Most of the talk about the Philadelphia Eagles’ needs this offseason revolves around linebacker.
Nigel Bradham is about to hit free agency, Mychal Kendricks is viewed as a surefire cap casualty, and Jordan Hicks is coming off his second season-ending surgery in three seasons.
But right behind linebacker on the list of team concerns should be defensive tackle, an area of strength during the team’s Super Bowl run because of both blue-chip talent and depth.
The Eagles are top-heavy at the position, with both three-time Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan returning to anchor the starting spots, but the expected loss of Beau Allen to free agency will leave the team without the depth that has been so pivotal to the position’s success.
Given the Eagles’ cap situation – they need to trim salary to comply with the cap – it’s hard to see them keeping the 335-pound Allen, a 2014 seventh-round pick who survived the scheme change from Chip Kelly’s 3-4 to the 4-3 run by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who leans heavily on rotations. The reason: His one-gap, quarterback-attacking scheme asks linemen to exert full energy on nearly every snap. Six different linemen played at least 400 snaps this year.
Allen, an excellent run-stuffer, played 428 snaps, or 41 percent of the defense’s activity last season. Behind Allen on the depth chart were second-year pro Destiny Vaeao, who played just 231 snaps (22.4 percent), and rookie seventh-rounder Elijah Qualls, who played just 10 percent of defensive snaps.
Allen’s loss would leave Vaeao or Qualls in a duel to be the top interior lineman off the bench. The winner of that battle would also be the starter if Cox or Jernigan suffer an injury. Cox missed two games in 2017 with a calf injury.
The Eagles don’t currently have second- or third-round picks but pick 32nd, twice in the fourth and fifth rounds, and once in the sixth. Washington product Vita Vea, a surprisingly explosive inside lineman at 347 pounds, would be an ideal fit, but Vea should be off the board long before the Eagles complete the first round.
Because Jernigan and Cox are under contract for several seasons, the Eagles can draft for depth at defensive tackle in the later rounds. However, losing Allen would surely leave them thinner at one of their most important positions.
— Geoff Mosher, a longtime Philadelphia sports reporter, is also a host on @975TheFanatic in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffMosherNFL.