I'd say stagnating is a big understatement.To say EF is falling apart is too harsh. Losing Martinez and Woods was a blow, Higuita is as well. Sep had been on the vane for several years.
They still have a strong core of Carthy, Bettiol, Uran, great up and coming talent in Bissegger, Carr and Rutsch plus good stage snipers/support cast with Guerreiro, Cort, Caicedo, Craddock et al. They will need to replenish with young GC/climbing talent soon though.
I’d say EF are stagnating. BikeExchange are in a more rapid decline.
Now they sit 17th in PCS team ranking. In 2020 they were 10th and in 2019 they were 10th too. So they've dropped 7th places in the pecking order in the span of just one year and as if it's not enough, they're losing maybe their most promising rider for 2022.
And you have to understand the context too. They achieved this 10th place in 2020 with a very future-oriented roster. Higuita-Martinez seemed like a perfect tandem to take the team into the bright future. Both had long term deals so there was no immediate danger of losing any of them. Both of them at an age they still could develop into even better riders. They seemed like a perfect combination. Martinez more of a pure stage racer with a great ITT and Higuita mr consistent with great sprint and explosiveness. They complemented each other very well from a team's point of view. And people might forget how incredibly consistent Higuita was already at 21-22 y.o. He was a super promising rider who felt like the team would be able to rely on him for delivering results consistently in the years to come. Atop of that, there were also other youngish strong riders like Carthy and Bettiol and both had contracts beyond 2020 too IIRC.
With Uran and Vanmarcke approaching their decline and their supposedly big contracts running out after 2020, freeing-up some budget, it felt like there should be enough money to keep all the younger riders.
And it all fell apart. Martinez was released from contract early and now Higuita is leaving too. No sign of equally talented riders replacing them. Woods and Vanmarcke also haven't been replaced yet with riders who offer similar consistency and ability to bring the results in so that's a lot of depth lost. The results have already deteriorated a lot and there's not much hope for the future now.
We'll see who they are going to sign this year, maybe those will be better names than I expect but honestly I think it's a big task for Vaughters to take the team back to an equally promising spot as it was in in 2020. They've never had the budget to battle for the hottest talent on the market and I doubt Nippo will bring their budget to another level compared to recent years and I would imagine the EF company is still heavily affected by pandemics so it's difficult to expect that they'll up the budget. Moreover, teams like UAE are now more aggresive than ever in trying to sing all of the most promising youngsters before they even show what they're capable of at smaller teams, so it's even more complicated for smaller teams to try to keep up. I guess EF will have to sign a lot of underdogs and with some luck they'll maybe find one or two overlooked talents like they did with Martinez and Higuita but it will perhaps take another couple of years before they amass and develop enough talent just like they only really started to recover around 2020 from all the talent lost they had experienced due to the 2017 sponsorship troubles.