More Sports:

March 18, 2023

Mailbag: Who are some of the Eagles' free agent options at linebacker?

Eagles NFL
031823BobbyWagner Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Bobby Wagner

On Friday, we solicited questions for an Eagles mailbag via Twitter. Thank you as always for doing half the work for me. This will be Part I of a two-part mailbag.

Question from @mcilvadk4: What is the plan at linebacker? Will the Eagles use one of their first-round picks on a linebacker for the first time since Jerry Robinson?

The answer to the second part of that question is no, they will not. It feels like each year the national draft folks mock either linebackers or running backs to the Eagles in the first round, and the locals know that just isn't going to happen. This year it's running back. It's not a strong off-ball linebacker draft, at least at the top, but again, it's simply not something they do.

As far as what the plan is, the Eagles like to head into the draft with at least a reasonably competent player at each starting position. If you look at the depth chart, the two positions where there are obvious, glaring holes are linebacker and safety. The expectation is that Nakobe Dean will step into a starting role, but I imagine they'll sign a linebacker sometime between now and the draft to pair with Dean. As for who, I'll propose a few options:

Nicholas Morrow, Bears: The Raiders had success converting Morrow from a safety into a linebacker after signing him as an undrafted free agent in 2017. In 2020, Morrow allowed just 4.5 yards per target, per He was also a threat as a blitzer, as he collected three sacks and eight pressures on the season. In 2021, Morrow was a free agent, but he signed back with the Raiders on a fully guaranteed one-year deal worth $4.5 million. However, he suffered an ankle injury during training camp and missed the entire season. In 2022, he signed with the Bears and had a little bit of a down year in coverage, but led the team with 116 tackles.

Bobby Wagner, Rams: Wagner has been named All-Pro in each of the last nine (!) seasons, and he won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks during the 2013 season. Spoiler: He'll be in the Hall of Fame someday. He signed a five-year deal with the Rams worth $50 million last offseason, but the two sides "mutually agreed to part ways" in February. 

I'm not sure the Eagles want to / can pay a linebacker a ton of money, but they can certainly pitch the idea to Wagner that he can win again in Philly. As an added bonus, Wagner would not count toward the compensatory pick formula.

Denzel Perryman, Raiders: Perryman is an eight-year vet, and a solid, tough, smart MIKE linebacker who would allow Dean to play the WILL spot, where he is probably better suited. Nick Sirianni and Perryman had some overlap for three years with the Chargers from 2015-2017.

Question from EoSNick: How are you preparing for a return to bad Eagles linebacker play?

T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White weren't star players, but they were dependable (Edwards especially). "Dependable" is a big step up from whatever you'd call the Eagles' other linebacker tandems over the last half decade or so, so there is indeed some potential for a return to that.

Question from @NFLGimpy: What's the plan at safety if the Eagles don't sign anyone in free agency?

To begin, I guess we have to wait and see if the Eagles will re-sign Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. At the start of free agency, the Falcons signed Jessie Bates to a $16 million/year deal, but thereafter the safety market has been abysmal for the players. It's likely that Gardner-Johnson is disappointed in whatever offers he has received. We'll see what he eventually agrees to.

But like linebacker above, I would bet that the Eagles will be signing someone, just to have a competent player in place so that a need isn't forced in the draft. If Gardner-Johnson signs elsewhere or if the Eagles tire of waiting on him, then I think old friend Jalen Mills — who was just released by the Patriots — makes some sense as a safety who can also play corner if need be. Beyond Gardner-Johnson and Mills, there are still a ton of starting safeties still available on the open market.

Question from @NickBuckley77: Do you think Avonte Maddox will move to safety and Greedy Williams will play in the slot if the Eagles don’t sign Gardner-Johnson?

I do not. Slot corner is an important position. When Maddox was out last season and Josiah Scott filled in for him in the slot, opposing offenses went out of their way to attack Scott, and they had a lot of success. 

Maddox is one of the best slot corners in the league, when healthy, and it is pretty clearly his best position. If he were moved to safety, maybe he'd play well, maybe he wouldn't. But what I'd be pretty confident about is that whoever would fill in for him in the slot would be a downgrade. It's also probably worth noting that playing safety is more taxing on the body than slot corner, and Maddox has had durability concerns.

As for Williams, I think the Eagles are merely taking a flyer on a player who has some talent but who has not yet panned out after four NFL seasons. They'll get a good look at him in camp, but (a) he is not a player they are looking to depend on at this stage, and (b) he profiles more as an outside corner than in the slot.

Question from @JerseyStrong28: Could Josh Jobe be paired with Blankenship at safety? Could he be Jordan Poyer 2.0? Lance Zierlein wrote that he is likely to be pegged as a Cover 2 cornerback, but a move to safety might give Jobe his best chance for future success.

I too thought Jobe could maybe transition to safety in the NFL, so I asked an Eagles personnel guy about that after they signed him as a UDFA last year. The response I received:

"No. He's a 185-pound corner in the SEC with no experience there to project. Going to keep him at corner to start."

So unless things have changed (I don't think they have), Jobe will continue to be developed as a corner.

Question from @bumble_smith: Why do you think that Isaac Seumalo hasn't been signed yet? There are so many o-line needy teams that it feels odd that he hasn't been signed.

Agreed. I thought he might be a guy who got heavy attention on Day 1 of free agency, and it's very surprising that he has not yet signed anywhere after five days. He is coming off two very good seasons, and has the versatility to play all five positions (some more effectively than others, of course). At this point you have to wonder whether the Eagles would try to bring him back if there's a good enough bargain.

Question from @tlieberman12: How much was Chip willing to give up for Mariota and how much would that have changed the eagles future?

This was the reported deal:

I think it's safe to say the Eagles are lucky that the Titans and Buccaneers didn't budge.

Question from @Frizzle: Are the Eagles unveiling Kelly green this year?

We usually get our annual Kelly green update from Jeffrey Lurie at the NFL owners meetings. This year they will be held from March 27-29 in Phoenix. Lurie will probably talk either on the 27th or the 28th. I think he'll be announcing that Kelly green will be back as an alternate uniform in 2023.

R.I.P. Ed Krohn

One of our regular readers here at PhillyVoice was Ed Krohn (AKA "Death or Glory"), who for years shared his thoughts on the Birds and his Irish heritage, as well as his medical updates with the community that has grown in our comment sections. He faced several bouts of terminal cancer over the last decade and a half, beating the odds on three occasions, but recently passing away from pancreatic cancer.

Despite his poor health, Ed always remained a positive person, and someone who gave more than he received. In his professional career as a social worker he placed orphans with new families. 

Our regular commenters and I got to know Ed well through our online interactions, and I was lucky to have the opportunity to exchange emails with him on occasion. I considered him a friend, as I'm sure many others in our community did as well.

You can learn more about Ed — and help ease the financial burden on his family — here.

Thanks for being an inspiring part of our community, Ed. I knocked back an Irish car bomb or two in your honor yesterday. 

Follow Jimmy & PhillyVoice on Twitter: @JimmyKempski | thePhillyVoice

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports

Add Jimmy's RSS feed to your feed reader