PHILADELPHIA – The doom and gloomers were out on the first day of the legal negotiation period, the time of year when the NFL gets turned upside down.
That was best highlighted in the NFC when the conference’s worst team – the Chicago Bears – were the all-important winners of March 13 and the Eagles were taking on the shrapnel, losing three defensive starters and a backup left tackle who commanded $10 million on the open market.
Truth be told everything went to plan for Philadelphia which started the day by losing starting Mike linebacker T.J. Edwards to his hometown Bears 16 minutes into the legal negotiating period. From there it was defensive tackle Javon Hargrave again upping his tax bracket in free agency by getting a $21 million AAV stipend from San Francisco, followed by Marcus Epps getting two years and decent money from Las Vegas before Andre Dillard closed it out by getting an opportunity to be a starting left tackle in Tennessee.
As far as what was coming back, it was five-time All-Pro center Jason Kelce with a $250K raise up to $14.25M for Year No. 13 and backup O-Lineman Bratt Toth, who helped pay for that raise by getting released and brought back over a four-day span to get him back down from the league minimum.
To those paying attention, Howie Roseman let you in on the secret twice, the latest of which was at the combine in Indianapolis.
“Are we going to get all the free agents back? We’re just not,” the GM admitted. “We’re not capable of getting all those guys back, but we also understand we’re in a good situation in terms of picks that we have going forward.”
The Eagles didn’t lose anyone on Monday they weren’t planning on losing and the only mild surprise was the contract Edwards got from the Bears, less than expected at three years and $19 million but a deal that confirmed the fact that Philadelphia was turning the page on an undrafted player the organization developed into a more-than-solid starter.
The Eagles have 2022 third-round pick Nakobe Dean waiting in the wings and clearly believe his future is at Mike and not Will linebacker.
Hargrave signed a three-year, $39M deal with Philadelphia before the 2020 season and the veteran outperformed it, turning into one of the best interior pass rushers in the NFL. His move to the 49ers wasn’t about valuation, it was about discipline. The Eagles know Hargrave is a good player who is at a position that is both important and high in the pecking order when it comes to budgeting.
Hargrave, though, also turned the page to 30 in February and will be 34 if he sees the end of his third NFL contract, an end game that is unlikely at the cost San Francisco is outlaying. In-house the Eagles plan to move toward third-year player Milton Willimas to take up a lot of Hargrave’s role at a base salary of $1,134,652.
Epps’ penciled-in replacement is second-year Reed Blankenship, the 2022 undrafted rookie who built a strong case when pressed into action due to injury this past season. Dillard, meanwhile, was obviously a luxury on a time limit once Jordan Mailata past him on the depth chart.
Everything about Monday was expected, most notably the beginning of the path to four 2024 compensatory picks. What wasn’t expected was C.J. Gardner-Johnson and James Bradberry remaining on the market, an indication that their values aren’t going as high as expected on the open market and perhaps an opportunity for Roseman to get at least one of them back.
So to channel Dennis Green go ahead and crown the Bears if you want. The better organizations have bigger fish to fry than March 13.