NFL: NFC Championship-San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles

Dealing Haason Reddick appeared inevitable based on how the Philadelphia Eagles offseason transpired. Philadelphia signed Bryce huff on the first day of free agency and restructured Josh Sweat's contract a week later, setting the stage for Reddick's final days as an Eagle.

Reddick wanted a pay raise for past performance and it was easy to understand his case. Only Reddick and Myles Garrett had 10+ sacks in each of the last four years -- and Reddick accomplished the feat with four different defensive coordinators and three different teams. The Eagles paid Reddick an average annual salary of $15 million per season, good for 20th amongst edge rushers in the NFL.

By all accounts, Reddick was underpaid. The Eagles weren't going to give Reddick a significant bump in pay or a new contract for a 30-year-old pass rusher. Reddick was traded to the New York Jets for a conditional 2026 third-round pick (which is bumped up to a second-round pick if Reddick gets 10+ sacks or plays 67.5% of the snaps). 

The trade did make sense for the Eagles, yet they are taking a huge gamble by moving on from Reddick when he has some good football left. 

One-year left on the deal

The Eagles could have altered Reddick's deal similar to how they restructured Sweat's contract, allowing him to walk after the 2024 season as a free agent. The 2026 conditional third-round pick is valuable for the franchise to remain at a Super Bowl contending level in future years, yet Reddick keeps the team in Super Bowl contention for 2024. 

Regardless how the Eagles pass rush fared at the end of the year last season (29th in sack rate at 5.3%), Reddick was still the best pass rusher of a group that disappeared. His 2.5 sacks trailed only Fletcher Cox during that stretch and his 7.9% pressure rate also trailed only Cox.

The Eagles lost their two best pass rushers this offseason with Cox retiring and trading Reddick. By signing off, the Eagles had the money to allow Reddick to keep playing in 2024 in a rotation with Huff and Sweat. The pass rush could have returned to 2022 form with those three leading the way, Nolan Smith having another year to develop, and Brandon Graham playing a limited role. 

That group could have arguably been the best pass rush in the NFL. Paying Reddick guaranteed money and parting ways with him after next season could have increased the chances at making the Super Bowl again. Reddick's ability to get to the passer was massive in Philadelphia winning the NFC Championship two seasons ago. 

Too many wild cards in pass rush 

The Eagles have more "ifs" in the pass rush, than the certain "sure thing" in Reddick. Sweat has 31 sacks over the last four seasons, but didn't have any sacks and a 10.3% pressure rate from Week 13 through 18 last season (when the Eagles lost five of six to close the regular season). In the year prior, Sweat had 6.5 sacks from Weeks 13-18 with a 12.6% pressure rate and he had 4.0 sacks with a 15.8% pressure rate in 2021. 

The Eagles appear to be treating 2023 as an anomaly for Sweat rather than the norm. Huff, on the the other hand, is what the Eagles are banking on to replicate Reddick's production. Huff's 21.3% pressure rate last season trailed only Micah Parsons amongst pass rushers with 250+ snaps. He finished with 10 sacks despite playing 47% of the snaps. 

Philadelphia is hoping an increased volume of snaps for Huff will result in more sacks and a high pressure rate. Being 25 years old to Reddick's 30 was another reason the Eagles decided to pay Huff at a value they were comfortable with. Philadelphia is paying for future production instead of past production. 

Nolan Smith had one sack and eight pressures in 182 snaps last season, as the Eagles are ready to give the 2023 first-round pick an expanded role. Brandon Graham is playing his 15th and final season at 36 years old and free agent signing Zack Baun will also be part of the pass rush rotation. 

The Eagles don't have an elite pass rusher like Reddick on the roster. They are hoping Huff becomes one over the life of his contract and Sweat becomes the closer he was at the end of the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Philadelphia is also hoping Smith takes the next step as well. 

This is a major gamble for 2024, one that could have been avoided by paying Reddick top dollar for this year than moving on. The trade was a good one, but keeping Reddick on the roster would have been better.