In addition to the running back position, the Philadelphia Eagles are expected to explore the defensive end market this offseason.
The Eagles, who had one of the best defensive lines in the NFL over the last two seasons, could lose a few players due to free agency or cap casualties.
As we all know by now, veteran defensive end Brandon Graham will reportedly test the free agent market, while defensive end Chris Long is non-committal about playing next season.
If the Eagles lose both of these guys, then they could be in some serious trouble heading into next season. However, all is not lost as they can fill the position either in the NFL Draft or free agency.
Therefore, if Philadelphia decides to attack the FA market heavy for a pass rusher, one player they should inquire about is Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith.
This past season, Smith had a breakout campaign with a career-high 8.5 sacks to go along with 25 quarterback hits, and 10 tackles for loss. He did all of this, despite only playing 66.7-percent of defensive snaps, which was ranked third behind C.J. Mosley (84.5-percent) and Terrell Suggs (71.9-percent).
He also had 60 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Furthermore, the 6-foot-4 outside linebacker was one of the main reasons why Baltimore’s defense had 44 sacks and an adjusted sack percentage of 8.1.
Along with Smith, Mosley and Suggs are all pending unrestricted free agents. While the Ravens want to lock up Mosley for the long-term, their general manager Eric DeCosta is not sure about re-signing Smith.
“I think the jury’s still out,” DeCosta said (h/t BaltimoreRavens.com). “We don’t know what Za’Darius’ market is going to be. We have a lot of different ways that we could go. He had a really nice year.”
“Typically, the market is usually out of control for those guys, initially out of the gate. There are some good pass rushers this year. We’re optimistic we may have a chance to bring him back, but in some cases, it’s really not up to us.”
As we have seen in years past, guys like Smith who have that breakout season, usually cash in for a big-time deal in free agency. However, what works in the Eagles and other teams’ favor is that this year’s edge rusher class is loaded with the likes of Demarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney, Dee Ford, Frank Clark, Ezekiel Ansah, and Graham.
According to Spotrac.com, Lawrence’s calculated average annual salary is $19.6 million, while Graham’s is $15.8 million. That being said, could the Eagles get him around $8-$9 million per season? It is a strong possibility, depending on how things fare out with the other guys.
In addition to what his potential contract could look like, Smith also has the strength and size to play inside.
Could you imagine the 26-year-old Smith lining up at defensive tackle next to Fletcher Cox with Michael Bennett and Derek Barnett at the end spots in various formations? It is a scary thought and something that the Eagles’ front office will take a hard look at when trying to figure out their defensive line situation.