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May 24, 2018

Three free agent linebackers who make sense for the Eagles

With the Philadelphia Eagles releasing Mychal Kendricks and losing Paul Worrilow to a torn ACL on Tuesday, they could use some added help at linebacker.

Allow me to preemptively note that the following players are still available in late May because they aren't particularly appealing to teams around the league for varying reasons. With that disclaimer out of the way, here's what I came up with:

•  Dannell Ellerbe: Ellerbe earned a Super Bowl ring with the Eagles as a late-season rental after an assortment of linebackers didn't work out. As we noted during our "stay or go" series, he was unlikely to be back in 2018, though the team could keep him on speed dial during the season just in case.

With Nigel Bradham and Kendricks manning the nickel linebacker roles, Ellerbe made sense for the Eagles a year ago as a run-stopping MIKE linebacker in the base defense who didn't have to play many snaps. 

With Kendricks gone this year instead of MIKE linebacker Jordan Hicks, the Eagles' need for a player like Ellerbe isn't quite the same as it was a year ago. My sense is that the Eagles would prefer to add a linebacker who is more geared toward coverage than stopping the run, though Ellerbe does have the advantage of knowing the scheme, and potentially serving as some kind of insurance if Hicks went down again. 

•  Keenan Robinson: Robinson played the first four years of his career in Washington, then signed with the Giants in 2016. He played in 16 games, starting 6, and was competent in coverage while serving as a nickel linebacker. He had 7 pass breakups that season, in addition to 82 total tackles on 780 defensive snaps. In 2017, he dealt with a concussion during training camp and had his season cut short in November after suffering a quadriceps injury.

At 6'3, 245, Robinson has good size, and could be a good fit both as a backup to Hicks in the middle of the defense, and as a player capable of playing in nickel on obvious passing downs.

•  Mike Mitchell: In the similar way that Jim Schwartz likes his safeties to have cornerback experience in their backgrounds, He has also shown interest in undersized linebackers who were formerly safeties. For example, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry both played safety in college.

Mitchell has played safety in the NFL for nine years with the Raiders, Panthers, and Steelers, and he will turn 31 in June. At 6'1, 221, he is a very big safety in the modern NFL, and big enough to play linebacker. He is certainly physical enough for the linebacker position:

This thinking is perhaps a little too out of the box, but with a need both for linebacker and safety, Mitchell could be a versatile reserve who could help at both positions. 

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