Skill Set, Versatility, Scheme Make Jefferson Ideal Fit For Birds D
Last year, and years before, the Eagles prioritized defensive line depth.
After re-signing Fletcher Cox and using a first-round pick on Jordan Davis, the Eagles then added Ndamukong Suh, Linval Joseph, and Robert Quinn at points during the season.
This offseason, the Eagles will again look to add more depth, especially after losing Javon Hargrave to the 49ers on a four-year $84-million deal.
The Eagles last week signed defensive tackle Kentavius Street, but they likely aren’t done fixing this position. The team will likely draft an interior defensive lineman in the 2023 NFL Draft this month.
However, the Eagles should also look at more inexpensive options, even after the Street signing.
Quinton Jefferson, an NFL journeyman who’s been rostered by four different teams in his NFL career, would be an ideal fit.
The 2016 fifth-round pick from Maryland has spent most of his career with the Seattle Seahawks – three separate stints – but was released on March 14th.
The 6-foot-4, 290-pound lineman is a versatile player who has played – and probably still can – virtually every alignment on the defensive line. He has ideal size for a typical Eagles defensive lineman.
Along with his versatility and size, Jefferson’s skill set matches the Eagles’ requirements for their core defensive philosophies.
Among all the remaining free-agent interior defensive lineman, Jefferson consistently generated the most pressure in 2022, with a pressure on almost every 14 snaps [13.95]. For comparison, Hargrave pressured the quarterback every 12 snaps (12.26) in 2022.
Jefferson also has a similar missed-tackle percentage to Hargrave, with a 7.4% clip compared to Hargrave’s 6.7%.
Here’s how Jefferson’s efficiency compares to Hargrave’s:
*Lower numbers are better in this chart for every stat. For all statistics except missed tackle %, the numbers represent how many snaps it took for a statistical indicator to occur – for instance, “Snaps / QB Hits” showcases how many snaps it took for each QB hit to occur (Hargrave hit the quarterback once every 134.83 snaps, while Jefferson hit the quarterback once every 85.71 snaps).
It’s important to understand that Jefferson wouldn’t be a direct replacement for Hargrave, who was an elite talent that was essential to the Eagles’ success. But Jefferson could be a solid role player who thrives in new coordinator Sean Desai’s pressure-generating defense.
Jefferson is efficient at creating pressure and wreaking havoc in the backfield. Last year, the Eagles’ defense thrived behind a rotation of players who had similar specialities.
The Eagles’ defense will look different than it did last year, with a new leader at the helm, but Desai values a strong defensive line that can generate significant pressure. Jefferson could be a good scheme fit, especially since he and Desai were with the same team last year as Desai was the Seahawks’ assistant head coach.
In Philly, Jefferson would likely play a rotational 3- or 5-technique, complementing Cox or Davis.
With Seattle, Jefferson played on a two-year, $9.5 million contract, an average annual value (AAV) of almost $5 million. He’d likely come cheaper on the open market, and the Eagles would probably seek to sign him to a one-year deal.
Adding an above-average rotational lineman like Jefferson on a one-year deal after the draft would be a smart move for the Eagles and round out their depth on the defensive line.
– Sam Finkel is a staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com who focuses on analytics.