Haason Reddick trade leaves lingering questions for Eagles

PHILADELPHIA -- The lasting image of Haason Reddick in an Eagles uniform will be of him flying off the edge and laying a blindside hit on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy midway through the first quarter of the 2023 NFC Championship Game -- a play that knocked the quarterback out of the game and essentially punched the Eagles' ticket to Super Bowl LVII.

With a takedown of backup Josh Johnson on the next series, he upped his sack total on the year to a staggering 19.5.

Reddick, a Temple alum from Camden, N.J., followed that up with an 11-sack performance this past season. He is one of two players to record double-digit sacks in each of the past four seasons along with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Myles Garrett.

Given that production, the decision to trade Reddick to the New York Jets last week for a conditional 2026 third-round pick instead of negotiating a new contract with Reddick has largely been met with confusion in Philly -- a sentiment that extends to Reddick's inner circle.

"I really can't wrap my head around it. I'm baffled like everyone else," his father, Raymond Matthew, told ESPN. "He outperformed his contract. ... He just wanted market value. He just wanted the numbers that made sense, which he didn't get.

"It was a thing where I guess [general manager] Howie Roseman felt that it was better to go that way. It felt awkward. It did."

That awkwardness was first felt last offseason, when Reddick hinted that he believed he had outpaced the three-year, $45 million free agent deal he had signed in March 2022. His average of $15 million per season currently ranks 22nd among edge rushers, per Spotrac.

A new deal never materialized. At the conclusion of this past season, the Eagles gave Reddick and his agent permission to seek a trade.

The team brass had been largely mum on the situation in recent weeks. CEO Jeffrey Lurie declined to get into it at the league meetings in late March, only offering that the situation would "play itself out in a very good way."

But did it?

There is serious risk in parting ways with Reddick, who is tied for the fourth-most sacks (27) since 2022 and is third in pass-rush wins over that time (138) behind only Micah Parsons and Garrett. With defensive tackle Fletcher Cox retiring earlier this offseason, the Eagles have now lost arguably their two best players on defense. That makes new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's job of turning the unit around all the more challenging. Add in the retirement of center Jason Kelce and coach Nick Sirianni has been stripped of three team pillars as he enters a prove-it year.

The edge-rushing responsibilities are expected to fall mainly to Josh Sweat, second-year player Nolan Smith, 36-year-old Brandon Graham, and former Jet Bryce Huff. Huff was signed to a three-year, $51.1 million deal in free agency, effectively closing the door on Reddick's return.

"Elite pass-rusher. Closes games. People want to say that all he does is rush the passer, but all Mariano Rivera did was close ninth innings," Jets coach Robert Saleh said of Huff. "So he's a pretty darn good pass-rusher, and he's going to be great for Philadelphia."

Lurie's organizational philosophy could be a good prism through which to view the Reddick decision.

"I expect us to always be a championship-caliber team that looks to the midrange and the future at the same time," Lurie said at league meetings last week.

Reddick will turn 30 in September. Instead of investing around $25 million per season in Reddick, they opted to pay the younger Huff, who turns 26 later this month, an average of $17 million per year. Huff had a breakout season in 2023 with 10 sacks, and the Eagles believe they're getting him on the uptick.

"I know how good of a pass-rusher he is. Obviously, that's what got him paid the amount of money he got paid," Sirianni said. "We're really excited to add him to our roster knowing how much he can provide help for us to get after the passer."

At the scouting combine in February, Roseman stressed the importance of developing younger players -- something that becomes all the more imperative once your quarterback receives a large contract, as Jalen Hurts has.

"I think that's something that Coach and I have talked about to not be afraid of," Roseman said of playing younger guys. "That's why you draft them. That's why you sign them."

Smith, the former first-round pick out of Georgia, is exactly the type of player Roseman is referencing. He had a quiet rookie season (188 snaps, 1 sack) but will be given the opportunity to carve out a much larger role in Reddick's absence.

Still, the Eagles are going from a sure thing in Reddick to upside swings on Huff and Nolan, who have seven starts between them and played a combined 668 snaps last season compared to Reddick's 862.

"I believe I have a lot left in the tank. If I didn't, I wouldn't be here," Reddick said at his Jets introductory news conference. "As far as the Eagles go, it wasn't about what he has left in the tank or anything like that. It's a business and sometimes hard decisions have got to be made, even if you don't like them."

Matthew admitted last season was frustrating for Reddick, who didn't always feel heard by a defensive coaching staff that struggled to come up with the right answers.

Reddick was asked to drop in coverage more than usual once Matt Patricia took over as the defensive playcaller late in the season. In the Jets' system, he'll likely be spending more time getting after the quarterback.

"The attack style, I'm all for it. I'm all about constantly putting QBs under duress," Reddick said.

Matthew added: "It's not about the money with Haason. He definitely wants his worth but he wants to make the Hall of Fame. He knows that he needs another three to five years of double-digits just to be considered...And that's what he wants -- he wants to be known as the best."