February 11, 2022
Now that the Philadelphia Eagles' 2021 season is over, we'll be taking a position-by-position look at which players will likely be back with the team in 2022, and which ones likely won't. Today we'll look at linebacker.
In previous offseasons, we've tackled each positional group "in order," as in, quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, and then onto the defense. Just as a quick programming note, I'm going to jump around a little more this year, so if you're wondering if you missed the quarterbacks, no, we haven't published that one yet.
On 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.
Prior to the start of the 2021 season, Edwards was available for trade, but no acceptable offers came the Eagles' way. Over the first seven weeks of the season, there wasn't a single game in which Edwards played more than 41 percent of the team's defensive snaps.
Edwards eventually proved that he was clearly the Eagles' best linebacker, and over the final 8 weeks of the regular season, there wasn't a single game in which he played fewer than 92 percent of the snaps.
Despite his low usage early on, Edwards still finished 17th in the NFL with 130 tackles. Over the last nine games (when he became a three-down linebacker), Edwards averaged 10.9 tackles per game. During that stretch, he also had an INT and 5 pass breakups.
#JimmyVerdict: Edwards is under contract through 2022. I don't know if he's necessarily a great candidate for a long-term contract extension since the team previously did not seem to view him as a great fit for Jonathan Gannon's defense, but he also proved that he's better than anyone else they have, even if athletically limited. Stay.
After a rough rookie season in 2020, Taylor started six games for the Eagles in the middle of the season in 2021 against the Buccaneers, Raiders, Lions, Chargers, Broncos, and Saints. He suffered a sprained knee against the Saints, went on injured reserve, and was done for the season, though it took some time for the Eagles to actually say so.
Taylor had his best game as a pro in Denver Week 10, when he forced a pair of fumbles against the Broncos, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Darius Slay.
#JimmyVerdict: Taylor was drafted as a raw prospect, and while he still has a lot improve on as a professional linebacker and there are now some durability concerns, he made positive strides during the 2021 season, and will be a candidate to start in 2022. Stay.
This may come as a surprise to some, but Singleton finished 13th in the NFL with 137 tackles. He also missed 20 tackles, according to pro-football-reference.com, and he struggled in coverage.
Singleton is a restricted free agent, and he will count for $2,433,000 on the 2022 cap if the Eagles tender him at the "right of first refusal" level. Singleton has started 19 games over the last two seasons, but that was due more to necessity than a true desire to have him on the field at all times.
On the one hand, Singleton probably isn't worth $2.4 million on the cap. On the other hand, he has at least been a competent backup.
#JimmyVerdict: The guess here is that he and Eagles find some sort of middle ground in between the right of first refusal tender, and the league minimum. Stay.
When Howie Roseman traded the Eagles' 2021 fourth round pick for Avery at the 2019 trade deadline, it didn't make much sense then, and it hasn't aged well. Jim Schwartz had little use for Avery in 2019 or 2020, but Avery stuck on the roster, likely because Roseman wanted it to work. In 2021, under Gannon, Avery found a home at the SAM linebacker spot, where he struggled both in run support and in coverage, with his pass rushing ability not making up for those deficiencies.
#JimmyVerdict: Avery is a free agent this offseason, and there's no good reason to bring him back. Go.
Bradley led the Eagles with 11 special teams tackles, and he was the reason Edwards blocked a punt against the Panthers, which changed that game.
As a linebacker in the regular defense, it's been disappointing that Bradley hasn't gotten many chances after he showed promise as a rookie in 2020.
#JimmyVerdict: Bradley has developed into a good special teams player, and I believe he can be a good backup linebacker as well, if given more opportunities to play in the regular defense. Stay.
After a good training camp, Johnson earned a role in the regular defense as a SAM linebacker, playing 48 snaps in the regular defense in the first three games. He must've gotten into Gannon's doghouse, because the meaningless Week 18 game aside, Johnson only played 9 snaps in the regular defense the rest of the season.
#JimmyVerdict: Johnson mainly rushed the passer in his college career at Tulane, so moving to SAM linebacker was a bit of an adjustment in his rookie season. Perhaps more opportunities are forthcoming if the Eagles move on from Avery, as they should. Stay.
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