PHILADELPHIA - In the NFL, today’s luxury can turn into tomorrow’s necessity very quickly.
With the Eagles that’s best exemplified by a few recent second-round draft picks with the organization being criticized in the moment for selecting players like Jalen Hurts and Landon Dickerson with no immediate clear path to playing time.
You would think Carson Wentz’s rapid regression and the injury to Isaac Seumalo opening up spots in a quicker fashion than expected for those players would be eye-opening for some as to how quickly things can change but the cycle started anew with Cam Jurgens this year even with the hints of Jason Kelce’s retirement after the 2022 season picking up steam.
In a less obvious fashion, the addition of Milton Williams (third round in 2021) and Jordan Davis (No. 13 overall in 2022) with premium picks at a position of perceived strength can also be debated especially when you see such obvious needs in the secondary.
That is until you realize Javon Hargrave is entering a contract year and a reset to Fletcher Cox’s overleveraged deal means neither of those veteran DTs is guaranteed to be in Philadelphia in 2023.
Hargrave, 29, is an interesting decision for the Eagles because he is coming off a career season from a pass-rushing perspective, something that earned the South Carolina State product his first Pro Bowl honor and a Pro Football Focus grade of No. 2 in that part of the game to LA Rams superstar Aaron Donald.
Run support was a different story, however, and one of the reasons the massive Davis was so interesting to the Eagles. Hargrave was No. 131 out of 136 DTs against the run, according to PFF.
The Eagles have a decision to make on Hargrave, who is entering the final year of a three-year, $39 million contract he signed as a free agent in 2020 to come east from Pittsburgh. And, it’s one that is likely going to be made in-season.
“I love being in Philly,” Hargrave said Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex. “I feel like this is my better years as a pro. Of course, I love being in Philly.
“It’s whatever happens.”
Whatever happens, could be a decision on whether to go year-to-year with Cox, one of the best defenders in franchise history, in the waning years of his career, or hand multiple years at significant money to Hargrave.
For all the talk about Hargrave’s career year in 2021 and Cox’s decline, PFF still considered Cox the more well-rounded player, grading out as the 29th best DT vs. the No. 32 for Hargrave.
The latter seems unaffected by the prove-it vibe surrounding him. After all, Hargrave already was forced to do a similar thing with the Steelers in 2019 and got almost $40M at the end of the rainbow.
“I think I approach every year as a contract year in the NFL,” Hargrave said.
Moving forward the goal is to remain one of the best interior pass-rushers in the league and couple that with better help in run support, something that should be helped by the addition of Davis, who should free up both Hargrave and Cox from spending too much time playing zero- or one-technique.
“Man I love playing everywhere on the defensive line,” Hargrave said before lighting up over three-technique. “Of course, I love three but I love nose, too. It really doesn’t matter where I play just where I can help the team.”
The best way to do that, according to yo Hargrave, is to keep ascending.
“I think it’s just always growing and getting better,” he said. “I had one of my better seasons last year. It’s just trying to be even better this year. I think that’s just the goal going into every year, just being the best player I can be for the team.”
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's Eagles Today and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen