The Eagles initial 53-man roster is out, as the franchise went in an intriguing direction regarding roster construction. Special teams is still a work in progress, as Philadelphia decided to go with no punter and no punt returner in favor of a surplus at defensive tackle and cornerback.
Going light at off-ball linebacker and wide receiver was certainly interesting too, but the waiver wire is going to be an interesting place for Philadelphia come Wednesday. This isn't the Eagles' 53-man roster for Week 1 against the New England Patriots, but this is the one they have for now.
Below is a breakdown of what Philadelphia is doing in regards to roster construction, and why the Eagles made the decisions they did.
Heavy at cornerback
The Eagles significantly prioritized cornerback and defensive tackle this training camp, as seven defensive tackles and seven cornerbacks made the roster (that makes up 26.4% of the 53-man squad). Those two positions played a huge role in Philadelphia going to the Super Bowl last season, and the Eagles didn't want to lose any depth there.
At cornerback, the decision came down to Eli Ricks and Mario Goodrich -- but the Eagles kept both. Ricks had a good final few weeks of training camp and shined in the preseason, so the Eagles didn't want to risk losing him to waivers.
"He came in with an opportunity, and I think what we saw is this is a long, instinctive player with good athleticism and ball skills. Those guys are hard to find. His work ethic, his care factor was really high," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. "He came in with the right attitude."
Once Zech McPhearson was lost for the season, the Eagles needed to have a backup slot cornerback. That's where Goodrich made the roster (he also had a strong preseason).
Neither Ricks nor Goodrich were subject to waivers, which have cornerback-needy teams upset that they can't get their hands on good, young players. The Eagles wanted to develop young corners, which is why Ricks and Goodrich remain.
Seven defensive tackles?
Just another position the Eagles value immensely, and are very deep at. The biggest decision revolved around Moro Ojomo and Kentavius Street and the Eagles ended up keeping both. Street could have been released as a vested veteran so the Eagles didn't have to guarantee his saley, but they decided it wasn't worth him testing the market and losing him.
Ojomo had a strong camp before a concussion made things difficult in regards to roster construction. Ojomo returned to practice earlier this week, so that ended that conversation. He was another player the Eagles didn't want to expose to waivers.
Throughout training camp, there was a battle between Arryn Siposs and Ty Zentner for the starting punter job. One week in, it was clear the Eagles punter in Week 1 wasn't on the roster. The Eagles are going to do their due diligence to upgrade at punter, but Siposs is a fallback option.
Perhaps the punter they desire ends up somewhere else. The Eagles are 31st in the waiver priority, so any team besides the Kansas City Chiefs that claims a player gets that player.
Another thing to consider, Siposs has been a good holder for Jake Elliott over the last two years.
"Certainly when we talk about Jake and how good of a player he is, we want him to be in a great spot because is he an important player for this team," Roseman said. "We'll make sure that's taken care of."
No punt returner
The Eagles did waive Britain Covey after a preseason that found him more on the injured list than practicing, which led to the decision to go with four wide receivers. This position is in flux, as the Eagles may search the waiver wire for a bigger bodied target to backup A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith on the outside.
Covey wasn't on the 53-man roster to start out last season and spent the first few weeks as a practice squad call up. Perhaps the Eagles think they can do the same for a couple weeks before they have to put Covey on the roster (if Covey is the returner).
The Eagles do have Olamide Zaccheaus and Justin Evans as the only two players on teh roster that returned punts this preseason. Perhaps this is the direction they go (likely with Zaccheaus). They'll look to upgrade, with Covey as the fallback option.
"We don't have to make any of those decisions right yet," Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said. "We still have time, and we still have, like Howie said, you have 69 guys to choose from.
"Well, you know, we're not going to pick Jordan Mailata or something like that, but you have a lot of guys to choose from and guys that have been working all offseason and all training camp catching punts, so we feel good about our options there."
Acquisition of Albert O
The Eagles did made a trade on 53-man roster cutdown day, acquiring Albert Okwuegbunam and a 2025 seventh-round pick from the Denver Broncos in exchange for a 2025 sixth-round pick. They'll go with four tight ends, but the position is significantly deeper with Okwuegbunam -- who will be the No. 2 tight end.
Okwuegbunam has tremendous speed that can stretch the field, but also is a strong blocker with his 6-5, 260-pound frame. Instead of banking on Jack Stoll and Grant Calcaterra, the Eagles have a very good 1-2 punch in Dallas Goedert and Okwuegbunam.
"That's not a slight on the tight ends we have here," Roseman said. "We think Dallas (Goedert) is one of the best players at his position in the league, and we have two young players in, Jack Stoll and Grant Calcaterra, that we brought in here that we really like."
Stoll and Calcaterra are two on the watch as the Eagles look to freshen up their 53-man roster. Some player has to be a casualty of roster gymnastics.
For us, any time we have an opportunity to add an offensive player that we think can help us and help our team we look at that, so that's the reason we brought him in.
Derek Barnett remains
Barnett was granted permission to seek a trade, but the Eagles have a high value on him. They view him as tremendous depth in a pass rush that already features Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham and Nolan Smith on the edge.
Barnett is going to get his snaps in this rotation, but he does want an opportunity to contribute more. There's nothing wrong with that, but the Eagles just aren't going to give him away. They rather have Barnett than not.
"Tremendous respect for Derek and the player and person that he is and what he brings to this football team," Sirianni said. "Love having him here. That's why we bring him back.
"That's a position for us which you see with the 53-man roster, it's a priority. So, we're going to keep as many of those guys we possibly can. Last year we got in a little bit of a bind and had to give up a pick and had to sign guys in the middle of the year.
"So, for us having those guys lets us sleep a little bit better at night, and Derek is certainly one of those guys."
Of course, a team could give the Eagles an offer they can't refuse for Barnett. His fate is something to monitor after the initial waiver claims, but Barnett is a player the Eagles want to have around.
Is this roster better than last year?
The Eagles aren't as deep at off-ball linebacker and safety, but their value in the rookie class is what can put them ahead of a loaded 2022 squad. This team is deeper at a lot of positions, mainly at defensive line, cornerback, running back, and tight end -- and have plenty of star players entering the prime of their careers (mainly Jalen Hurts). There's also the 2022 rookie class that didn't play much, but have developed into key starters on this team in 2023.
Injuries at wide receiver, offensive tackle, and off-ball linebacker will significantly hurt, but there's time to improve the depth at two of those three positions (offensive tackle the Eagles are content with). Then there's the special teams that needs to be resolved.
Going by the contributions of the 2022 and 2023 rookie class, along with the depth at a lot of key positions - this roster is better than the team that ended up losing Super Bowl LVII.