NFL free agency 2022: Cases for and against Eagles’ bringing back remaining FAs

The Eagles finally added another outside free agent on Monday, when they agreed to terms with wide receiver Zach Pascal.

It’s not exactly the splash signing Eagles fans were dreaming about, but Pascal is just the second outside free agent to sign with the Eagles this offseason, following Haason Reddick.

This free agency period so far has been about the Eagles’ locking up their own players. They re-signed Anthony Harris and made moves to bring back restricted free agents Nate Herbig, Boston Scott and Greg Ward. And the Eagles will argue their slow free agency period is balanced out by the fact that they reached in-season extensions with the four key members of the 2018 draft class: Dallas Goedert, Josh Sweat, Avonte Maddox and Jordan Mailata.

On one hand, the Eagles have always prided themselves on keeping their homegrown talent. On the other hand, fans are going to worry that the Eagles are overvaluing their own roster.

Either way, it can’t be overlooked that the Eagles are signing a lot of their own players. And there are still several guys from the 2021 team on the open market. The longer they’re out there, the more likely some of them are to return.

Let’s make a case for and against bringing them back, one by one:

Rodney McLeod

For: McLeod has been with the Eagles for the last six seasons and has been a reliable player, one of the better free agent signings in recent history. He might be getting older but he played better and better down the stretch in 2021 as he got further away from the ACL tear that ended his 2020 season early. His interception of him in the Washington game helped punch the Eagles’ ticket to the playoffs. And ever since Malcolm Jenkins left a few years ago, McLeod has been one of the top leaders on the defense and in the locker room. The Eagles would miss that leadership if he leaves.

Against: While he played a little better down the stretch, McLeod is 31 now and has played a lot of football in his 10-year NFL career. The Eagles already brought back Anthony Harris, so if they bring back McLeod, they’d basically be running it back with the duo they had last year. Is that really good enough? It might be time to improve the position and possibly get younger in the process.

Steve Nelson

For: The late signing of Nelson last offseason was one of the best moves the Eagles made in 2020. He shored up the CB2 spot and allowed Maddox to head back into the slot, where he had the best season of his career and earned a contract extension. Nelson was hoping for a big payday but the fact that he’s still available a week into the process might mean his price di lui continues to drop. Nelson is 29 now but he’s been very durable, starting at least 15 games in each of the last four seasons.

Against: Nelson wants too much money and the Eagles can’t afford to pay him, especially with Darius Slay and Maddox already under contract. Nelson also didn’t make a ton of big plays in 2021 and he’s never been a big interception guy. He has had more than 2 in a season just once in his NFL career and had just one pick in 16 games in 2021. And with Slay over 30, maybe the Eagles would benefit from having a younger CB2 who could eventually become a CB1; maybe they find that player in the draft.

Derek Barnett

For: The longer Barnett is on the market, the cheaper he might become. While some thought he’d get $ 11-13 million per season, he’s still out there for a reason. Barnett hasn’t gotten a ton of sacks but he has 76 QB hits in his first five NFL seasons. The only Eagle with more in the last five years is Fletcher Cox with 82. Barnett also knows the defense and would at least be an average player to rotate at the defensive end position. After all, the Eagles signed Reddick, but he’ll be more of a hybrid player. The Eagles could do worse than Barnett as a rotational defensive end.

Against: You really want to bring back Derek Barnett? The guy who has underperformed as a first-round pick? The guy who had 2 sacks last year in a contract season? The guy who has piled up dumb penalty after dumb penalty for the last five seasons? It’s better for both sides to go their separate ways.

Genard Avery

For: Avery is still just 26 and is coming off his best season with the Eagles. He played in 16 games and started 12 and the newly defined SAM position. He wasn’t great but he’d be an affordable option as a rotation player at the spot or as a backup behind Reddick. And at times, we’ve seen flashes of the guy who once had 4 1/2 sacks in a limited role in Cleveland back in 2018. He’d likely be cheap too.

Against: The Eagles already added Reddick to be their SAM linebacker, so it might not make a ton of sense to bring back last year’s starter and sit him on the bench. And if Reddick is what they want at the position, then why keep Avery around? Just because he played a lot in 2021, it doesn’t mean he was all that effective.

Ryan Kerrigan

For: After going unnoticed for most of the season, Kerrigan turned it on in the playoffs with 1 1/2 sacks, 2 QB hits and 2 TFLs against the Bucs. Sure, he was going against a tackle on one leg and a backup, but the production was finally there. And maybe that injured thumb hurt him more than we know.

Against: OK, there’s no reason to even think about this one. Kerrigan played in 16 games last year in the regular season and had just three tackles all year. Three! That seems almost unfathomable. Kerrigan was once a great player in Washington but he’s 33 now and bringing him to Philly last offseason was a bad mistake.

Jordan Howard

For: When the Eagles needed Howard last season, he came through. In fact, he averaged 4.7 yards per carry in 2021, his highest average of him since the 2016 season when he went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Howard is still just 27 and he’ll be cheap enough if the Eagles want to bring him back as a backup to Miles Sanders. The Eagles still have Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell but Howard might be better suited to carry the load for a game or two if Sanders is out.

Against: Howard is an old 27 with a lot of wear and tear on his body. He had a good stretch in 2021 but suffered another stinger and wasn’t as good later in the season. He played in the playoffs but just 14 offensive snaps and didn’t even get a carry.

Jason Croom

For: Croom has caught one pass in his career as an Eagle and it went for a touchdown. If he were to keep on that pace …

Against: Croom is 28, coming off a lost season with an ACL tear, the Eagles have changed coaching staffs since he last played for them and his only season of NFL production was back in 2018 with the Buffalo Bills. That was a long time ago.

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