As desperate as the Eagles are for cornerbacks and wide receivers this offseason, linebacker is a pretty big need as well, especially after they parted ways with Nigel Bradham.
Another intriguing name became available on Tuesday.
The Browns on Tuesday morning released linebacker Christian Kirksey, who has been a good player in the NFL when healthy.
That last part is important. Kirksey has played in just nine games in the last two seasons.
But Kirksey, 27, would be a nice upgrade for the Eagles, who have been trying bargain-bin options for the last several years. But because of his recent injury history, Kirksey might not cost a ton.
The Browns released Kirksey (6-2, 235) for obvious reasons. He had base salaries of $7.75M and $8.25M in 2020 and 2021. Cutting him saves the Browns a lot of cap space. According to Cleveland.com, the Browns tried to keep Kirksey at a cheaper price but the two sides decided to part.
Kirksey was a third-round pick out of Iowa back in 2014 and played in all 16 games in each of his first four seasons in the NFL. Through his first four NFL seasons, Kirksey played in 64 games (45 starts) and had 27 TFLs, 11 1/2 sacks and 4 FFs. He was a good player.
His best seasons came in 2016-2017, when Kirksey played and started all 32 games and played at a really high level.
But he managed to play just seven games in 2018, ending the season on IR with a hamstring injury. And in 2019, he played just two games, ending another season on IR, this time with a torn pec that needed surgery.
So this depends on how you view Kirksey. Is he injury-prone? Or has he just had some bad luck the last two seasons?
When he was healthy, Kirksey was an athletic linebacker with sideline-to-sideline speed. He was able to perform well in a 3-4, but kept his level of play high in Gregg Williams’ 4-3 scheme in 2017 too. His best fit with the Eagles would probably be at the WILL.
For what it’s worth, the Eagles reportedly had Kirksey in for a pre-draft visit in 2014. While he didn’t run at the combine, Kirksey reportedly ran a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day. To put that into perspective, that would have been the fastest time among all linebackers at the 2014 combine.
Even if he didn’t run a 4.48, Kirksey was really fast coming out of college. And if any of that speed is still there, he’s intriguing.
The Eagles right now don’t have much at linebacker. Their only linebackers under contract are Nathan Gerry, T.J. Edwards, Duke Riley and Alex Singleton. They’re obviously in desperate need of some help at a spot.
While there’s obvious risk in signing a guy like Kirksey, he might end up being a low-risk, high-reward type of player. That’s the kind of bargain the Eagles would probably love at linebacker, a position they have admittedly devalued.
Just think about some of the free agent linebackers the Eagles have signed over the past couple seasons: L.J. Fort, Zach Brown, Paul Worrilow, LaRoy Reynolds, Corey Nelson.
A couple of those guys — talking about Fort and Nelson — were special teamers the Eagles were hoping could blossom into defensive players. That didn’t happen in either case. But that’s why those guys didn’t break the bank. Theoretically, the reason Kirksey wouldn’t cost too much is because of injury.
If Kirksey needs a prove-it deal, the Eagles should be interested in giving it to him.
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