Pretty soon, Howie Roseman and Nick Sirianni will sit down and figure out who needs to go and who needs to stay.
We figured we’d help them out.
With the 2021 season in the rear view mirror, here’s a look at 11 players (and one coach) who the Eagles need to move on from. Some are slam dunks. Some are tough calls. Some had disastrous seasons. Some actually didn’t play badly but are getting older or too expensive. A couple are Super Bowl heroes.
But everybody’s time comes eventually, and this group needs to go for one reason or another.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: Sixteen catches in three years. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is only the third WR in NFL history drafted in the first two rounds to play at least 40 games in his first three seasons and catch 16 or fewer passes. The other two were Bobby Crespino of the Browns (6 catches from 1961 through 1963) and Gerald McNeill, also of the Browns (14 catches from 1987 through 1989). So JJAW has been the least productive WR drafted in the first or second round in over 30 years. I give him credit for working hard to become a functional special teamer so he could at least help out the team in some way. But that’s not why the Eagles drafted him. Time to move on.
Derek Barnett: One of the biggest underachieving 1st-round picks in Eagles history, all Barnett has to show for five seasons is 21 ½ sacks. Or exactly 10 fewer than Mike Mamula had in his first five seasons. Of 74 defensive ends drafted in the first half of the first round since sacks became an official sack in 1982 who started at least 45 games, only 16 had fewer sacks in their first five seasons. Barnett has made just under $23 million and carried a $10.05 million cap figure this year. He managed just two sacks, tied for 168th in the league. Barnett will count $7.25 million in dead money if the Eagles release him, but it’s a move they need to make.
Brandon Brooks: This one hurts because Brooks is a Hall of Fame guy and played at such a high level for the Eagles from 2016 through 2019. But he’s played two games the last two years, hasn’t finished a season healthy since 2017, turns 33 next summer, and he plays a position where the Eagles have some depth now with Landon Dickerson, Isaac Seumalo, Jack Driscoll, Nate Herbig and Sua Opeta. Cutting Brooks would create $15.74 million in dead money, but keeping him would count $19.44 million against the Eagles’ cap. I just don’t see Brooks as part of this team’s future.
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Michael Clay: Eagles special teams, so good under Dave Fipp, really struggled this year. Arryn Siposs ranked 30th out of 36 punters and the Eagles ranked 28th in punt return average, 29th in kick return average, 24th covering punts and 28th covering kicks. The only special teams area the Eagles weren’t among the worst in the NFL was field goal kicking, and Clay has said many times he’s not a kicking coach and has little to do with Jake Elliott’s success. The Eagles’ special teams woes caught up with them in the wild-card game with Jalen Reagor’s fumble, some weak punts and putrid production in the return game.
Jordan Howard: This really has less to do with Howard, who gave the Eagles everything he had when he was healthy, than it has to do with Kenny Gainwell, who needs to be more involved on offense alongside Miles Sanders. And Boston Scott, too. Howard gave the Eagles a nice lift in the middle of the season, but the frequent injuries are a concern. If the Eagles get banged up and need a back and he’s available, I’m fine bringing him back. But Gainwell in particular needs more touches. He’s performed every chance he’s gotten. Howard is a bruising inside runner, but Gainwell is a more versatile player as a runner and receiver and just 22.
Ryan Kerrigan: His 1 ½ sacks against one-leggeded Tristan Wirfs in the wild-card game notwithstanding, this was a disastrous season for the former four-time Washington Pro Bowler. Kerrigan finished the regular season with no sacks, three tackles and one tackle for loss in 330 snaps over 16 games. Kerrigan and Zach Wood of the Saints were the only defensive ends in the NFL to play in at least 16 games this year without recording a sack. And Wood didn’t play a single defensive snap. I don’t want to say Kerrigan was just going through the motions this year, but … sometimes you can just tell when a player is ready to move on to the next phase of his life.
Anthony Harris / Rodney McLeod / Steve Nelson: All three of these guys played hard this year and gave everything they had. McLeod in particular has been a terrific Eagle for six years and was a key guy on that Super Bowl defense, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a person and a player. But McLeod turns 32 this summer, Harris is 30 and Nelson turns 29 on Sunday. They’re all free agents. The Eagles need to get younger, faster and more athletic in the secondary.They need elite playmakers in the back end to match up against the speedy, young WRs they face most weeks. Darius Slay had a terrific year and so did Avonte Maddox in the slot. But the Eagles the last four years have ranked 25th, 22nd, 29th and 20th in interceptions. That has to change. This secondary needs a good overhaul.
Jalen Reagor: Only six WRs in NFL history have been drafted in the first round, started at least 20 games in their first two years and and had fewer than 700 career receiving yards. Only three since 1977: Darrius Heyward-Bey of the Raiders in 2009 and 2010, Nelson Agholor in 2015 and 2016 and Jalen Reagor in 2020 and 2021. Reagor this year became only the sixth WR drafted in the first round since 1977 to start at least 12 games and have fewer than 300 yards and only the third ever who wasn’t a rookie – along with Tex Coulter of the Giants in 1947 and Larry Burton of the Saints in 1976. I don’t care about the $7.84 million cap hit. He has to go. Has to. Come on, Howie!
Hassan Ridgeway: When’s the last time you even noticed Ridgeway on the field? He had a sack, tackle for loss, three quarterback hits and tackle for loss in the opener against the Falcons and then … nothing. Ridgeway played 373 snaps at defensive tackle this year – only 83 fewer than Milton Williams - and barely caused a ripple. He did have a sack late in the Lions game once the Eagles were up 38-0. But for a six-year veteran he was essentially invisible after the opener. Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox and Milton Williams will all be back next year, but Jonathan Gannon plays four guys inside and four guys outside, so the Eagles have to upgrade across the defensive line, and it’ll be important to replace Ridgeway with someone who can make at least some impact.
Genard Avery: The Eagles have to dramatically upgrade their linebacker corps, and while I would think T.J. Edwards and Davion Taylor will have roles on defense next year, I expext Alex Singleton to go back to a smaller role as mainly a special teamer. Avery, a trade-deadline acquisition in 2019, played a lot this year – 358 snaps, 3rd-most among linebackers, with very little impact. Avery, who cost the Eagles a 4th-round pick, is a free agent and this experiment needs to end.
Arryn Siposs: Siposs got off to a strong start and was averaging 46.3 yards per punt through 10 games. The last eight games, he averaged a lowly 40.3 – worst in the NFL the second half of the season. That’s the lowest average by an Eagles punter over the second half of any season since 2002, when Lee Johnson averaged 38.8. Siposs finished 30th out of 36 punters with an overall 43.9 average and his net was 38.7, which ranked 31st out of 36 punters. His inconsistency was on full display in Tampa, when he hit a 58-yarder and a 49-yarder but also a 27-yarder and two 36-yarders. He’s a liability and needs to be replaced.