Birds DT Hargrave Poised To Win Big In Free Agency
[Editor’s Note: This is the fourth of a four-part series examining some Eagles pending free agents from an analytics viewpoint. The author, Sam Finkel, is an InsideTheBirds.com staff contributor who focuses on analytics. Part 3 centers on Eagles cornerback James Bradberry. Part 1 focused on C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Part 2 on Miles Sanders, Part 3 on James Bradberry]
Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave was part of an Eagles defense that generated 70 sacks in 2022, with 15.7% of those sacks generated by Hargrave (11).
Hargrave has improved throughout his seven-year NFL career andwill likely generate a large payday in free agency.
How will the pending free agent perform on the open market?
Here’s an in-depth, analytics-based profile of Hargrave headed into free agency:
Strengths: Incredible speed for size… Versatile interior DL who can win multiple ways … Possesses great power and speed combinations … Consistent improvement in Philadelphia tenure.
Weaknesses: Already 30 years old … Lacks elite length for the position (6-foot-1).
In 2022, Hargrave posted career-highs in sacks (11) and batted balls (2). Each year Hargrave wore Midnight Green, he increased his sack count (6 in 2020, 8 in 2021, and 11 in 2022). Hargrave has consistently created 40 or more hurries in his past two seasons with the Eagles and has generated more than 30 tackles in each of those seasons. Hargrave has also produced 20 or more tackles in six of his seven NFL years. His missed tackle percentage increased from 2021 to 2022 but was still under 10%, like four of his seven career years.
HARGRAVE VS. NFL INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
Compared to all interior defensive linemen, Hargrave stacks up well. He was sixth in sacks (11), second in QB hurries (40), 19th in tackles (33) and tackling percentage (7.7%), and 21st in batted passes (2). Hargrave had solid production, particularly regarding pressure. His tackling was top-20 but nothing elite, at least in 2022. However, it’s still impressive to be top-10 in pressure and top-20 in tackling.
*50% of maximum interior defensive linemen snap count threshold was implemented to not unfairly punish Hargrave for DL with fewer opportunities.
HARGRAVE VS. FREE AGENT INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
Hargrave has positioned himself at the top of the market, which includes more than 44 interior defensive linemen. He ranked 1st in QB hurries (40), second in sacks (11), third in tackles (33) and tackling percentage (7.7%), and fourth in balls batted (2). He’s one of the best options and the market will likely reward him for relative dominance.
*These statistics include Washington’s Daron Payne, who was just franchise tagged by the Commanders at $18.937 million. Without Payne, Hargrave would be ranked first in sacks, second in tackles, and third in balls batted.
The market comps aren’t as clean for Hargrave as they were for the other players in this series.
Aaron Donald (signed 2021); 3 years; $95 million; $31.667 million annual average value (AAV); 31 when signed.
Cameron Heyward (signed 2019); 4 years; $65 million; $16.4 million AAV; 31 when signed.
Fletcher Cox (signed 2021); 1 year; $14 million; 31 when signed.
Hargrave clearly won’t get Aaron Donald money but will likely make more than Cox and Heyward. However, at his age, there aren’t many contract precedents to predict an accurate market.
OTHER RELEVANT INFO
Hargrave had the second-most sacks of this group with Donald getting five more in the 2021 season. Hargrave was also second in hurries to Donald. Hargrave was third in tackles and missed tackle percentage.
Hargrave’s statistics are significantly better than Cox’s but much less impressive than Donald’s. Hargrave projects closest to Cameron Heyward, but Heyward’s contract is the least recent deal, and Hargrave generated more pressure than Heyward in his contract season.
In a perfect world, the Eagles should try to re-sign Hargrave to a short-term deal. But it’s unlikely that Hargrave will take under $17 million AAV and probably wants a multi-year extension. The Eagles probably can’t afford the payday Hargrave will receive on the open market.
The best alternative for Hargrave is Georgia’s Jalen Carter, who’s a projected top-five NFL Draft pick and probably won’t be available for the Eagles without them moving up. However, if Carter does slide for whatever reason – team concerns with legal issues – he should be picked by the Eagles.
The next-best option would be Pitt’s Calijah Kancey, who’s the same height as Hargrave (6-1) but is faster and offers a similar blend of speed-to-power. Kancey also possesses great lateral quickness and ability to change direction.
Clemson’s Bryan Breese is another great option. Breese has elite height at 6-5 1/2 and a solid frame. He’s also fast for size and plays with good instincts.
If the Eagles wanted to wait until after the first round, they could target Northwestern’s Adetomiwa Adebawore on Day 2. Adebawore is a hybrid lineman listed as an edge, but he could easily play in the interior, where he did at Northwestern.
Adebawore has elite speed, running a 4.49 at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’s more of a project and would likely need to add weight to play DT in the NFL (6-2, 282). But he’s fast, explosive, and gives some of the best effort when compared to all of the defensive line prospects in this draft class.
Adebawore’s rare combination of speed and size provides versatility, and the Eagles could play him anywhere on the defensive line.
If the Eagles decided to invest later in an interior defensive linemen, they should consider Zacch Pickens, Keondre Coburn, or Keanu Benton.
– Sam Finkel is a staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com who focuses on analytics.