Will this finally be the offseason “it” happens? Would the Eagles even consider “it”? They never invest in the position, so why do “it” now? So, What is “it” exactly? Folks, it’s the linebacker position! The positional group is currently a mess in South Philly. Lack of exceptional talent combined with no experience is a recipe for failure. Young talent is very present among the 2020 linebacker free-agent class. Numerous options are available for Howie Roseman to select a defensive playmaker on the Eagles defense.
Why does Howie need to sign a Top-Tier linebacker?
Lack of experience. The current linebacker group has limited starts in the NFL. Nathan Gerry is the lone consistent starter of the group. However, all of his starts came during the 2019 season. The rest of the linebacker corps (T.J. Edwards, Alex Singleton, and Duke Riley) have a combined 20 career starts (Riley-16). Howie Roseman needs to dive into the free-agent pool, and search for the Eagles Man in the middle.
The Eagles have a massive gap to fill with the departure of Nigel Bradham. The mystery is whether Howie Roseman will fill the void via free agency or through the draft. The dreams Eagles fans are having involving Isaiah Simmons, Kenneth Murray, or Patrick Queen in Midnight green are just that…. Dreams. We’ll need a time machine to go back to the year the Eagles selected a linebacker: 1979 (Jerry Robinson). Yeah, that’s not happening. Let’s dive into the free-agent pool and profile a few players that could be options for the Eagles this off-season.
One of the most productive linebackers over the last few seasons is set to become a free agent. Littleton is coming off two excellent seasons, finishing top ten in total tackles. As a result, Cory Littleton graded as the best tackler in the NFL last season by Pro Football Focus. Cory is long, athletic, and has a good eye for the ball. He displays excellent coverage skills and can beat defenders off the edge. Littleton has a slender build for a linebacker. He lacks the brute strength to break through the interior line of scrimmage. However, a defender who can finish a tackle would be a breath of fresh air for the Eagles defense. The price tag for Cory Littleton may fall in the 10-12 million dollar range in free agency.
Blake Martinez is a high-profile free agent in the 2020 class. The cheese head tackling machine compiled totals of 144, 144, and 155 over the last three seasons. Those totals landed him in the top ten three years in a row! Martinez does all the little things right. He displays good lateral speed and excellent pursuit to the ball carrier. However, one area of concern is pass coverage. Quarterbacks finished with 102 rating when targeting Blake Martinez in coverage. Martinez will demand a relatively high average annual value (AAV) in the upwards of 15+ million dollars. For the lack of playmaking ability he possesses, this should be a hard pass for Howie Roseman.
Joe Schobert exemplifies the qualities needed in a young linebacker. He oozes an intoxicating characteristic on the field the Eagles are missing: Playmaker. A 3-year starter for the Browns, Schobert finished top 10 in total tackles two of the last three seasons. The ability he displayed in coverage is impressive. Quarterbacks managed a 74.6 rating when targeting Schobert in coverage last season. The impression made in coverage is well documented in the stat sheet with four interceptions and 9 Passes defensed in 2019. The price tag shouldn’t be overly expensive compared to Blake Martinez. Hopefully, the Eagles can settle in the 10-million-dollar price range. Joe Schobert should be on Howie Roseman’s radar to significantly improve the 2nd level of the Eagles defense.
Jon Bostic can be labeled as an NFL journeyman in the last few seasons. He made stops with three teams over the previous three seasons. Those teams include the Colts, Steelers, and the Redskins. Bostic had a tremendous year with the Redskins last year, compiling 105 tackles with one sack. Bostic has the versatility to play both the MIKE AND SAM positions. Therefore, he should be an intriguing option in the free-agent market. Bostic has decent speed and is good at the point of attack. He does struggle in coverage and could be a liability in that regard. However, Philadelphia fans will fall in love with his physical style of play. He LOVES finishing the play with physicality. Jon Bostic would be an excellent complement with a higher tier free agent this offseason at a low price.
Nick Kwiatkowski is an interesting name to follow on the free-agent market. He spent four years in Chicago playing a utility role. Kwiatkowski is viewed as the relief pitcher of the Bears linebacker crew. That was the case when Danny Trevathan was injured in November. Kwiatkowski had an opportunity to make an immediate impact. He averaged eight tackles per game from November to the end of the season. Bears fans are gushing over his style of play. The brass in Chicago has an interesting decision to make this offseason. With Trevathan also due to be a free agent, Do they sign experience over upside? In the event that Bears management let Kwiatkowski walk out of the Bears facility, Howie Roseman should be waiting for him at the airport to escort Kwiatkowski to Philadelphia.
What is Howie Thinking?
Does Howie spend up at the linebacker position this off-season? Who knows. The opportunity is there for the Eagles to spend money on a position they have lacked for quite some time. The MIKE linebackers available on the market are exceptional choices in a year when the Eagles need to upgrade the position. The addition of a veteran presence in the middle will significantly improve the defense. Howie, the time is now to swoop in and snag a premier free agent to man the middle of the Eagles defense for years to come!