The Philadelphia Eagles started the 2016 season 3-0 and everything was all good in the City of Brotherly Love. Rookie No. 2 overall pick quarterback Carson Wentz looked like he was the real deal. He was NFL Rookie of the Month for September and was named NFL Offensive Player of the Week after a sterling performance in a win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But then the bottom fell out. The Eagles lost nine of their next 11 games and won just four games the rest of the way.
Now, the Eagles must retool in order to put the disappointing season behind them.
Wide receiver: The Eagles need to get some weapons to help Wentz. Philadelphia had 40 plays of 20 yards or more passing. They need a receiver (or two) to open up the offense and get some quick scores. The Eagles 5.89 yards per pass play ranked 29 out of 32 teams. No receiver had 1,000 yards and not including tight end Zach Ertz or running back Darren Sproles, only Jordan Matthews had more than 40 catches or 350 yards receiving.
Cornerback: Philadelphia gave up 57 plays of 20 or more passing. The Eagles need some corners that will make some plays. Nolan Carroll did have five interceptions but he is a free agent. The Eagles cut Leodis McKelvin earlier this month so this is definitely a priority this offseason.
Defensive end: Pass rushing and pass coverage work hand-in-hand. The better the coverage, the more likely the defensive pressure can get to the quarterback. The quicker the pressure, the more likelihood of an interception or pass breakup. Defensive end Brandon Graham had 5.5 sacks but defensive tackle Fletcher Cox led the team with 6.5 sacks. Connor Barwin had five sacks, his lowest total since he had 5.0 in his first year with the Eagles in 2013. Philadelphia needs more production.
Offensive line: The Eagles ran for 1,813 yards, which was good for 11th in the league. Still, Wentz was sacked 33 times and hit 98 times. That’s too much for your franchise quarterback. Jason Peters did make the Pro Bowl but he is also scheduled to have a cap hit of $11.7 million next year. That’s a lot for a player who is 35. Stefan Wisniewski is a free agent and will likely leave. The Eagles will likely ask Peters to take a pay cut. They have to fortify that line and free agency may be the way to get better faster.
Running back: The Eagles’ leading rusher, Ryan Matthews, rushed for 661 yards and eight touchdowns. The eight scores were good and the 4.3 yards per carry was average, but can he stay healthy to handle the bulk of the attack? Matthews had a team-best 30-yard run this season. That is not exactly game-changing. Darren Sproles is more of a third-down back and can’t carry the team’s rushing load. The Eagles need a primary back who will take the pressure off of Wentz.
Unrestricted free agents
LB Stephen Tulloch
CB Nolan Carroll
LB Bryan Braman
DT Bennie Logan
LB Najee Goode
OL Stefen Wisniewski
Restricted free agents
RB Kenjon Barner
WR Trey Burton
Exclusive Rights free agents
S Jaylen Watkins
The Eagles currently are strapped under the cap and are expected to release some high-priced veterans. The club already cut McKelvin, who made $3 million last season. Expect more releases in the next couple of weeks. As of now, they are likely to be bargain hunters in free agency. That means the Eagles will have to be very prudent, efficient and effective in the draft. The club appears to have hit a home run with Wentz. The club needs to follow up with some young playmakers early and build depth in later rounds.