in the draft later this month.
Cox is back on a reworked deal for $14 million after having to be released in an accounting trick to undo his complicated, over-leveraged earlier deal that was restructured one too many times.
Cox has been one of the best defensive players in franchise history, but it’s fair to say that his numbers have dwindled in recent seasons and he’s not the player he once was. high of a career that included six Pro Bowl berths and four All-Pro nods. .
Slated to turn 32 this season, the machinations surrounding Cox’s contract were sparked by a guarantee (estimated at $16-18 million). Philadelphia wasn’t comfortable with that number for Cox and the calculated bet was made to release the veteran with the intention of eating dead money and making a market correction on his deal.
From the Eagles’ perspective, the idea was to move Cox forward on a more Jason Kelce-like plan with a little less money.
The frustration Cox openly showed at the start of the 2021 season when switching from Jim Schwartz’s plan to Jonathan Gannon’s was real, but it was also corrected in the second half when the compromise was reached.
The CliffsNotes version of the over-the-top disconnect was that Cox had spent very successful years in Schwartz’s scheme playing three techniques and being told to disrupt things, a job description that’s frankly a lot of fun for a DT . In Gannon’s more disciplined approach, Cox was playing a lot of 3Ts but also 4Is and even five techniques, which took some getting used to.
Without Cox, the Eagles would have been very thin on defensive tackle, with only Hargrave and Williams, 2021 third-round pick Milton Williams, penciled-in contributors backed by unproven development drafts like Marlon Tuipulotu, Marvin Wilson and Renell Wren .
The “loss” of Hassan Ridgeway in free agency to San Francisco opens at least fourth place in the inside rotation and Ridgeway played 33% of snaps defensively last season.
Despite all the talk about Hargrave’s quality compared to Cox in 2021 due to the higher sack count, Cox has been rated higher by Pro Football Focus and still has a more complete game.
Cox was ranked the 29th best interior defensive lineman while Hargrave was No. 31, mainly due to the latter’s struggles to sustain the run where Hargrave was near the bottom of the league for DTs (No. 105 of 110) .
The struggles were so big for Hargrave in the racing bracket that a team source indicated that Gannon would consider moving him to 3T for the vast majority of his reps and Cox’s willingness to accept a more professional role is a big part of this plan.
Gannon would also like a true zero or one technique player to do the dirty work and open things up a bit for Cox and Hargrave. Inside options would be Tuipulotu and Wren, a 315-pound former fourth-round pick at Cincinnati.
Those paths pale in comparison to Georgian Jordan Davis, a potential first-round target. Other top performers in the position include Davis’ teammate – Devonte Wyatt, as well as UConn’s Travis Jones as potential debut players.
The Eagles think very highly of Davis, and Gannon was front and center on Georgia’s pro day alongside vice president of player personnel Andy Weidl. Philadelphia also brought the big man to the NovaCare complex for a top-30 visit.
EAGLES DEFENSIVE TACKLE DEPTH CHART:
NT – Javon Hargrave, Marlon Tuipuloto, Renell Wren
Utah -Fletcher Cox, Milton Williams, Marvin Wilson
TOP 10 EAGLES TODAY:
1. Jordan Davis, Georgia
2. Travis Jones, Connecticut
3. Devonte Wyatt, Georgia
4. Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma
5. Phidarian Mathis, Alabama
6. DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
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7. John Ridgeway, Arkansas
8. Neil Farrell, LSU
9. Kalia Davis, Central Florida
10. Matthew Butler, Tennessee
Sleeper – Eric Johnson, State of Missouri
Boom or bust – Travis Jones, Connecticut
BUILDING THE DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Rush pass – DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M – Undersized technical threesome, some projected Leal would play on the outside but he’s better as an undersized disrupter on the inside.
Race Assist – Jordan Davis, Georgia – A beast of a man with the athletic profile of a unicorn, Davis should be a Vita Vea-type difference maker with more of a pass-rush ceiling.
First stop – Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma – Winfrey is probably your best bet if you want someone to pocket your money fast.
Strength – Thomas Booker, Stanford – A nice mix of smarts and power, some even projected Booker as switching sides to play the offensive line.
Potential Eagles picks:
Day 1 – Jordan Davis in trade and Travis Jones in trade
Some would like to avoid Davis because of the rotation of tackles to the nose and the fact that they usually don’t help much when games are won or lost in the fourth quarter when you have to rush the passer.
This, however, assumes that Davis is just a run-plugger and not a generational talent from a trait and measurable perspective. The Eagles are clearly interested but may need to make a targeted move to land him.
Outside of Davis, the next logical NT guy is UConn’s Travis Jones but the No. 18 may be a bit too rich for him, and depending on how the board falls the Eagles may feel comfortable backing off. a little.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman told SI.com’s Eagles Today that the number of so-called Tier 1 players for the Eagles and the league as a whole is around 20.
“I think there’s a consistency in terms of the players we’re probably seeing in the top 20,” Roseman said. “Now a few of those might change, but I don’t think it’s that drastically different, in terms of which players are going to get into the top 20.
“I think where it’s going to start to change is after that. I think you’re going to see a lot of different panels. Some guys who go between 21 and maybe 51, where we pick in the second round, and you You’ll see a lot of variables that go into these choices.
If Jones is in the Eagles top 20, his presence could also generate value.
Day 2 – Perrion Winfrey, Phidarian Mathis
Winfrey is ranked by most as the #4 DT and there would be value if he dropped to #51, but there is also a little redundancy as his skill set may be a bit too close to what Cox and Hargrave provide. However, at some point, you just have to take good players.
Mathis might be a better fit for what the Eagles need in the third round as a big man who is a running hog.
Day 3 – Kalia Davis; Otito Ogbonnia, UCLA; Noah Elliss. Idaho
The theme will be looking for big bodies again on Day 3 if the Eagles can’t make it earlier in the draft.
Davis is a great technical three and most complete while Ogbonnia is the pure two hole. Elliss, the son of former Detroit star Luther Elliss and brother of Sam LB Christian Elliss of the Eagles, weighs 350 pounds with pedigree and upside.
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com’s Eagles Today and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sportscaster Jody McDonald every morning from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Birds 365,” streaming live on YouTube. John is also the host of his own show ‘Extending the Play’ on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen