Five defensive free agents Eagles, Vic Fangio could target

Edge rusher Chase Young had 7.5 sacks on the year and added a sack and two QB hits during San Francisco’s Super Bowl run. Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA -- Safe to say, the Eagles' defense needs a lot of work.

The unit finished 31st in passing yards allowed per game (252.7) and total touchdowns allowed (35), 30th in opponent third-down conversion rate (46%) and 29th in red zone efficiency (65%). Philadelphia went from 27 takeaways in 2022 to 18 last season and dropped from a league-leading 70 sacks during their Super Bowl campaign to 43.

It's also possible two of the best players on that side of the ball won't be back: Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is pondering retirement, while edge rusher Haason Reddick has been granted permission to seek a trade. Reddick is entering the last year of a three-year, $45 million deal and "would like to get an extension done" but the Eagles might look to free up cap space via a trade.

Coaching instability played a part in the Eagles' downfall, as a switch from Sean Desai to Matt Patricia as defensive playcaller late in the season only made things worse. The Eagles hired Vic Fangio as their new defensive coordinator in late January with the expectation he'd be a steadying force for the unit.

He'll need not just a talent bump but players who are fits for his scheme. That makes the upcoming free agency period critical for Philadelphia as it looks to rebound from a 1-6 finish and get back on track.

"We have a lot of good young players on this team. I think we have the ability to go out and continue to add to that," general manager Howie Roseman said.

Here are five free agent fits on the defensive side of the ball:

S Eddie Jackson, Bears

Age: 30

Chicago released Jackson last week in a cost-cutting move. A fourth-round pick in 2017, he played seven seasons with the Bears, posting 15 interceptions and 44 passes defensed. Fangio was the defensive coordinator when Chicago drafted Jackson. He coached him for two seasons and helped him to his first of two Pro Bowl appearances in 2018.

The Eagles had little consistency at safety last season and could use a stabilizing presence opposite Reed Blankenship. Given his age and recent injury history -- a foot injury shortened each of the safety's past three seasons -- signing Jackson likely won't break the bank.

Edge Andrew Van Ginkel, Dolphins

Age: 28

Van Ginkel played under Fangio in Miami last season. He made 11 starts and posted 69 tackles, six sacks and 19 quarterback hits. Outside linebackers will be asked to drop in coverage some in Fangio's scheme, and Van Ginkel proved capable in that role with eight passes defensed and an interception return for a touchdown.

Overall, Van Ginkel had the most productive season of his career with Fangio as his DC. Why not reunite in Philly?

LB Josey Jewell, Broncos

Age: 29

Keeping with the Fangio theme, Jewell played under him for three seasons (2019-21) when Fangio was head coach in Denver. Considered a well-rounded player, Jewell had 453 tackles, nine sacks and seven fumble recoveries over six seasons in Denver. He has worn the green dot in recent seasons, responsible for relaying communication from the coaches and getting the unit lined up.

The Eagles were a mess at linebacker last season. They paid the price for underinvesting at the position, especially with rookie Nakobe Dean sidelined for much of the year with foot injuries. Adding a veteran who could help keep the back seven in correct position could go a long way.

EDGE Chase Young, 49ers

Age: 24

The second overall pick of 2020 was dealt from the Washington Commanders to the Niners at the trade deadline last season. He had 7.5 sacks on the year and added a sack and two QB hits during San Francisco's Super Bowl run. Significantly, he played in 19 games, including playoffs, after injuries limited him to just 12 total over the previous two seasons.

While it would be tough to replace Reddick's production if he moves on -- he's had 27 regular-season sacks during his two years in Philadelphia -- the Eagles to this point have been hesitant to give Reddick his desired raise. Young still has plenty of upside and could likely be had at a manageable number.

S Kamren Curl, Commanders

Age: 24

Curl doesn't have a ton of on-ball production -- he has three interceptions and 14 passes defensed over four seasons -- but has shown to be a consistent, versatile presence for Washington. He started 16 games for the Commanders in 2023 and posted 115 tackles (3 for loss) with three QB hits, a sack and five passes defensed.

Per ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen, Curl fits best in a split-safety scheme, which fits how Fangio typically deploys his safeties.