February 22, 2023   8 MIN READ

Miles Away?

Stay Or Go: Sanders, Minshew Could Be Elsewhere In '23


Free agency kicks off March 15, and the Eagles will be faced with some difficult decisions over the next few weeks with a number of pending free agents.

Often difficult to forecast, rosters are largely fluid year-to-year and vulnerable to change. Veteran mainstays are jettisoned, new players enter, and the draft essentially acts as a table-setter.

In an attempt to outline the roster in its current state, we examined quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers in our first stay-or-go exercise.

Miles Sanders

Miles Sanders had his best season, but the Eagles might be ready to move on instead of giving Sanders a big contract.


Ian Book

A waiver wire addition at the dawn of the regular season, and buried behind Jalen Hurts and Gardner Minshew, the 24-year-old Book was rendered a weekly inactive for all but two games of his sophomore campaign. With seeing Minshew’s contract expire and presumably his search of a starting job, the Eagles will closely evaluate Book, a three-year starter and two-time team captain at Notre Dame, in training camp to see if he can provide long-term stability behind Hurts. Look for the team to add a mid-to-late round arm via the NFL Draft to nurture and fill out the depth chart, but expect Book to stick around for another season. Ruling: Stay

Jalen Hurts

The one-time MVP frontrunner capped his prolific second season as a starter by going toe-to-toe with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on the NFL’s grandest stage, checking off any boxes that might have remained. A hefty payday awaits the 24-year-old signal-caller, who has firmly established himself as the franchise’s face. It can safely be assumed that the Eagles will perpetually remain a viable contender with Hurts at the helm. Ruling: Stay

Gardner Minshew

Minshew once seemed poised to be among the top free-agent quarterbacks vying for another opportunity to lead an offense. While the 26-year-old didn’t exactly help his cause in his two late-season starts, particularly against the Saints on New Year’s Day when he accrued a 56.3 completion percentage and took six sacks in an upset loss, Minshew’s age and experience – he’s logged 24 starts – should warrant attention. Most likely, Minshew will land with a team where he can compete for a starting spot. Ruling: Go

Running back

Kenny Gainwell

The second-year running back emerged late in the season, providing noticeable burst and tenacity to an otherwise tame backfield. Gainwell was arguably the team’s most efficient and consistent runner during the final stretch. While I’m not sure I view the Memphis product as a viable 17-game starter – the volume potentially inhibits his effectiveness over the long-term – Gainwell has cemented his status as the best complementary piece for a two-headed rushing attack. The team will presumably look to the draft to find his early-down counterpart. Ruling: Stay

Miles Sanders

In 17 games (15 starts), Sanders totaled 1,269 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 259 carries, by far his most productive season to date. Sanders, 25, was a valuable component to the NFL’s most explosive offense, but given the team’s extensive list of free agents and more pressing needs, his time in Philadelphia is likely up. The homegrown talent will have his suitors on the open market. Ruling: Go

Boston Scott

The embodiment of stability, Scott concluded his fifth season in Philadelphia, carrying 54 times for 217 yards and three scores – with a nifty 9-yard catch-and-run in Super Bowl LVII – while also serving as the Eagles’ primary kick returner after supplanting Britain Covey early in the season. As a No. 3 or No. 4 running back, Scott has a nose for the end zone, can step in and provide quality snaps when needed, and is always team-first. A pending free agent, Scott won’t break the bank to retain and he’s the team’s resident Giant Killer. Ruling: Stay

Trey Sermon

With Sanders, Gainwell, and Scott in front of him, Sermon essentially red-shirted his second season after joining the team 10 days before the opener. Aside from his 19-yard output against the Jaguars, underneath a downpour that resembled a monsoon, Sermon was a non-entity for the remainder of the season, banished to the weekly inactive list. The team will surely like to see what it has in the former third-rounder this summer, so he’ll be given a long look. With his teammate, Sanders, likely on the outs, Sermon’s staying power increases exponentially. Sermon’s potential should be maximized with a full offseason and with the help of well-respected running backs coach Jemal Singleton. Ruling: Stay

Wide receiver

Devon Allen

Allen, 28, spent the entire 2022 season on the Eagles’ practice squad, an impressive feat considering the renowned track star hadn’t played football since his junior season at Oregon in 2016. Showcasing his blistering speed, Allen flashed in the preseason, reeling in a 55-yard touchdown on a deep post while also faring well as a gunner on punt coverage. Allen was among the nine players signed to a reserve/futures deal last week, so he’ll be back for another go of it. There just won’t be room on the initial 53-man roster for a 28-year-old project. Ruling: Go

A.J. Brown

In his first season in Philadelphia, Brown shattered Mike Quick’s 38-year single-season receiving record and accented his Pro Bowl and All-Pro season with a resounding 45-yard touchdown from Hurts in Super Bowl LVII. Brown and DeVonta Smith comprise one of the NFL’s most prolific receiving tandems – one that should only improve – but Brown has a real chance to become the most distinguished pass-catcher to don Eagles green. Ruling: Stay

Tyrie Cleveland

Cleveland, 25, boasts impressive measurables – including 4.4 speed – and his time at Florida overlapped with Brian Johnson, who is poised to be the team’s next offensive coordinator. Even as a staunch pre-draft advocate of Cleveland’s, I can’t deny that he was a late-season practice squad addition who will need to turn heads in training camp – and possibly stave off a rookie – to crack the 53. However, Cleveland did log 320 special teams snaps in his 23 games with the Broncos and does offer kick return capability, essential contributions for a depth wideout. Ruling: Go

Britain Covey

In Covey’s case, his gradual improvement and noticeable decisiveness returning punts began to show in the latter stages of the season. The diminutive, albeit fearless, returner – who often resembled a crash test dummy early on – navigated his way up to eighth in the NFL in punt return yards (308) and ninth in average (9.33). His 33 returns were second-most league-wide behind only Washington’s Dax Milne. In Super Bowl LVII, Covey also equaled his career-long return (27 yards). So, while the former Utah standout might never pose as a threat to break an 80-yard runback, Covey serves as a secure, cost-effective option who might also provide offensive snaps in his second season. It’s unlikely, however, that his job will go uncontested this summer. Ruling: Stay

Zach Pascal

The respected veteran and leader might have statistically turned in the most modest season of his five-year career, but it was Pascal’s selflessness, tenacity, and savvy as a blocker that often freed up teammates to make plays and move the chains. It was also Pascal who brought the ‘Dawg Mentality’ mantra with him from Indianapolis. At 28, it’s likely Pascal leaves to sign with a team for which he will play a more prominent role offensively, though players of his mold aren’t easily replaced. Ruling: Go

DeVonta Smith

A winning player equipped to flourish in any circumstance, Smith staked his claim among the NFL’s elite on the heels of a stellar sophomore campaign in which he amassed 1,196 yards and seven touchdowns on 95 receptions. “Smitty” is one of the game’s most dynamic young talents and has yet to scratch the surface of his capabilities. Ruling: Stay

Greg Ward

Credit to Ward for hanging around as long as he has. He’s experienced two Super Bowls, started a playoff game, led the Eagles in receptions and touchdowns in 2020, and boasts a turbulent, six-year transaction log that looks like a CVS receipt. Ward’s perseverance and persistence is commendable, and it’s one of the most inspirational stories in the NFL that no one outside of the Philadelphia market acknowledges. On Friday, the Eagles signed the former Houston quarterback to a reserve/futures deal, all but ensuring he’ll have another opportunity to defy the odds. But without possessing any special traits, and on a loaded roster, it’s hard to see how and where he fits. Ruling: Go

Quez Watkins

While the answer seems pretty clear-cut on the surface, delving beneath you’ll find a player in Watkins who despite his blazing speed and ability to win downfield continuously came up small at the most inopportune times last season –  most recently in Super Bowl LVII. Though hardly the focal point of the offense, Watkins has cost the team games in various ways, and it remains to be seen how much confidence the staff has in the former sixth-round pick moving forward. Still, though, Watkins deserves one more offseason, this time to improve on his shortcomings and prepare to compete for a role in training camp. He was miscast as a No. 3, so perhaps adding another burner via the draft to man the slot alleviates some pressure and enables the Eagles – and Watkins – to capitalize on his game-changing speed in a reduced role. Ruling: Stay

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

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