Last year never seemed right for the Philadelphia Eagles. They were coming off a magical season in which they won the Super Bowl despite losing star quarterback Carson Wentz due to a torn ACL, thanks in large part due to the postseason heroics of Nick Foles. However, they stumbled to just a 6-6 start, before Wentz went down again with a back injury and Foles led them to the divisional round of the playoffs, where they lost a heartbreaker to the Saints. Now, Foles is in Jacksonville after signing a four year, $88 million contract with the Jaguars, while the Eagles just signed Wentz to a four-year extension that will take place after the 2021 season and pay the quarterback an average salary of $32 million. Eagles fans might miss Foles, but with the team flying high into next season, their concerns will be quickly alleviated.
Let’s start with Wentz, who will now be Philadelphia’s quarterback through the 2024 season. As expected, he was clearly rusty coming back from a torn ACL, but he still finished 12th in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, 13th in QBR, and still finished 21st in efficient yards despite only playing in 11 games. Overall, he finished as the 14th best quarterback according to Pro Football Focus. Still, this is a quarterback that was an MVP front runner in 2017 before he got hurt, and whose 23.8% Defense-adjusted Value Over Average that year would have ranked fourth this season. As we’ve seen with several quarterbacks in the past (Carson Palmer, Derek Carr, Tom Brady), it usually takes at least a year for them to recover from a torn ACL; Wentz should be expected to return to his usual form this season, and it’s likely his best football hasn’t been played yet.
Wentz’s injury issues weren’t the only problem that Philadelphia had to deal with last year. They ranked 15th in pass defense, according to Football Outsiders, and allowed the third-most passing yards per game. This isn’t a proper indication of the talent in their secondary, however; defensive backs Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones, and Rodney McLeod all missed time due to injury. It’s understandably difficult to defend against high-flying offenses when you’re on your fifth or sixth cornerback, and with the secondary back intact for this season, better results should be expected for this defense.
With extremely limited cap space, it seemed impossible that the Eagles were going to be able to keep up with the other NFC contending teams. Yet, general manager Howie Roseman continued his quest to be known as the top executive in the sport, re-signed defensive end Brandon Graham, signing versatile defensive lineman Malik Jackson, trading for receiver Desean Jackson, signed linebackers Zach Brown and LJ Fort, and also brought in safety Anderson Sendejo. Debates can be made on if Philadelphia made too heavy of commitments for these players, but one thing is for certain, these acquisitions will be a major bonus for the team next season. Roseman didn’t stop after free agency. They desperately needed to upgrade a rushing attack that finished 27th in rush offense, according to Football Outsiders, and they accomplished that goal in a major way; Roseman traded for former Bears running back Jordan Howard for nothing more than a 2020 conditional sixth-round pick and also drafted Penn State running back Miles Sanders in the second round. Howard can serve as the inside runner on this team, while Sanders can be the elusive, do it all running back. That duo should complement each other tremendously, while Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams round out one of the deepest group of running backs in the NFL. Also in the draft, Roseman brought in left tackle Jason Peters’ eventual replacement in Andre Dillard, who provides offensive line depth for this season, an excellent Red Zone threat in receiver JJ Arcega Whiteside, and edge rusher depth with Shareef Miller. To sum it up, this was an amazing offseason for Roseman; he has put this team in an excellent position to contend this season.
Not only do the Eagles have one of the deepest and most talented rosters, but they also have another factor playing in their favor: an easy schedule. Their strength of schedule ranks as just the 26th most difficult in the NFL, while the division rival Cowboys are tied for the 14th toughest schedule. Dallas has also made little outside additions besides the small acquisitions of edge rusher Robert Quinn and receiver Randall Cobb; they’ll go into next season with practically the same roster. Since the Redskins continue to be mediocre and the Giants are likely in a rebuilding phase, there’s no question the Eagles are the easy favorite to win this division.
Carson Wentz’s extension caps off another terrific offseason for the Eagles. General manager Howie Roseman has made significant improvements to the roster, which was already extremely strong. With better health likely in 2019, Philadelphia should be flying high towards a division title and potentially, another Super Bowl championship.