The Philadelphia Eagles are coming off their greatest season in franchise history that culminated in winning their first Super Bowl title. The team overcame a bevy of injuries on both sides of the ball that made their improbable season even more special.
One of those injuries was to starting middle linebacker Jordan Hicks. Hicks has been an anchor in the middle of Jim Schwartz’s 4-3 defense for the last two seasons and the signal caller on that side of the ball. Hicks went down with a ruptured Achilles early last season. Role players stepped up and Philly got the job done in the end.
Hicks’ situation and some others regarding Philadelphia linebackers are part of the reason that makes the linebacker position one of the biggest that needs to be improved or stabilized this offseason.
Fixing the Philadelphia Eagles Linebacker Need This Off-Season
All the Linebackers’ Futures are Unknown
Heading into this offseason, the linebacking corps is a huge question that needs to be answered by Howie Roseman. Hicks, while being super talented, has a serious injury history, Mychal Kendricks has been up and down over the past year and may be a trade victim and veteran Nigel Bradham is an impending free agent. It’s safe to say that all the starting linebackers from last season really have unknown futures here in Philadelphia.
Things need to happen before training camp begins for this group of players. Here are some options the Eagles can take.
Re-Sign Nigel Bradham
This makes the most sense for the Eagles. You are bringing back the same face the defense and Schwartz know the best. He fits so perfectly in Schwartz’s scheme and has for the last couple of seasons Bradham has been under Schwartz, dating back to their time together with the Buffalo Bills.
Bradham is also extremely productive. In his two years in Philly, he has 190 combined tackles and he stays healthy. He has started and played in 31 of the 32 regular season games over the past two seasons. He is big, strong and physical and a fantastic tackler, something no defensive coordinator should ever take for granted.
He is 28 years old. For his age, the money he might want in free agency he might not get. The Eagles could wait a little bit after free agency to see the kind of offers he gets. Or they could be the first ones to talk to Bradham and work out a different deal.
If Bradham doesn’t get what he wants initially in free agency, the Eagles can swoop in and be his best bidder. In that situation, it could be very realistic to take a smaller deal at a place he knows best.
Draft Rashaan Evans
Regardless of what happens to Bradham, Hicks’ inability to consistently stay healthy will need to be addressed. Without Hicks this year, it was no secret the defense took a step back and lost their main signal caller.
One way to fix that and add depth behind Hicks is to get Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans. Evans is projected to be a late first-round draft choice, right where the Eagles sit.
Evans was second-team All-SEC this past season. He was tied for the team lead with 74 tackles, led the team with 13 tackles for loss and accumulated six sacks and three pass breakups at the middle linebacker spot. On the biggest stage, he racked up 18 tackles in two playoff games.
At 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds, Evans is a violent finisher. To compliment his quickness and speed, he is a great reader of offenses. One of his biggest strengths was shedding blocks and getting into the backfield to disrupt the running game.
Schwartz doesn’t blitz too much, but his ability to shed blockers and blow up the running game will fit in any offense. He could be the perfect fit behind Hicks or even transition to an outside linebacker spot if Bradham, Kendricks or both are gone.