February 25, 2021   5 MIN READ

Inside The Birds: Defensive Line in Flux


As free agency looms, the Eagles find themselves in an unenviable position.

In the latest Inside The Birds podcast, Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan discuss roster moves that lie ahead and the rebuilding process, and provide a detailed preview of the defensive line.

Will Brandon Graham (55) and Fletcher Cox (91) be Eagles in 2021?.

Roster tinkering

Caplan: “Here’s what I do know – [Alshon] Jeffery and [Malik] Jackson’s contracts were restructured on January 1st with the understanding that they’re going to be both cut. But they did something really interesting that I have not seen before, when I had the language sent to me. In the new CBA, a contract negotiator told me that there’s some loopholes that teams are gonna use. Once again, dummy years were added to Jeffery and Jackson’s contract; two in each contract. They have the same exact structure, it’s comical; if both are on the roster on March 18th, they have these ballooned salaries of $25 million – both of them do, for 2022.”

Mosher: “I can only imagine how many players the Eagles would have to cut, for the Eagles to have Alshon Jeffery and Malik Jackson on the roster at $25 million a pop.”

Caplan: “These dummy years are a technique the Eagles have used over the last 3-4 years in particular. And what happens is, it comes with restructures. You look at all these deals that they’ve done, Geoff – Fletcher Cox has dummy years because of restructures, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz.”

New assistant DBs coach DK McDonald

Caplan: “Long-time college assistant coach; 18 years in college, last five at Iowa State at safeties coach and also corners before that. The good thing is, he’s got experience with safeties and corners; hopefully he’s a good coach. We know Dennard Wilson will oversee the positions, he’ll be responsible for all of it. I’ll say this, at least [McDonald] has coached DBs forever.”

Mosher: “I’m sometimes reluctant when the Eagles, or any team, bring in someone who spent almost all of their time coaching college to come and coach in the NFL. Not that I’m scarred, but Chip did that with a few guys and it didn’t work out so well, and then Doug brought in a few guys – [former wide receivers coach] Gunter Brewer being one.

This is the assistant defensive backs coach; the position coach, Dennard Wilson, does have NFL coaching experience, along with, I think, playing experience. I would say the fact that DK McDonald, I don’t know how old he is but he’s not young, he’s an older coach, correct? He’s cut his teeth for a little bit here. We talked about the youth of this staff, so it’s nice to have a someone who has coached the position for two decades.”

Caplan: “I am surprised that they didn’t get an NFL assistant. Like a guy from another team or a younger developmental coach. Dennard Wilson is the veteran coach, but I thought maybe they would bring in somebody younger.”

Defensive line preview

Mosher: “We can look at personnel, but you mentioned in podcast recently that it’s also going to be a new scheme. It’s not going to be everybody flying at the quarterback. I do wonder how that will shape both the coaching staff’s and front office’s opinion on some of the players that they already have. Genard Avery, we know is being moved to linebacker. He probably does not fit a type of system where you’re not just flying after the quarterback, because that’s really the only thing he did well.”

Caplan: “Yeah, he’s gonna move, as I understand, to strong-side linebacker. Just to compete for a job, he’s not guaranteed anything.

This time last year we were talking about — are [the Eagles] gonna keep [Derek Barnett] at $10 million on the final year of his deal, or not? What we said then, and I think we’re still in the same area, I don’t see him playing at $10 million; that salary becomes fully guaranteed on March 17th, I don’t see it. One year they did, with Nelson Agholor on his fifth-year option; they tried to trade him, nobody would take him.

At the trade deadline, teams called, we reported that the Seahawks called amongst others team. They weren’t shopping him, by the way, just teams called. But if they decided they were going to move him they would have interest, because he’s a young guy, he’s got talent – he’s an above-average player – he’s one guy who as least shown on paper that he can play in this league. If they move on from him, what do they really have if you look at this position?”

“Brandon Graham is on the last year of his deal; BG turns 33 in April. Big salary – $13 million. Cap number –17.92 million. To me, he’s gotta be on the roster; just because he’s a veteran, he’s proven, he sets the example – he’s the kind of guy you want in your locker room.”

Mosher: “You may need to bring back Vinny Curry on a 1-year deal. I know that goes against the whole getting younger thing, but Derek Barnett has been injured a lot and Josh Sweat is probably not going to be a starter because you’ll have to limit his snaps because of his knees. So who is starting defensive end opposite Brandon Graham if Barnett gets hurt and misses a couple of games?”

– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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