Eagles Offseason Outlook: Inside Linebacker
Throughout the next two weeks, we’ll take a position-by-position look at where the Eagles stand going into the offseason. We have covered the quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line and outside linebackers so far. Now it’s on to the inside linebackers.
STATE OF THE ROSTER
The Eagles have quite a few decisions to make at this spot. The starters at the beginning of last year were DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks.
Despite missing four games, Kendricks finished second on the team with 108 tackles, according to stats kept by the coaches. He had four sacks, three hurries, two passes batted down and three forced fumbles in what was an extremely productive year.
Ryans was playing well also before suffering an Achilles’ injury during the Texans game on Nov. 2. It’s the second time he’s suffered the injury, and at the age of 30, he’s looking at another offseason of rehab.
Najee Goode, who suffered an injury in Week 1, and Emmanuel Acho are both under contract. Casey Matthews, who got the bulk of the snaps after Ryans went down, is a free agent.
WHAT I THINK WILL HAPPEN
What Chip Kelly and Ed Marynowitz do with Ryans will be telling. Ryans is probably the most respected guy in the locker room, a true professional who is well-liked by teammates.
He’ll also turn 31 in July and carries a $6.9M cap hit. The way his contract is structured, the Eagles would not be on the hook for any dead money if they were to let Ryans go.
At the end of the season, Kelly said: “We need DeMeco. I’m a big DeMeco fan. As a group, he really sets the tone for everybody on the defensive side of the ball. So it’s just a matter of getting DeMeco healthy again.”
On the other hand, the run defense didn’t really see a fall-off after Ryans went down. They were fifth against the run in DVOA at the time of his injury and finished the season sixth against the run.
When healthy, Ryans is a productive player, and his #culture rating is through the roof. But the Eagles have to determine when he’ll be 100 percent healthy and what their other options are. At this point, I really have no clue which direction they’re going to go in. There are too many variables: what happens in free agency, what happens in the draft and how quickly Ryans can rehab.
As for Kendricks, he’s under contract but is eligible to renegotiate a new deal. Kendricks has shown he can be a playmaker in this scheme and is a very good three-down linebacker. If I’m the Eagles, I’m looking to extend him long-term as a foundation piece of the defense. And I think they will try to do that.
I think there’s a pretty good chance the team re-signs Matthews. He showed last year that he could serve a backup role and play special teams. Plus, it’s not like he’s going to cost much.
THE FREE AGENT LIST
Here are the top-10 inside linebacker options, per Rotoworld:
1. Brandon Spikes
2. David Harris
3. Mason Foster
4. Rolando McClain
5. Rey Maualuga
6. Jamari Lattimore
7. Larry Foote
8. Nate Irving
9. Colin McCarthy
10. Dane Fletcher
Overall, it’s a weak group. The Eagles could add someone in the Matthews/Acho mold, but there aren’t many big names out there.
The draft, however, is a different story. It’d be no surprise to see the Eagles address inside linebacker in the early rounds.