Philadelphia Eagles: Javon Hargrave is a revelation for Jim Schwartz

(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

While the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t really need to add another defensive tackle, Javon Hargrave is talented enough to revolutionize Jim Schwartz’s Wide-9.

When the Philadelphia Eagles missed out on signing Byron Jones to a record-setting contract worth $17 million a year, it was a major bummer for some fans in the 215.

Sure, committing a five-year contract worth north of $82 million for a cornerback who has only picked off two passes over four seasons in the league is a relatively risky proposition, but after watching the Birds get burned over and over again by underwhelming cornerback play over the last I don’t know, decade, poaching the best player on the market away from a division rival was a worthwhile gamble.

Nope. Jones is headed to the East, the AFC East, that is, to play alongside the second-highest-paid cornerback in the NFL, Xavien Howard.

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And as for the Eagles? Well, Howie Roseman got in on the free agency party as well, only he opted to hand out a record-setting contract to a defensive lineman – a nose tackle to be more specific.

At this point, should we even be surprised?

That’s right, despite already having Fletcher Cox locked into a $100 million contract, 2019 free-agent addition Malik Jackson signed to a deal effectively worth $10 million a year, and third-string tackle Hassan Ridgeway locked into a one-year extension, Roseman felt it appropriate to sign ex-Pittsburgh Steelers‘ third-round pick Javon Hargrave to a massive three-year, $39 million deal with $26 million guaranteed – the most money every dished out to a nose tackle in NFL history as per Adam Schefter.

Now to be fair, it’s not like Hargrave is going to play nose tackle with the Eagles, not really at least, as the team runs a 4-3 scheme, but as the NFL becomes more and more pass-centric, one has to wonder why Philly would invest so much darn money on their defensive line.

Oh wait, I know why, because you win games in the trenches.

Barring another move, the Eagles can now theoretically trot out a starting defensive line featuring Cox, Hargrave, Jackson, and Brandon Graham, the pound for pound biggest defensive line in the NFL.

In theory, this philosophy flies directly in the face of how a Jim Schwartz defensive line is supposed to operate, as a wide-9 defensive line typically relies on two bigger tackles on the inside and two speed rushers lined up way outside the outside shoulder of the opposing team’s offensive tackles. For how dominant the Eagles’ new four horsemen can be at collapsing a pocket, they aren’t going to win with speed or runs to the outside with supreme athleticism.

But here’s the thing: Schwartz is a good coach and can certainly adapt his scheme to fit the personnel.

With this new line in place, the Eagles’ front four is going to be borderline impossible to run against even when lined up wider than a usual 4-3 front. This should allow Schwartz the luxury of dropping both of his starting linebackers into coverage with less of a responsibility to read and react against the run before mucking things up across the middle of the field. This move should also alleviate the need to fortify the linebacking corp with a true blue starter in the middle of the field, instead allowing the team to deploy smaller, coverage-focused ‘backers like Nathan Gerry and even additional defensive backs in a big nickel package.

Keep in mind that the Eagles flirted with the concept of playing college defensive end Malik Jackson on the edge last summer before his 2019 season was cut tragically short after only 32 snaps. While the Eagles will surely deploy a heavy rotation in 2020 and beyond, don’t be too surprised if Jackson starts next to Cox and Hargrave.

Speaking of Hargrave, if Twitter is of any indication, he’s going to fit in just fine in Philly.

A four-year starter in Pittsburgh after a dominant career at South Carolina State, Hargrave is one of the more dominant defensive tackles in the NFL – an impressive feat for a 3-4 nose tackle. Despite being a tad undersized to clog up the middle of an odd front at 300 pounds, Hargrave’s explosiveness, relentless motor, and sub-5.0 40 yard dash helped to make up for a few extra pounds of bulk.

Now tasked with the singular, well, task of penetrating his gap to attack the quarterback, the 27-year-old North Carolina native should have a field day against a ton of single-coverage.

Remember how well Cox played in 2017 when paired up with Timmy Jernigan? Hargrave is like the perfect evolution of Timmy Jernigan without all of the gold grills and rap videos.

In a world where DeForest Buckner costs a 13th overall pick and a contract extension worth $21 million a year, Hargrave’s deal already looks like a bargain.

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Is $13 million a lot of money to commit to a position of strength when there are so many other needs that need to be addressed? Maybe so, but I have a feeling Howie Roseman won’t enter the draft without at least a few more signings on the team’s transactions sheet. Teams get better when they add great players, and by signing Javon Hargrave, the Philadelphia Eagles identified a fantastic player at an undervalued position and locked him in as a building block for the future.