Good morning. This is the last weekend the Eagles can call themselves defending Super Bowl champions. The league will have a new champion Sunday night, and then the 2019 offseason officially will begin.
— Zach Berman
If you missed the news Thursday night, the Eagles restructured Rodney McLeod’s contract to keep him in Philadelphia in 2019. This was a notable move for the Eagles, ensuring stability in the back end of the defense. McLeod is an underrated player whose value to the defense was evident when he was not on the field. His expensive contract made him a possible salary-cap casualty, so the new deal was the resolution.
McLeod injured his knee in September, and the Eagles badly missed him thereafter. It changed Corey Graham’s role from a situational player to an every-down player, prompted the Eagles to move Avonte Maddox for a period (that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing), and kept the Eagles without their tough, reliable, rangy deep safety.
“Losing Rodney was a huge blow, especially when you add Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby with that,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “That was big. Just another guy on the field, very [smart], makes all the calls, gets all the guys lined up, explosive out of the post, and can create some havoc. You always miss that production.
"But I thought Corey Graham did a good job playing more snaps than he signed up for … and Tre Sullivan being forced to develop his game and play a bigger role and got better as the season went out. I thought it was good for them, but what Rodney brings to the game is definitely missed.”
With McLeod back, the Eagles will have Jenkins and McLeod at safety — and they’ll need to determine who plays the third safety, a critical role in the defense. It could be Maddox in a hybrid role, they could continue to develop Sullivan, or they could add a safety in the draft. Maddox showed a lot of potential as a cornerback, so they might not go that route. But they don’t need to worry about their starting deep safety; that will be McLeod, as long as he’s healthy.
In another Super Bowl-week transaction, the Eagles re-signed Paul Worrilow to a one-year contract Wednesday. This is not as significant as the McLeod news, although the Eagles never were able to see what Worrilow could contribute last year. He tore an ACL on the first day of OTAs, ending his season before it started.
Worrilow has starting experience and is a versatile linebacker, although he profiles more as a special-teams contributor who could provide linebacker depth. The Eagles’ linebacker depth remains uncertain for next season, so a player with Worrilow’s experience could be an asset. LaRoy Reynolds and D.J. Alexander are pending free agents, as is starter Jordan Hicks. Worrilow must show he’s recovered from the injury and make the 53-man roster, but this wasn’t a forgettable transaction. It’s one that could matter next season.
The Eagles will carry $6.1 million into their 2019 salary cap, the NFLPA announced Thursday. It’s too soon to say how much cap space the Eagles will have come March because they’re projected to be in the red, so they have some work to do, but the front office has planned for this and knows what’s coming.
Restructuring McLeod’s contract will help. Once Nick Foles contract comes off the books, the Eagles will be in better shape. Then there are decisions to make with expensive veterans such as Jason Peters and Tim Jernigan, and more.
I’ve been saving this question for this Friday-before-the-Super Bowl newsletter. Soon, Philadelphia will be back to what it was for every offseason except the last one.
There are reasons to be optimistic about the direction in which the Eagles are going. They have a franchise quarterback, which is essential (and yes, Carson Wentz should qualify); they have a head coach who has won four postseason games in the past two years; they have some elite, in-their-prime talent; and they have three draft picks in the first two rounds. They must get better, younger, and faster. The Eagles won’t be early favorites to win the next Super Bowl, but they’l be in the top eight. They’ll be contenders going into next season.
So how can you live without being Super Bowl champs? Follow all our offseason coverage, because I expect a busier offseason than the last one. We’ll be on it the whole way through — from the combine to free agency to the league meetings to the draft to offseason workouts.