Free Agency is a crucial period of time after the conclusion of the football season for all 32 teams in the league. This important time is spent acquiring, releasing, trading, and leveraging players. Admittedly, it does feel like a business, and at the end of the day it is just that, but is still tough to get attached to a player + city and have that be uprooted at the blink of an eye.
Free Agency (FA) Explanation
To explain further before diving into the specifics regarding the Eagles side of things, I will be referencing NFL.com | Official Site of the National Football League. “The NFL free agency period is an opportunity for players to land lucrative paydays or find better team fits, while also serving as another avenue for teams to upgrade and improve their rosters. But a fairly basic premise — players sign contracts with teams they want to play for.
Teams are allowed to negotiate with the agents of upcoming unrestricted free agents during the “Two Day Negotiating Period,” a window prior to the start of free agency (in 2023: from noon ET on March 13 until 4 p.m. ET on March 15). Self-represented players (“Unrepresented Player”) can also speak with members of team front offices (but not coaching staffs) during this period; this was previously prohibited.
When the new league year begins, contracts from the previous season expire, the trading period opens and tenders for restricted free agents must be submitted, etc. This is when free agents can officially sign new contracts, and trades can become official.
I want to begin on the inevitable negative note when discussing free agency, as there are always some losses involved. Overall, the retention rate was fantastic, but it is mathematically impossible to keep every player whose contract was expiring. Philly lost some massive names that contributed greatly to the magical Super Bowl run the Eagles managed to go on last season, such as DT Javon Hargrave, RB Miles Sanders, and S C.J. Gardner-Johnson. A vanishing trio of talent like this surely will have a heavy impact on the team as a whole, but they are not the only new holes being created in the seemingly near perfect roster. Other notable names such as LB T.J. Edwards, G Isaac Seumalo, S Marcus Epps, QB Gardner Minshew, WR Zach Pascal, T Andre Dillard, and LB Kyzir White were lost. If you add them up, it equates to 4 defensive and 5 offensive losses for the green and black.
Big losses are tough to deal with, but luckily that makes more cap space (money) available for new signings and trades to bolster the Birds. Both sides of the ball took a huge blow, but it is about how you respond to adversity that defines the structure and quality of your ball club.
Now to transition to a positive note, this will serve as a breakdown for the players retained and those new faces who were added to the squad. The 3 biggest names to remain on the team following free agency include C Jason Kelce, DT Fletcher Cox, and DE Brandon Graham. These men have been staples of the Eagles franchise for over a decade, and to retain them is a massive deal for the team and fans alike. Not only do they consistently record Pro Bowl numbers during their games, but they serve as a veteran presence and mentors for the younger teammates in the locker room. Jason Kelce in particular has an affinity for the passionate Eagles fans, and he has been seen numerous times partying or getting excited among the fans who love him just as much or more! Some other important signings/retentions include CB James Bradberry, CB Darius Slay, RB Rashaad Penny, S Terrell Edmunds, CB Greedy Williams, QB Marcus Mariota, RB Boston Scott, LB Nicholas Morrow, S Justin Evans, T Brett Toth and TE Tyree Jackson. Higher quantity does not necessarily equal higher quality, so do not let the abundance of names sway your opinion purely based on volume. This was indeed a great round of FA, but still is important to note the level of play/level of experience of certain names listed (the latter 5 of the list above).
Pros & Cons
Free Agency is guaranteed to bring along change, and this season is no exception. More than ever, this FA window felt like a revolving door, but that is likely stemming from my obsessive following of the Philadelphia Eagles. It also felt weird to lose the rights to superstar cornerback Darius Slay, only to regain them and subsequently sign him back to the team. A massive pro here is the retention of the trio of veterans (Kelce, Cox, Graham) which allows other positions to take slight hits to the talent level and still be compensated for by the trusted and proven vets. Another huge positive is the signing of running back Rashaad Penny and safety Terrell Edmunds. As previously mentioned, Sanders and Gardner-Johnson have left, leaving gaping holes in the 53-man squad. They managed to sign both proven players for low compensation ($1.35M and $2M respectively). Of course, the skill level may not be exactly equal, but the other options include much steeper price tags (4yr/$25.4M & 1yr/$6.5M). Retaining three skillful and important players, alongside the signing of cheaper yet serviceable options, leaves me with an overall positive feeling regarding the changes.
All of these positives cannot be without some negatives. Although the Eagles saved money at certain positions like safety, they still need the new players to fill their role properly. On paper it can seem like a perfect match, and then on the gridiron it can totally fall apart. Only time will tell if the new signings mesh well with the team and environment. Another con is the loss of the underrated linebacker duo of Kyzir White and T.J. Edwards. The output alone will be tough to replicate, with White totaling 110 tackles and Edwards tallying 159 combined tackles and 2.0 sacks.
Free Agency brought along many great additions as well as some truly sad departures. The team’s core still remains intact, and that is the most crucial thing if Philly wants any chance to recapture the magical run of the 2022-2023 season. The locker room energy should not see any change, especially with the big 3 coming back for at least one more run at glory. Overall, I am very happy with how the team looks after the dust settled and have complete and total confidence in them to at least make a deep playoff run this upcoming season.
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