PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Eagles sent a message to the rest of the league when they acquired veteran defensive end Robert Quinn from the Chicago Bears: 6-0 is a good start, but they’re coming for it all.
They didn’t exactly need another pass rusher. They’ve been one of the more disruptive units in the NFL with 17 sacks and 39 quarterback hits. The front office spent big money on Haason Reddick (4.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles) in free agency, inking him to a three-year, $45 million deal, and have been getting solid production from veterans Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, who have three sacks and seven QB hits apiece.
But opportunities like the one in front of the Eagles don’t come along very often. They’re 6-0 for just the third time in franchise history and for the first time since 2004, when they advanced to the Super Bowl. Quarterback Jalen Hurts is not only playing at an MVP level, but is doing so on a rookie contract, allowing the team to spread money across the roster.
“I think the weather changes but we don’t in terms of our goals and what we want to accomplish,” said Hurts. “I think we have a very tight-knit group, a very family-oriented group. I know [Quinn] has a lot of experience. He’s done this. I’m excited to have a player like him on the team.”
The Eagles still have the fourth-most 2022 cap space in the league after the Quinn acquisition, according to Spotrac, at just over $9 million. If they want to add more pieces before Tuesday’s trade deadline – secondary, running back and returner are areas that could use additional help – they can. And with Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers off to slow starts, there’s no NFC juggernaut standing in their way.
The established players in the locker room seem to sense the opportunity at hand and Quinn is being welcomed with open arms – even by those who could theoretically feel threatened by the acquisition.
“When I was younger it was like, ‘What does that mean? Are they trying to get rid of me?’ I don’t think we’ve got that feel,” said Graham. “At the end of the day, it’s one of those feelings where all you need is certain pieces and we can probably make this run for real. … I’m hoping he comes in and can be that extra that we need.”
Graham was one of the first players to greet Quinn at his locker stall when he arrived at the practice facility Thursday.
“He’s one of the leaders on this team and he’s got a year or two over me,” said Quinn. “To have the OG of the team walk up to me makes you feel appreciated, trying to make you feel welcome. I appreciated that.”
This move isn’t exactly the equivalent of pushing all their chips into the center of the table – they gave up a fourth-round pick for Quinn and the Bears are absorbing the bulk of his 2022 salary, a league source confirmed — but the Eagles are certainly upping the ante.
There are legitimate reasons to do so. For one, their defensive end depth was a bit lacking after Derek Barnett suffered a season-ending ACL tear in the opener against the Detroit Lions. Graham is 34 and coming off a ruptured Achilles. Adding Quinn to a group that has been carried by Graham and Josh Sweat will keep the mileage down for all of them and allow them to be fresher in the latter stages of the season.
The Eagles believe Quinn, a team captain in Chicago, will be a locker room asset, per league sources. They did their homework on that front. Graham pointed out that director of sports performance Ted Rath was part of the Los Angeles Rams staff when Quinn was there and was singing his praises. Former defensive end Chris Long, similarly, was Quinn’s teammate on the Rams and spoke in equally glowing terms, right tackle Lane Johnson said.
“He’s a great player,” said Johnson. “You can’t have enough great pass rushers. Him and Sweat on one side and Haason and BG on the other with the guys in the middle, it’s going to be a tough task to block all those guys.”
With all that talent up front, the Eagles don’t think he’ll see as many double-teams as he did in Chicago, according to a league source, which should help his production go up (he has one sack on the season).
“I just want to come in and do my part. They’ve been rocking and rolling before I got here so I don’t want to mess anything up, just try and add whatever I can to help make this team better and basically stay out the way,” Quinn said.
Quinn generated 18.5 sacks just last season. A reprise might be far-fetched, but as the standout play of newcomers Reddick, James Bradberry, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, A.J. Brown and Kyzir White shows, Philadelphia has proven adept at acclimating players to their system and culture quickly.
While the conference might be down overall, the NFC East is up, with the New York Giants (6-1) and Dallas Cowboys (5-2) right on the Eagles’ heels. The Cowboys’ defense is particularly nasty with a league-best 29 sacks through seven weeks.
The Eagles’ defense is no slouch either with 14 takeaways, tied for tops in the NFL. That’s due in part to the pressure created up front. But there’s plenty of season left, good competition in the division, and a whole lot more this team wants to accomplish.
As the Quinn trade illustrates, their foot remains firmly on the gas despite an undefeated start.
“I’m happy man. Happy we got somebody who can come in and help, a vet guy,” Graham said. “And a cool dude at that.”