Ranking Eagles free agent losses from most frustrating to least annoying

Philadelphia Eagles defense (Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
Philadelphia Eagles defense (Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports) /

The 2023 offseason has been one of change for the Philadelphia Eagles. They lost both their offensive and defensive coordinators. Both had been with the organization for the past two seasons and are now head coaches. Starters from last season’s roster are also gone. They left for more money and larger roles on other teams.

Change in the NFL is common. This offseason’s facelift was disappointing but unsurprising. The Eagles were just one win away from a second Vince Lombardi Trophy, so it’s understandable that their coordinators and assistant coaches were favorites to land positions in other cities. In terms of the roster, several of their players had proven that they were deserving of large contracts. It would have been impossible to keep everyone.

While vice president/general manager Howie Roseman and his staff are working diligently to reshape the roster, it won’t be an easy task. They lost some ballers. Now that we have had time to calm down and regroup, let’s revisit the five most impactful free-agent departures of the 2023 offseason. We’ve ranked them from most frustrating and costly to least annoying and recoverable.

1. C.J. Gardner-Johnson: Signed by Detroit Lions (one year, $8 million)

Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson was a game-changer when he was on the field. Acquired during the 2022 preseason by way of a trade, he came over from the New Orleans Saints and recorded six interceptions last year. That tied for the league lead.

He also collected eight pass breakups and 67 total tackles despite missing five games. In other words, his numbers could have even been more impressive had he played an entire season.

Overall, the Eagles defense recorded 17 interceptions in 2022, the sixth-most in the league. If we were to subtract CJ’s six picks, Philadelphia’s 11 total interceptions would have placed them in the bottom third of the NFL. Saying Gardner-Johnson had an impact doesn’t do enough to describe how valuable he was.

Losing Marcus Epps to the Las Vegas Raiders might mean we’ll see more of Reed Blankenship. He played well and overachieved as an undrafted player. Philly also added safety Terrell Edmunds. He spent his first five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The former Virginia Tech standout has produced 410 career tackles and five interceptions over the last six seasons. He’s a low-risk signing, but the jury is still out on whether he will make the Eagles quickly forget about the departure of Gardner-Johnson.

2. Javon Hargrave: Signed by San Francisco 49ers (four years, $84 million)

Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave had the best season of his seven-year NFL career during the 2022-2023 campaign. The former 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers draft choice was a force, especially when it came to getting into the backfield. Hargrave collected 11 sacks and ten tackles for a loss last season to go along with his 37 total tackles. His production certainly deserved Pro Bowl honors, but he was snubbed. He did, however, earn a spot on the 2021 team.

Philadelphia has depth at defensive tackle. They just don’t have anyone that’s on Hargrave’s level. Fletcher Cox is still a good player. He had his best season in a while but is past his prime. 2022 first-round draft choice Jordan Davis is still learning. 2021 third-rounder Milton Williams has been treated as more of a rotational piece.

The Eagles will need to find a way to shore up the middle of the defensive line. Don’t be surprised if they add another piece during the draft.

3. T.J. Edwards: signed by Chicago Bears (three years, $19.5 million)

An undrafted linebacker picked up out of Wisconsin by the Eagles in 2019, T.J. Edwards has gotten better each season. The former Badger led Philadelphia with 159 tackles last season. He also broke up seven passes while racking up two sacks. He even recovered a fumble.

Edwards has a knack for finding the ball carrier and making an impact. His departure definitely leaves a huge hole to fill and a lot of production to replace.

Former Chicago Bear Nicholas Morrow was signed to a one-year deal during the first free agency spike. His most recent season was decent as he amassed 116 tackles and one interception. He was originally drafted by the Raiders in 2017.

Philadelphia is also expected to give their 2022 third-round choice, Nakobe Dean, a larger role in the defense. The former Georgia Bulldog and College Football Playoff National Champion filled in during garbage time and played on special teams last season.

He recorded 13 tackles. Six came versus the Tennessee Titans. Overall, the current linebacker corps is inexperienced. Hopefully, someone can step up.

4. Kyzir White: signed with Arizona Cardinals (two years, $11 million)

Kyzir White’s departure means the Eagles lost both of their top two linebackers from last season (and their second-leading tackler). A 2022 free-agent pickup that had spent the previous season with the Los Angeles Chargers, this Macungie, Pennsylvania native started all 17 games and recorded 110 tackles, seven pass breakups, and 1.5 sacks.

White was only on the Eagles for one season, but he made his presence known. Replacing him isn’t going to be easy.

5. Miles Sanders: signed by Carolina Panthers (four years, $25 million)

Former Penn State Nittany Lions running back Miles Sanders was loved by much of the fan base. His support grew after a breakout 2022-2023 season that landed him on the Pro Bowl roster. He rushed for 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He rushed for over 100 yards three times last season.

Unfortunately, productive running backs just don’t seem to last. They also aren’t as valued as they once were. The Eagles rarely give second contracts to tailbacks. Brian Westbrook earned one. So did LeSean McCoy. They elected against paying Sanders despite the fact that arguments can be made that his production proved he was deserving.

Philadelphia instead signed Rashaad Penny to a one-year deal. They still have Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott on the roster. This trio of backs and a possible draft-day addition should be able to fill Miles’ cleats and keep the train going.

What’s next for the Eagles?

It seems as though the Eagles are already working hard to bring in veteran pieces to replace the talented guys that have left for other teams. The NFL Draft is also quickly approaching. Hopefully, the team finds a few young pieces to build around for years to come.

There are multiple starters and a ton of production to replace, especially on the defensive side of the ball. New defensive coordinator Sean Desai has a tough task ahead of him. Formerly with the Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks, he is tasked with finding a scheme that accentuates his players’ strengths.

He’s in luck. He’s aided by a nice veteran core and one of the NFL’s best owners and GMs. This defense and offense have a chance to be great again this season.