What started as a slow ripple turned into a huge splash. The Eagles have a new starting nose tackle.
Not only that but he’s set to become the highest-paid player at his position. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Eagles are set to sign Steelers nose tackle Javon Hargrave to a three-year deal worth $39 million ($26 million guaranteed). The move seemingly came out of the blue as many had predicted the Eagles would sign a high-priced cornerback. Instead, they decided to solidify the interior of their defensive line.
Hargrave isn’t your typical nose tackle, though. While he’s adept at stuffing the run, he thrives as a pass-rusher and has recorded 10.5 sacks over the past two seasons. The 27-year-old only missed one game since coming into the league in 2016, including making 52 starts for Pittsburgh.
Pairing him inside with the likes of Fletcher Cox — and presumably, Malik Jackson, if he’s healthy enough to return — could be a lethal triumvirate for opposing quarterbacks to handle.
The Eagles announced earlier in the day they were bringing back defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway on a one-year deal. That domino, coupled with the signing of Hargrave, officially spell the end of Tim Jernigan’s tenure in Philadelphia. It may also mean that the team isn’t fully convinced Jackson will be ready for Week 1.
Steelers Losing Stud in Middle of Defense
The Steelers must have seen the writing on the wall in February when Javon Hargrave switched agents. Even worse, he tabbed the infamous Drew Rosenhaus to represent him. Hargrave wanted to cash in on a breakout 2019 campaign where he saw his snap counts double. Once the Steelers placed the franchise tag on linebacker Bud Dupree, Hargrave hit the open market.
He didn’t have to wait long as the Eagles quickly came calling. Hargrave finished the 2019 season as one of the 15 highest-graded pass-rushers at his position, per Pro Football Focus, and graded out at 83.4 overall. He has 14.5 sacks and 168 tackles (22 tackles for loss) since 2016. But the box score doesn’t tell all with the South Carolina State product.
It was his job to do the dirty work and “disrupt” the interior of the line. His 15.1-percent pressure rate on opposing quarterbacks ranked tops in the NFL among interior defenders in 2019.
Hargrave Impressed Scouts Out of College
The only real knock on Javon Hargrave coming out of college was his size. At 6-foot-1, 305 pounds, some scouts thought he was too small to make an impact at the next level.
They thought he had enjoyed abusing less skilled players while competing in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) at South Carolina State. Then, Hargrave went on a tear at the East-West Shrine Game practices and raised his draft stock considerably.
He dominated in one-on-one drills with his rare combination of quickness and power. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected him in the third round (89th overall) and never looked back as he saw action in 15 games his rookie year. At South Carolina State, Hargrave racked up 37 sacks and 63 tackles for loss.
The scouting reports weren’t over the moon but everyone agreed the talent was there. Here’s what NFL.com’s Chad Reuter wrote in 2016:
Yes, Hargrave spent his career beating offensive linemen who weren’t able to earn major college football scholarships. But even against better players, his quickness off the ball and pure power inside made stopping him a difficult task. Hargrave isn’t as tall or long as some teams desire inside, but frankly, the low center of gravity is a plus when trying to send your opponent backwards. Some defensive line coach will pound the table for his team to select the All-American due to his enormous lower body, which provides both explosiveness and stoutness.
Bottom line, he’s going to be a problem for the rest of the NFC East. Mark it.
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