Here’s how the Eagles look as of now: [UPDATE] As this was being written the story came out that the Eagles would not bring back any of their free agents. So yeah, Bradley, Gaither, Jordan, and Sims — all gone.
Stewart Bradley – A first round talent who fell to the third round of the 2007 draft due to injury concerns, Bradley was seen as a future leader on a developing defense. If it wasn’t for that damn Flight Night during training camp in 2009, Bradley may have blossomed into one of the premier linebackers in the NFL. Instead, he suffered a torn ACL, wiping out his season and impacting his speed and agility as he continued to recover in 2010. As it stands now, Bradley is an unrestricted free agent and with his market value very diffiicult to gauge, it’s far from a sure thing he comes back to Philly.
Jamar Chaney – For as much of a downer the Stewart Bradley situation is, it’s the exact opposite for second-year linebacker Jamar Chaney. Forced into the lineup due to Bradley’s concussion, Chaney flashed potential beyond that of the seventh-round rookie that he was. He’s not a true thumper, but he demonstrated legit talent and athleticism. If the Eagles can re-sign Bradley and move him to the strong side linebacker spot, Chaney could continue to develop in the middle. This is probably the Eagles best case scenario right now for their linebacker corps, though they’ll still need somone who can play the weak side.
Ernie Sims – Speaking of somone of who won’t be playing the WILL for the Eagles, we have Sims, an unrestricted free agent. What appeared at first to be a steal of a trade from the Detroit Lions before last season turned into a guy who runs around pretty fast but doesn’t really do anything. It’s a real shame because athletically Sims is the perfect type player to man the weak side, but he just doesn’t have enough football skills or instincts to be effective. He won’t be back.
Omar Gaither – Another unrestricted free agent, Gaither has probably played his last down as an Eagle. Originally a fifth round pick with some flashes of potential, Gaither just couldn’t cut it in his original spot in the middle, due to lack of both size and talent. He couldn’t even hold down a regular spot on the weak side, becoming a backup at multiple spots. He couldn’t even beat out seventh-round rookie Jamar Chaney for playing time when Bradley went out with the concussion. It’s possibly he is re-signed for depth, but it’s unlikely.
Akeem Jordan – Yet another career backup and special teamer who has found himself in (and eventually out, thankfully) of the Eagles starting lineup at various times. Jordan is a hard worker and great special teamer but he’s always been borderline NFL material. As yet another Eagles unrestricted free agent linebacker, his only hope of sticking around is as a camp addition if one or more of their draft picks at the position fizzle out. He’s as likely to be out of the NFL this season than he is to sign with the Eagles or anyone else.
Moise Fokou – Fokou is looking like a starter by default. With Bradley gone and Jamar Chaney the presumptive starter in the middle, Fokou will likely take back his spot on the strong side. Despite being barely effective and more suited in a backup role, there really isn’t anything else right now — unless they see a rookie stepping in and starting, and that’s not quite likely.
Rashad Jeanty – Signed this past February to a one-year contract, Jeanty is a solid player that will compete. Ideally he’s a backup but with this LB corps he could easily end up starting. Already known as a stud special teamer, Jeanty will likely challenge Fokou for the starting strong side job.
Keenan Clayton – The fourth-round pick (taken before seventh-round pick Jamar Chaney) has a chance to play on the weak side due to his speed but lack of size. That’s best case scenario. He’s more likely to be a backup at best and a solid special teamer.
Then there are the 2011 draft picks — Casey Matthews (4th rd), Brian Rolle (6th rd), and Greg Lloyd (7th rd). Matthews is a hard worker with all the white guy stereotype intangibles; unfortunately, what he doesn’t have is his brother Clay’s talent. Rolle is a nice player but undersized. His best fit is likely as a special teams ace though he could compete for the weak side spot considering there isn’t much competition right now. Lastly, Lloyd, another legacy player, doesn’t have the talent of his dad and really is a longshot to make the team at all.
This, folks, isn’t pretty.
The Eagles pretty much have to sign a free agent linebacker at this point, maybe two.
FREE AGENT TARGETS:
Paul Posluszny, Bills – Would have been awesome to have the Penn State star come to Philly, but it’s not happening. It’s being reported that Poz has signed a six year deal with the Jaguars. Damn.
Nick Barnett, Packers – Cut by the Packers, Barnett has mentioned the Eagles as a possible preferred landing spot. A former first round pick and an eight year veteran, Barnett has dealt with some injury issues but he’s clearly better than what the Eagles have and would provide some veteran leadership on what is looking more and more like a defense made up of kids.
Stephen Tulloch, Titans – Already an above average middle linebacker, Tulloch could come in and be a veteran force in an Eagles LB corp in major flux. He’s only 26 and just touching his prime. The move could allow Chaney to move to the the weak side, or Chaney could stay at the MIKE and Tulloch cover play on the strong side.
Kevin Burnett, Chargers – He’s been playing inside in the Chargers 3-4, but could probably transition well to the strong side in a 4-3. This past season he had 95 tackles, six sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Quincy Black, Buccaneers – Solid option on the strong side. Only a two-year starter, Black is more talented than some of if not all of the linebackers the Eagles currently have under contract.
The Eagles have long held the belief that linebacker isn’t a “priority position” but this situation is just damn ridiculous. Looking at what they have right now and what they’re likely to do in free agency at the spot (ie., not much), they better hope the other units can pick up some major slack or it’s going to get really ugly really fast.
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