The Philadelphia Eagles might be the NFL’s most exciting team heading into the 2022 offseason. Philadelphia has the cap space and draft capital necessary to fix their weaknesses and even improve the quarterback position. Will the Eagles keep Jalen Hurts or will they need an upgrade at quarterback to contend for a Super Bowl in 2022?
How the Philadelphia Eagles Will Contend for a Super Bowl in 2022
Armed with $21 million in cap space and three first-round picks, the Eagles have nowhere to go but up. This is helped by the fact that outside of Derek Barnett, they’re not losing anyone of note to free agency either.
Where do the Eagles Need to Improve?
While the addition of Darius Slay did bring a huge improvement to Philadelphia’s much-maligned secondary, they still have a long way to go. The Eagles allowed a league worse 69.4% passing completions under new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. That’s unacceptable, especially considering how much worse Philly’s pass rush had become overnight.
Three key members of the Eagles secondary, safety Anthony Harris, safety Rodney McLeod, and corner Steven Nelson will most likely be welcome to walk come free agency. For 99% of teams in league history, this would lead to major issues. For this Eagles team, it’s a blessing.
There are anywhere from six to ten defensive backs with first-round grades available in this year’s draft. Those are alongside 15 to 20 starting quality free agents set to hit the open market. Philly could complete year two of their secondary rebuild with a bang if they could land Tyrann Mathieu or Marcus Williams. Both safeties are versatile and could help with Philly’s faltering run defense as well. If Philadelphia doesn’t go big game hunting I’d expect one of their three first-rounders to be spent on a defensive back.
This is where the loss of Jim Schwartz begins to show. Schwartz knew how to get after the quarterback and it showed with 49 sacks last season. This season, the Eagles only had 29 sacks and their refusal to blitz didn’t help matters. Eagles defense retained Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Josh Sweat, so blame falls mostly on the scheme. I’m sure the loss of Brandon Graham hurt but that doesn’t account for 20 fewer sacks.
Philadelphia can add depth along the defensive line but I wouldn’t spend big here. Coaching and scheme change was the issue, not lack of talent.
Hello, darkness, my old friend. You’d think after back-to-back first-round picks expended on wide receivers Philadelphia would finally be flush with talent. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Jalen Reagor is well on his way to bust status and there’s very little quality depth behind DeVonta Smith. Quez Watkins was okay but the rest of the heavy lifting was left to running backs and tight ends. Once again the Philadelphia Eagles will be looking for pass catchers.
And they’re in luck! This year’s free-agent class is full of cheap options that can round out their lackadaisical wide receiver room. Unlike defensive back, where I think they should spend big money, they should be perfectly fine settling for an Emmanuel Sanders or Jamison Crowder. Any receiver who knows how to find a soft spot in the defense for Hurts will do him wonders. Smith should be used like Ja’Marr Chase – get the ball to him in as many ways as possible and occasionally Moss motherfuckers.
Are we sure the Eagles need a quarterback? It could be a receiver issue, right? Two years in, it’s safe to say Hurts is not “the guy”. He’s good, he’s just never going to be Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, or Josh Allen. Nick Sirianni built a very fun offense around Hurts in the second half of the season, perfectly catered to his strengths. But when a defense could completely shut down the run, the cracks started to show. On play-action passes his YPA (Yards Per Attempt) increased by 2.6 and his accuracy increased 10%.
So if he’s facing a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a great run defense, it all starts to fall apart. We saw it in the wildcard round: the Bucs dared him to throw and he wasn’t quick enough to get to his reads. He also tends to leave a clean pocket and run to the right side of the field.
He does have a higher ADoT (Average Depth of Target) and Y/A (Yards per Attempt) than expected but it’s almost always because his first read came open immediately off the play-action or scrambled until a big play was available. It’s a hard position to be in for a team – you can build an efficient offense that hits big plays with Hurts as your quarterback. But he can also be completely shut out and throw your team completely out of the game against the wrong defense.
And this is where the Eagles get interesting. Three first-round picks, $21 million in cap space (with the ability to create more), and a fairly deep roster. Kinda makes you want to go big game hunting, doesn’t it? Would the Green Bay Packers or Seattle Seahawks entertain Hurts or Gardner Minshew plus picks for Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson? What about prying Derek Carr from his on-again, off-again relationship with the Las Vegas Raiders organization? You could probably get him for a little cheaper than the other two.
The thing about the Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman pairing is that they love quarterbacks. They’ll fill up the depth chart with quarterbacks and create lots of competition. Even if they don’t unload their war chest going for one of the top guys, I could easily see them using one of their three picks on somebody else in the draft. Expect a new quarterback somewhere on Philly’s depth chart in 2022.
The Eagles Path to 2022 Super Bowl Contender
There are two ways I see Philadelphia going on a big run come January 2022.
1) Absolutely nail free agency and the draft. Your secondary gets fixed, pass rush improves, add some reliable targets, and Hurts improves just enough that you don’t have to worry about him costing you the game. The Eagles are already strong in the trenches on both sides and that’s where winning starts. The roster is only a couple of pieces away from being great.
2) You go the Los Angeles Rams route and “get your guy”. Darius Slay, Fletcher Cox, Josh Sweat, Jordan Mailata, Jason Kelce, and Lane Johnson are all top guys at their positions. They already made the playoffs with Jalen Hurts, it’s not a stretch to say a top 10 quarterback on this roster would’ve made some serious noise last season.
The Philadelphia Eagles are possible Super Bowl contenders in 2022 as long as they nail this offseason. All eyes will be on Howie Roseman as he tries to bring Philly back to the promised land.