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March 02, 2023

Eagles stay or go: Off-ball linebacker

What should the Eagles do with their off-ball linebackers?

Eagles NFL
022223TJEdwardsKyzirWhite Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports

Eagles LBs Kyzir White and T.J. Edwards

Now that the Philadelphia Eagles' 2022 season is over (a little later than usual), we'll be taking a position-by-position look at which players will likely be back with the team in 2023, and which ones likely won't. Today we'll look at the off-ball linebackers.

Regarding the polls below, they are your votes on what you think the Eagles should do, not necessarily what you think they will do. Please think of them more as approval polls for each player.

Previous stay or go articles
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end
Offensive tackle | Interior offensive line
Defensive tackleDefensive endSAM linebackers

T.J. Edwards

Edwards had 159 tackles on the season (10 for loss), including nine games in which he had double-digit tackles. He also chipped in two sacks and seven pass breakups. Those 159 tackles were good for seventh in the NFL, and the next-closest Eagles tackler (Kyzir White) had 49 fewer tackles.

Edwards is a tough, physical, instinctive linebacker who has seen his role increase each year after signing with the team as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2019. In those four seasons, he has become the Eagles' best linebacker, albeit on a team that doesn't place a high value on the position. It's fair to also note that while Edwards has made himself into a quality starting linebacker, he is also always going to be limited athletically, and the Chiefs were able to take advantage of him and White in the middle of the field in the Super Bowl.

#JimmyVerdict: Edwards will be a free agent this offseason. He is a leader on the defense and the "green dot" signal caller, but the Eagles do still have to be careful in their internal evaluations of him. If, say, Jonathan Gannon convinces the Cardinals to throw a boatload of money at Edwards to be his signal caller while he implements his defensive scheme in Arizona, then the Eagles have to be careful not to overpay to retain him.

Ultimately, I believe the Eagles value their homegrown players and a deal will get worked out. Stay.

Eagles stay or go: T.J. Edwards

Kyzir White

Over the last half decade-plus, the Eagles had their share of free agent linebacker acquisitions who failed to even make it through a full season with the team, like Corey Nelson, Paul Worrilow, LaRoy Reynolds, L.J. Fort, Zach Brown, Jatavis Brown, and Eric Wilson. They have also had some terrible linebackers who did make it through full seasons that Eagles fan perhaps wished hadn't, like Nate Gerry, for example.

In that sense, providing competent linebacker play was a low bar for White to clear, which he did, at least comparatively speaking. On the season, he had 110 tackles (three for loss), and seven pass breakups. He rarely made major, easily identifiable errors resulting in big plays for the offense, and he also did not make any big plays in terms of takeaways, for the defense. He was a solid linebacker on a reasonable one-year deal.

#JimmyVerdict: Assuming the Eagles believe in Nakobe Dean to become a starter, it's unlikely that White will be back. Honestly, it would be alarming if the Eagles brought back both Edwards and White, signaling that they do not think Dean is ready. Go.

Eagles stay or go: Kyzir White

Nakobe Dean

When the Eagles' selected Dean in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, it was widely hailed as a steal. Many (self included) thought that Dean had a chance to start as a rookie in the Eagles' defense. It didn't happen that way, as he had a quiet training camp, while Edwards and White made plays regularly in practice.

Dean is challenged by his lack of ideal size, and he isn't an elite athlete by NFL standards. He'll have to rely on his instincts and intelligence at the NFL level. At some point, if his professional career follows in the same path as his college career, he'll be one of the smartest players on the field, but he didn't have that advantage last summer while trying to learn two positions (MIKE and WILL) simultaneously in a new defensive scheme.

Edwards and White earned starting roles, and mostly stayed healthy in 2022, keeping Dean sidelined. Dean did get some action in a December game against the Titans, and he had a promising performance

#JimmyVerdict: With both Edwards and White scheduled to be unrestricted free agents (as noted above), the Eagles could be counting on Dean for a bigger role in 2023. Stay.

Eagles stay or go: Nakobe Dean

Shaun Bradley

Bradley was a core special teamer once again this season, but interestingly he did not play a single snap in the regular defense. Like, not even in any of the Eagles' blowout wins. He played in 15 games and had seven tackles. His season ended when he was placed on injured reserve prior to the Eagles' Week 18 game against the Giants.

#JimmyVerdict: Bradley should be back in camp, but his roster spot will be challenged by Christian Elliss.

Eagles stay or go: Shaun Bradley

Christian Elliss

Elliss spent the first few months of the season on the practice squad, but was elevated a few times to play on special teams, and was eventually activated to the 53-man roster. Including the playoffs, he played in nine games, making 12 tackles. Unlike Bradley, Elliss appeared in a four games in the regular defense.

#JimmyVerdict: I like Elliss' chances of unseating Bradley and Kyron Johnson as the top special teams linebacker. Stay.

Eagles stay or go: Christian Elliss

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