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Jalen Hurts Promises Hungry Return, but For Some, that Means Another Team

The roster churn happens every offseason and the biggest change that could happen is in the secondary, where Rodney McLeod, Anthony Harris, and Steve Nelson are free agents
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Jalen Hurts said the Eagles will return hungry next year.

Some players will have their appetites quenched in another city, with another team.

Roster change is inevitable with the passing of every season, and the Eagles’ expired in Tampa on Sunday in a 31-15 loss to the Buccaneers.

It’s not 100 percent certain Hurts will return, but it’s darn close.

The 100-percenters are a club that probably includes players who had their contracts extended this season, such as Jordan Mailata, Josh Sweat, Dallas Goedert, and T.J. Edwards, and every draft pick from a so-far-successful 2021 draft class.

There are others, of course – will Jason Kelce be one? - but those who return know the bar has been elevated after making the playoffs in a season where a postseason game was not expected.

“The desire to put the work in, to do the things we need to do to be a better team next year, we’re all on the same page,” said Hurts on Monday as the players scattered into their offseason. “We’ll be back. And that’s the mentality. We’ve kind of gotten our feet wet. It’s a situation where we’re going to learn from it. I know for me, I pride myself on learning from my mistakes. 

"I pride myself on finding anything and everything that can be teachable in any moment. And taking that and growing from it. I think as a leader on this team, being who I am, has to be contagious truly. I said it yesterday, my second year as a starter, it started (Monday).”

Perhaps the greatest change will occur on defense, specifically in the secondary where cornerback Steven Nelson and safeties Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris have expiring contracts.

The defensive backfield should have Darius Slay, and a player coming off a Pro Bowl season is a good place to start.

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The hard reality began setting in when McLeod talked after the loss.

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He arrived in 2016 as a free agent and will turn 32 in June with a surgical history, having torn ACLs in two of the last three years.

“My future here is unknown,” he said. “This isn’t how I wanted it to end if this is the last time for me, but at the end of the day, I’m proud of my guys, proud of what we overcame this year and what we were able to do with this team. 

"We were just appreciative of the moment and really cherishing the moment because this team will never be the same again, but I like how we fought, and I love those guys for continuing to fight all the way up until the end.”

Rodney McLeod at Eagles practice

Rodney McLeod

McLeod said he will head into the offseason with a positive outlook, and, more importantly, healthy, unsure of how long he will play.

He has played in 75 games, all starts, since coming to the Eagles and is one of the dwindling few players left on the roster from the Super Bowl championship just four years ago.

“Just always grateful to have a job and looking forward to next year,” he said. “Going into this offseason, attack it like I always do, get better, I’ll work on a lot of things, and I’m just happy I was able to make it out of this season healthy. I think that’s a huge step for me.”

Harris, 30 and a friend of McLeod’s from their time together at the University of Virginia, said on Monday that he will take one day at a time and enjoy the final day or two with his teammates, who will most certainly look different no matter whether he is in Philadelphia or someplace else.

“I always want to focus on trying to get some time with my family, take advantage of that opportunity there, take some time to get my body recovered, and focus on where I want to go in terms of physical training and things of that sort,” he said. “Then let the free agency and stuff like that handle itself.”

Nelson, who turns 29 on Jan. 22, played well enough to earn another contract with the Eagles, but it will depend on what he is looking for and how high and how many years the Eagles will be willing to go.

With three first-round draft picks, a group of free agent safeties that could have some plums, and money to spend, this Eagles' secondary could look a lot different this summer.

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.