This past Eagles season was quite the experience. We went from on top of the world to quite the opposite following a brutal loss on Feb. 12 on the biggest stage in sports. As the pain begins to subside two weeks later, the view now settles upon the future.
There can be no more whining about the horrible holding call or the horrific defensive performance. We must put that in the rearview mirror and look towards the destination ahead: Super Bowl LVIII.
General Manager Howie Roseman made it a point of emphasis to construct a winner last offseason, and it was almost perfect throughout the year. I, as well as many others, would even argue that this past year’s roster was the best to have ever been constructed in Philadelphia. This notion, of course, makes the pain from this past loss even more excruciating since teams like that do not come around very often, if at all. Now, many of the integral pieces of this year’s journey will be falling into free agency, and try as they may, the Eagles front office will not be able to retain most of these players.
Veterans may retire, injuries will occur and the ball will very likely not bounce our way next season. It takes a lot of things going right for a team to make it to a Super Bowl, and this year emphatically unfolded for the Eagles. Jalen Hurts had a MVP-caliber season; all of his offensive weapons worked out, and the injury bug barely bit the team at all. For every positive factor that went into each win this season, next season may very well have a negative. The path will be much tougher to navigate as defending National Football Conference champs.
The time to retool is now more than ever, especially since the team will have to make Jalen Hurts among the richest at his position. As well-deserved as this payment will be, the quarterback’s paycheck will take a lot of resources out of other positions in the ensuing years. This year will be the last where Hurts’ paycheck is along his rookie contract’s terms, so the flexibility for a championship roster will still be at hand but the looming deficit will, of course, be on the forefront of Roseman’s mind.
The biggest factor which will affect the Eagles’ long term success will be as it always has been: they must hit big on the draft. Fortunately for the birds, they did not take the Rams’ “sell all first round picks for a Super Bowl” approach, and they actually have a bevy of opportunities to hit on some rookies in the early rounds of the 2023 draft. They hold the tenth and the thirtieth picks in this year’s first round and will look to fill in some gaps when the inevitable exodus of this year’s stars occurs.
Over the last few years, Roseman and company have made up for a string of draft day misses by attaining Devonta Smith, Landon Dickerson, Jordan Davis and the splash trade to acquire AJ Brown with their first-round pick last season. If he can sustain the success and get a few solid starters in the ensuing years, the team will not have a far drop-off from the outcome of 2022.
There will be a young and talented core for the next few years surrounding Hurts with the likes of receivers AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith, along with tight end Dallas Goedert catching passes. Protecting Hurts will be an equally young and talented offensive line consisting of left tackle Jordan Mailata, guard Landon Dickerson and heir to the Kelce throne, center Cam Jurgens. Winning in the trenches has been a recipe to the success of the Eagles over the past couple decades, and if the consistency can remain on both the offensive and defensive lines, there can be a smooth transition into the future.
On the defensive side of the ball, much of the talent will likely be departing. Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, CJ Gardner-Johnson, James Bradberry and TJ Edwards headline the lengthy list of free agents that can leave the team. Of these players, Gardner-Johnson is the most important, in my opinion, to retain given that the ballhawking safety led the league in interceptions (despite missing five games) and is only 24 years old. He will be able to be a starter for years to come and hold up a secondary that will be in a transition period following the likely departure of James Bradberry. Speaking of the secondary, the Eagles will need to draft someone to be opposite Darius Slay next season and to eventually become that number one guy when Slay also leaves.
There will also need to be emphasis put on the interior line in the event that both Cox and Hargrave leave. Entering his second season, Jordan Davis will be tasked with much more playing time than he had in his first year and fans will hope he will be able to step up to the challenge.
In terms of linebackers, there will be much to do as both Kyzir White and TJ Edwards could be parting with the team leaving third round pick Nakobe Dean as the lone starter. It would be nice to see a run stuffer to pair with Dean to help clog up the holes that Kansas City’s Isaiah Pacheco was able to exploit earlier this month.
All of these defensive and offensive moves will also have to happen with new coordinators at each position group, as both Jonathan Gannon and Shane Steichen were hired as head coaches in Arizona and Indianapolis, respectively.
Much had to be done to get the Eagles where they ended up this past season and more will have to be done to get them back and even further. Let “Howie season” begin. Fly Eagles, fly.
Joseph Gill is a fourth year English major with a minor in Journalism. Jg923276@wcupa.edu