Busy day for Eagles as start of league year nears

Ed Kracz

The National Football League’s year doesn’t start until Wednesday. The Eagles, though, wasted little time getting things rolling well in advance.

Here is a recap and analysis on the moves they made on Monday (Nothing can become official until Wednesday, except for the first move listed here):

Move: They signed left tackle Jason Peters to a one-year contract for 2019. Peters was already under contract, but was due to have a salary cap hit of $10.6 million. The new deal is worth a maximum of $10 million, with $5.5 of it guaranteed, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane. How much of that will count against the cap is unknown.

Analysis: Peters, who just recently turned 37, probably saw the possibility that he would be released and decided to make his contract more manageable for the team. As for the Eagles, bringing back the future Hall of Famer assures them of having a veteran protecting quarterback Carson Wentz’s blindside. Of course, Peters has to remain relatively healthy, something he wasn’t able to do all the time last season or the year before when he tore an ACL midway through 2017.

Still, he is much more of known commodity than, say Jason Mailata is at this point. The Eagles love Mailata, and the former rugby standout made big strides last year despite never having played football previously. Another year of seasoning wouldn’t hurt the 6-8, 346-pound Mailata, and maybe even the Eagles use him as Peters’ primary backup, ahead of Halapoulivaati Vaitai.

Move: Staying with the offensive line, the Eagles will not bring back guard/center Stefen Wisniewski, according to reports. Wisniewski was set to count $3.7 million against the cap. The team will save $3 million against the cap while counting $700,000 in dead money.

Analysis: This is an interesting move considering that right guard Brandon Brooks may not be ready to start the season as he recovers from a torn Achilles suffered in the playoffs against the New Orleans Saints. The team liked the training camp and preseason put together last year of rookie Matt Pryor, so maybe he gets the nod if Brooks isn’t ready.

The Eagles could also turn to the draft.

Perhaps they take a flyer on Oklahoma’s Cody Ford in the first round. Ford is 6-5, 335 and was the Sooners’ starting right tackle, but some believe he may be best suited to play guard in the NFL. Or maybe they spend a second-round pick on Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy, who is 6-3, 310 and can also play center. Or if they wait longer, maybe Penn State’s Ryan Bates (a graduate of Archbishop Wood in Warminster, PA) is to their liking and they grab him in the fourth or fifth round.

Either way, the Eagles need to increase will eventually need to get younger up front, and adding any one of these pieces would also provide immediate competition.

Move: The Eagles signed free agent defensive tackle Malik Jackson to a three-year, $30 million deal, according to reports. Jackson is 6-5, 290 and helps fortify a position that was in need of being reshaped after cutting Tim Jernigan loose and not bringing back Haloti Ngata. Jackson was the big free agent signing of the Jacksonville Jaguars three years ago, when the Jags gave him a six-year deal worth $80 million. He was released on Friday, though, as they made cap room to sign quarterback Nick Foles.

Analysis: This is a solid move by the Eagles, even though Jackson’s numbers dipped last year, dropping to 3.5 sacks after a 2017 season that saw him post eight. Still just 29, Jackson is a scheme-fit for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s penetrating defense, and put him next to Fletcher Cox and it could get scary quickly for enemy offensive lines.

This doesn’t take the Eagles out of the market for a defensive lineman in the draft. In fact, I still think there is a good chance they spend their first-round pick on a D-line piece.

Move: Traded for DeSean Jackson, according to NFL Network. The Eagles are reportedly sending a 2019 sixth-round pick to Tampa Bay and in return get the NFL’s leader in touchdown plays longer than 60 yards. Jackson was due to make $10 million in 2019, the final year he under contract, but is expected to rework the deal to join the Eagles.

Jackson was originally drafted by the Eagles in the second round back in 2008 and had the best season of his career in 2013 under Chip Kelly. Kelly, though released Jackson anyway. He led the league in yards per catch last year at 18.9 and averaged more than 17 yards per catch in his career. In September, he notched his 24th career touchdown of more than 60 yards to surpass Jerry Rice in that category.

Analysis: The Eagles needed a deep threat, so why not Jackson? At 32, he can still blaze. At 32, maybe has mellowed some, too, and won’t be the headache-causer he was prone to being in his 20s.

The bigger issue is what does this mean for Nelson Agholor? The Eagles picked up their team option last April for close to $9.4 million. That seems like a lot for a receiver who has never had more than 800 yards receiving in a single season, and even more so when compared to what Jackson is likely going to get and Alshon Jeffery is already making ($14.7 million cap hit in 2019 and $15.9 million in 2020).

The Eagles can recoup that money by releasing Agholor or they could try to find a trade partner. In either of those cases, they could then pluck a much cheaper – and, maybe, eventually better – slot receiver in the draft, along the lines of maybe Mississippi’s A.J. Brown, Massachusetts’ Andy Isabell, or South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel.