Eagles

NFL free agency 2019: A comprehensive look at Eagles’ linebackers

NFL free agency 2019: A comprehensive look at Eagles’ linebackers

Reuben Frank, Dave Zangaro and Andrew Kulp continue the 2019 edition of Stay or Go, trying to figure out the future of the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Today, they’ll look at the linebackers. 

Jordan Hicks

Roob: This is a curious one. We all know Hicks can play. We all know he can’t stay healthy. I think this works in the Eagles’ favor. Nobody is going to give him a big free agent deal now, so I expect the Eagles to bring him back on a bargain-basement prove-it contract. Really, a no-risk move. If Hicks stays healthy and plays, great. If he doesn’t, no harm done.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: There’s probably a realistic scenario where Hicks doesn’t get a deal elsewhere and he comes back on the cheap with a prove-it deal. But I can’t shake what happened this season, when Nigel Bradham seemed to play much better in Hicks’ role. That’s why Hicks didn’t take back his old role when he came back in 2018. It’s a shame Hicks can’t stay healthy, but I just don’t think they can rely on him. 

Verdict: Goes 

Kulp: Probably not a good sign Hicks, a free agent, was replaced in the Eagles’ dime package down the stretch. Still, I think it would be a mistake to let him go. Injuries in three of four seasons, sure, but Hicks is a bright, young playmaker —  five sacks, seven interceptions, six fumble recoveries in 45 career games. If the market is soft, the Eagles should bring him back on a prove-it deal.

Verdict: Stays

Nigel Bradham

Roob: Bradham was very good the second half of the season, and his improved play was one of the reasons the defense as a unit played significantly better the second half of the season. After the first month of the season, Bradham became an every-down player and was on the field for 99 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps the last 14 games (916 of 928). Very versatile and very valuable guy.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: The Eagles could cut Bradham to save cap room, but why would they? He got off to a slower start this past season, but really started to play better when the Eagles really needed him. He’s gotta be their guy at linebacker going forward. He basically takes over as the LB who never leaves the field. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: Midway through the season, I was certain Bradham was gone. He really elevated his game in the second half though. That’s two years in a row where he’s been the Eagles’ most important linebacker. Nine million dollars might seem like a tall figure, but what's the alternative? The team needs him for now.

Verdict: Stays

Kamu Grugier-Hill

Roob: Grugier-Hill is another one who I thought was essentially a special teamer and emergency linebacker, but he was fine on defense this year, playing about a third of the defensive snaps after barely playing defense the year before. All these young, special teams-playing linebackers serve an important role with cheap contracts. That’s great value.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: KGH is a player. Sure, he made headlines for calling the Cowboys chokers, but his play all season was really good. He played well when he was in there on defense and is still a huge special teams contributor. As the weakside guy, he doesn’t play a ton on defense, but he still managed to make plays and he’s a great special teamer. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: Grugier-Hill led the Eagles for the second straight season with nine solo special teams tackles. He also did a respectable job as the team’s third linebacker, recording a sack, an interception and a forced fumble. KGH is a great insurance policy, maybe more. He’ll be 25 with a year left making the minimum, though an extension might be in order.

Verdict: Stays

Nate Gerry

Roob: Although he’s mainly a special teamer, Gerry played well enough in his linebacker cameos — 134 snaps the second half of the season — to really open some eyes. Ideally, your special teams linebackers should be viable backup position players, and the Eagles should feel comfortable in Gerry’s ability to play defense if he has to.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: He didn’t have many defensive plays this year, but he is a good special teams player. He’s entering Year 3 in 2019 and is still cheap. He might never be a starter, but he’s still valuable to have. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: There were some moments where Gerry showed a real nose for the football. It was only his second season at linebacker, so he’s still learning. Not sure he’ll ever be more than a competent part-time player, but Gerry is only turning 24, has two years on his contract and was third on the team in special teams snaps. He gets another season.

Verdict: Stays

D.J. Alexander

Roob: Alexander didn’t play any linebacker this year, but his 237 special teams snaps made him one of four players on the team who played more than half the team’s special teams. Alexander is an above-average special teamer who’s actually made a Pro Bowl in the past for his special teams work. We’ll see some changes at linebacker, but no reason for Alexander not to re-sign here.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: Alexander didn’t play at all on defense in 2019, but he’s another core special teams player. Injuries kept him off the field some in his first season with the Eagles. He’s a free agent, so the Eagles will need to re-sign him. Maybe they don’t. But I think he’s worth bringing back to keep some stability for Dave Fipp’s unit. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: Was fourth among linebackers in special teams snaps and saw zero action on defense. I think Alexander will sign elsewhere as a free agent. Teams need guys like him. The Eagles have a bunch already, not to mention will probably want to take a look at some players with more upside.

Verdict: Goes

B.J. Bello

Roob: Bello spent some time on the practice squad, some time on the active roster, played some special teams, never got on the field on defense. He’s still on his rookie contract from his stint with the Browns so there’s no reason he won’t be in camp with the Eagles, but ultimately I don’t see him sticking.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: He’s under contract, but I didn’t see much from Bello. He’ll be in camp this summer with a chance to make the roster. He’ll have a shot, but I’m thinking the Eagles move on. 

Verdict: Goes 

Kulp: There’s something to be said for a prospect who fought his way to the 53 after three months on the practice squad. Then again, he was inactive for the final game. Bello will get a longer look, but I imagine will fall victim to increased competition in camp.

Verdict: Goes

LaRoy Reynolds

Roob: Reynolds was quietly a very important piece of the Eagles’ special teams units. Reynolds has bounced around the league, but he’s only 27 and incredibly played 400 special teams snaps this year — 83 percent. He and Grugier-Hill were the only Eagles linebackers to play every game. Reynolds is a free agent, but unless he wants some sort of outlandish contract I’d definitely bring him back.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: Reynolds actually played a little bit on defense at times this season and was a special teams contributor, but he’s a free agent too. If I had to pick between Reynolds and Alexander, I’m sticking with Alexander, who is a year younger and has been a Pro Bowl ST player before. But I think they can bring both back and if Hicks is gone, Reynolds could have an even bigger role. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: This might surprise people: Reynolds played the most special teams snaps on the team in 2018, on the field for over 80 percent, and only Grugier-Hill came particularly close. Reynolds is due to become a free agent, though I wonder if he’ll even hit the market.

Verdict: Stays

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The Eagles all-time team: Is Jason Kelce the greatest center in team history?

The Eagles all-time team: Is Jason Kelce the greatest center in team history?

Throughout July, we are unveiling our all-time Eagles team. 

We enlisted the help of Eagles reporters Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro, Quick Slants hosts Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks and Quick Slants producer Mike Mulhern to handle the voting. 

Each voter ranked his top five players at 16 different positions. A first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote was worth four, and so on. 

Up next: Center

Complete voting:

1. Jason Kelce: 24
2. Jim Ringo: 19
3. Guy Morriss: 13
4. Raleigh McKenzie: 6
5. Vic Lindskog: 4
6. David Alexander: 3
6. Jamaal Jackson: 3
8. Hank Fraley: 2
9. Ken Farragut: 1

The breakdown: Not surprisingly, Jason Kelce wins easily, getting 24 of a possible 25 points and all but one first-place vote. Jim Ringo, a Hall of Famer and six-time All-Pro with the Packers who played his last four seasons with the Eagles, got the other first-place vote. Ringo got two second-place votes and two third-place votes. The other second-place votes went to Raleigh McKenzie — who was only here for two years — and Guy Morris, who played here for 11 years. Interesting to note that center was the only position on offense or defense in which nine different players got at least one vote.

Did we get it right? Ringo had a hell of a career, but all six of his All-Pro honors were with the Packers. Kelce is a three-time All-Pro as an Eagle as well as a three-time Pro Bowler. So this should have been unanimous. Kelce is by any measure the greatest center in Eagles history and one of the greatest of this generation. Lindskog, a starter on two NFL championship teams and a first-team All-Pro in 1951, should have been higher, but it’s hard to argue with the top three.

Complete team: 

We will fill in the team as we go. 

QB: Donovan McNabb 
RB: LeSean McCoy 
WR: Harold Carmichael 
WR: Mike Quick
WR: Tommy McDonald
TE: Zach Ertz 
OT: Jason Peters
OT: Lane Johnson 
OG: Brandon Brooks 
OG: Bucko Kilroy 
C: Jason Kelce 

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The Eagles all-time team: Brandon Brooks earns top OG spot

The Eagles all-time team: Brandon Brooks earns top OG spot

In the next few weeks, we will be unveiling our all-time Eagles team. 

We enlisted the help of Eagles reporters Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro, Quick Slants hosts Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks and Quick Slants producer Mike Mulhern for voting. 

We asked each person to rank their top five players at 16 different positions. A first-place vote was worth five points, a second-place vote was worth four, and so on. 

Up today: Offensive guard 

Complete voting:

1. Brandon Brooks: 24
2. Bucko Kilroy: 13
3. Shawn Andrews: 12
4. Evan Mathis: 11
5. Jermane Mayberry: 9 
6. Todd Herremans: 6

The breakdown: All but one of our voters put Brooks at No. 1, which is pretty impressive. Brooks has been with the Eagles since 2016 but has established himself as one of the best guards in the league. He’s been a Pro Bowler in each of his last three seasons. Kilroy played in the '40s and the '50s and finished as high as first and as low as fourth in our voting.

Did we get it right? I think we did. Brooks is a dominant guard and was a huge part of that Eagles’ Super Bowl championship. He’s already one of the best free agent pickups in team history and the Eagles made him the highest paid guard in the league for a reason. 

Now, Kilroy definitely has a case too. He played for the Eagles for a decade, was a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time NFL champion in ’48 and ’49. He went on to have a long career as an NFL executive and began his second career as an Eagles scout in 1960. 

After the top two, it’s amazing that Andrews came in third. Not undeserving, but he didn’t have a very long career. But the two-time Pro Bowler was about as good at his peak as we’ve ever seen. He never got to live up to that potential, but he was an all-time great for a short period. And Mathis and Mayberry were also Pro Bowlers for the Eagles. It was nice to see Herremans get some votes. He was an important role player for many years.  

Complete team: 

We will fill in the team as we go. 

QB: Donovan McNabb 
RB: LeSean McCoy 
WR: Harold Carmichael 
WR: Mike Quick
WR: Tommy McDonald
TE: Zach Ertz 
OT: Jason Peters
OT: Lane Johnson 
OG: Brandon Brooks 
OG: Bucko Kilroy 

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