Free-agency exodus? Several players set to hit market
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Philadelphia Eagles dropped a heartbreaker, losing Super Bowl 57 to the Kansas City Chiefs 38-35 and fumbling an opportunity to win their second Lombardi Trophy in six seasons – albeit with a drastically different cast of characters than the one that prevailed in Super Bowl 52. In the process, Philly became only the second team in Super Bowl history, joining the infamous 2016 Atlanta Falcons, to blow a double-digit halftime lead.
Still, plenty to suggest this franchise has staying power even if the offseason to-do list is stocked with significant decisions.
“I know we have some free agents. There will be time to discuss that. There will be time to talk through all of that, but I know we’ve got a good nucleus of guys back to continue to build on,” second-year head coach Nick Sirianni said Sunday night.
“There was a lot of good football this year. We did a lot of good things. As a team, this one stings. This one hurts. We will no doubt get better from it. We’ve got a good young quarterback that’s played a phenomenal year, a good offensive line, good defense.
“We know we have the right people in place. This organization is a special organization.”
With those sentiments in mind, Philadelphia’s outlook for 2023:
Aside from the result on the scoreboard, ample evidence that third-year passer Jalen Hurts was the best player on the field Sunday. Passing for 304 yards and a TD qualifies as winning production for many quarterbacks. But Hurts also rushed for 70 yards and three touchdowns, Super Bowl records at his position. He’d certainly like to have that first-half fumble that was returned for a touchdown back, but that almost feels like a nitpick in the context of his overall performance. It’s set Hurts up for a massive payday, and heading into the final season of his rookie deal, he’s now eligible for the significant extension this organization tends to hammer out sooner than later. Yet Hurts also seems like a man content to bet on himself, so it will be interesting to see if he waits out the likes of Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert as they begin angling for their own mega pacts. Yet unlike that group of first-rounders, Hurts only stands to make $4.4 million in 2023, so long-term security could incentivize him to sign sooner.
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Two years in, and Sirianni has overseen a pair of playoff trips, the Eagles frankly exceeding expectations in both 2021 and 2022. But they won’t enter 2023 under any radars – starting with the fact they’ll be expected to be the first team in nearly two decades to successfully defend the NFC East throne. Though brash at times, especially on the field, Sirianni, 41, also seems to connect especially well with his players and clearly knows how to delegate within his staff while trying to assure even the finest preparatory details are accounted for. He will apparently lose OC Shane Steichen as the next head man of the Indianapolis Colts, so that creates an obvious void given how well Hurts’ development has gone under Steichen.
A really nice blend of talent and experience, though the Eagles appear likely to lose some established leaders like DT Fletcher Cox and perhaps DE Brandon Graham and even All-Pro C Jason Kelce, who’s currently undecided about whether to play a 13th NFL season. But as far as a young core headlined by Hurts, Philly has one of the game’s premier wideout duos in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith; probably the league’s top tackle tandem (Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata) and what was the league’s most productive pass rush in 2022. Look for rookies like DT Jordan Davis, OL Cam Jurgens and LB Nakobe Dean to become bigger contributors in 2023.
Hard to envision older veterans like Cox, CB James Bradberry, DT Javon Hargrave, DT Linval Joseph, DE Robert Quinn, G Isaac Seumalo, DT Ndamukong Suh and LB Kyzir White returning, especially since most have backfills waiting in the wings. Graham and Kelce, who’d both be 35 next season, could be tougher calls given what they’ve meant to the locker room. RB Miles Sanders, LB T.J. Edwards and DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson are all major contributors who are unsigned. And it will be interesting to see what kind of outside offers backup QB Gardner Minshew II fields.
Per OverTheCap, the Eagles are projected to hit free agency with about $8 million in reserve. Brown, Johnson, Mailata and TE Dallas Goedert could be candidates for restructures that create extra space.
Last year’s fairly bizarre trade with the New Orleans Saints means crafty GM Howie Roseman has two first-round picks this year, including No. 10 overall. Don’t be surprised if he spins one off in a seemingly perpetual bid to accrue future draft assets – particularly for a team that’s unlikely to have a desperate need in any one area.
You know what they say about hunters and hunted, and the Eagles certainly now fall into the latter category. But Roseman’s deft management of the roster and cap usually sets this franchise up to be a perpetual contender. Little reason to believe that won’t be the case in 2023, especially if Hurts’ remarkable trajectory remains on the upswing.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Philadelphia Eagles’ NFL free agency, draft preview: Exodus ahead?