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Eagles offseason outlook: Can Philly keep Super Bowl core intact?
National Football League

Eagles offseason outlook: Can Philly keep Super Bowl core intact?

Updated Feb. 27, 2023 5:26 p.m. ET

The pain of it all hasn't subsided yet, and it probably won't for a while. The Philadelphia Eagles went all-in on a Super Bowl championship last season, and they came within one quarter, one field goal of actually pulling it off.

"We climbed the mountain," Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. "We took one step at a time, one step at a time, and then we slip right before we were able to put our flag at the top of the mountain.

"All that does is make you more determined, driven, to make that climb again."

In other words, the Eagles want to be all in on another Super Bowl run in 2023, more determined than ever to actually finish the climb. But they know the reality is they won't be climbing with the same group, and they're going to have to reload before they start again.


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They also know it won't be as easy as it looked last offseason, when general manager Howie Roseman masterfully filled every need, and nearly every move he made worked out. There will be salary cap challenges this time, and they're in danger of losing many key players from their core. They're going to learn that getting to the Super Bowl was easy compared to the challenge of doing it again.

Here's a look at the Eagles' offseason situation and the key questions and decisions they will face:

Estimated cap space

$6.3 million (per They don't have a lot of wiggle room to clear cap space without restructuring contracts, so look for them to do that with CB Darius Slay (cap number: $26.1 million) and RT Lane Johnson ($24.2 million), at least.

Key free agents

DT Javon Hargrave, CB James Bradberry, RB Miles Sanders, S C.J. Gardner-Johnson, DT Fletcher Cox, S Marcus Epps, DE Brandon Graham, G Isaac Seumalo, LB Kyzir White, LB T.J. Edwards, DT Ndamukong Suh.

Coaching carousel

Shortly after the Super Bowl, the Eagles became the first team to lose both their coordinators in a single offseason since the 2013 Cincinnati Bengals. Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen is now the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

The search for replacements is ongoing. Sirianni has expressed a desire to promote from within. Quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson is the favorite to take over the offense, while defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson is the favorite on the defensive side. But there's no way to spin it: Losing both coordinators is a big hit.

Gannon leaves Eagles for Cards

Craig Carton reacts to footage of an awkward first meeting between recently hired Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon and his quarterback Kyler Murray.

3 biggest needs

1. Cornerback — They had, arguably, the best secondary in the NFL last season, but things change fast. James Bradberry, a second-team All-Pro, is a free agent and wants to get paid after settling for a one-year, $7.25 million deal last year. Darius Slay is 32 years old. And third corner Avonte Maddox has been injury prone, including a toe injury that cost him eight games last season.

They need reinforcements and depth. Taking a corner with one of their two first-round draft picks (10th, from New Orleans, and 31st) wouldn't be a shock.

2. Safety — C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps are free agents, which means the Eagles might have to replace both their starting safeties. They could replace one with Reed Blankenship, who was a pleasant surprise as an undrafted rookie last season, stepping up when Gardner-Johnson got hurt. Maddox can also play safety in a pinch, though the Eagles prefer him at corner.

Re-signing Gardner-Johnson is a high priority for the Eagles, according to a team source, though he might be looking to become one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL, which would be hard for the Eagles to do. If they can't, they may have to get creative to find someone to fill his shoes.

3. Running back — The Eagles offense might be built around the running game, but it's not built around a running back. That's why Miles Sanders, coming off a career year with 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns, is likely gone. No one believes Roseman will invest any amount of serious money in that position. He prefers to invest in his offensive line and just plug in healthy bodies behind it.

They do still have Kenneth Gainwell, but if Sanders goes (and possibly Boston Scott, who is also a free agent) they will need more running backs for their rotation. Figure one will come from the draft. If they add a free agent, it won't be a big one.

3 key questions

1. Will Jalen Hurts get a contract extension and how enormous will it be? The Eagles want to sign quarterback Jalen Hurts to a long-term contract extension this offseason, and they know it's going to be massive. Multiple agents and NFL sources told FOX Sports the deal figures to be close to $240 million over five years with something like $170 million guaranteed — a deal that would make him the third highest-paid player in the game ($48 million per year).

Is Hurts extension smart for Eagles?

Discussing whether it would be a smart move for the Eagles to extend Jalen Hurts right now.

They don't have to do it now, especially since Hurts' cap number for 2023 is just $4.8 million. But they know his price is only likely to go up. Hurts knows that too and could choose to wait. He also could ask for more than $50 million per year, or perhaps for a fully guaranteed contract.

The Eagles want Hurts to be their long-term quarterback. Hurts wants to stay in Philadelphia. But there are a lot of details that still need to be worked out.

2. Is this really the end for their "Core Four"? The Eagles' most important veteran leaders — C Jason Kelce, DT Fletcher Cox, DE Brandon Graham and RT Lane Johnson — have been the backbone of two Super Bowl teams. They are revered in the locker room and have been leaned on heavily by multiple coaching staffs over the decade they've been together.

But yes, it's over. Johnson is the only one guaranteed to return. Kelce hasn't ruled out retiring, and Cox and Graham are free agents who might be too expensive (and old) for the Eagles to re-sign. So the "Core Four" will probably at least be cut in half. It could end up being whittled down to a "Core One".

3. How much of their defense can they keep intact? Eight of the Eagles' 11 defensive starters are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents, and some of their prices will be high. The Eagles might be lucky to keep half of them, and they might not get more than one of the high-end guys (Bradberry, Gardner-Johnson and Hargrave).

So the Eagles will have a new defensive coordinator, possibly a new scheme, and probably a completely new-look lineup. They had the No. 2 defense in the NFL last season and the best pass rush (70 sacks). It might be impossible for them to recreate that.

Offseason outlook

Now everyone knows why the Eagles went all-in last season — because they knew they could struggle to keep everything intact this offseason. They are likely to lose most of their veteran leadership core and most of their defense, along with the two coordinators who are already gone. And they're not exactly flush with the necessary cap room to restock.

Overhaul in Philly?

Nick Wright discusses weighs in on how much of the Eagles' Super Bowl roster will be able to return next season.

There is no more aggressive and creative general manager in the NFL than Roseman, so he'll figure out how to get some cap room, bring a few of his key players back, and rebuild on the fly. But don't expect big splashes like last offseason, when they got edge rusher Haason Reddick (three years and $45 million), then traded for and signed wide reciever A.J. Brown (four years, $100 million). This year they're more likely to spend their money on keeping their own players, then using draft picks and looking for bargain players to fill the rest of their lineup out.

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.

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