The700Level
USA Today Images

Eagles' quandary — Nigel Bradham or Mychal Kendricks?

Would you rather have Nigel Bradham or Mychal Kendricks playing linebacker for the Eagles next season?

The same question is probably being asked in the Eagles’ front office right now.

Why not keep both Bradham and Kendricks? The makeshift linebacker tandem turned out to be a successful part of the formula for an Eagles’ world championship, so what's wrong with the status quo?

Bradham is set to become a free agent in March, and will likely command a significant pay raise from the cap-strapped Eagles. As for Kendricks, he undoubtedly isn’t excited over the prospect of returning to the bench once Jordan Hicks recovers from a ruptured Achilles tendon.

If Bradham, Kendricks and the Eagles were on NFL Facebook, their relationship statuses would be set to, “It’s complicated.”

The Eagles are currently over the projected salary cap for 2018. Bradham has surely earned better than the two-year deal worth $7 million he signed in ’16. Kendricks is set to cost the club $7.6 million against the cap alone next season. And while Hicks is still on his rookie contract, he’s entering the final year and a candidate for an extension.

Even if the club can somehow afford to pay all three, that doesn’t seem like a judicious use of resources. The Eagles defense employs two linebackers roughly 75 percent of the time, which means one of the trio isn’t on the field very often. Injury took care of that last season. The previous year, it was Kendricks.

Faced with the prospect of a limited role for a second season straight season, Kendricks requested a trade last offseason. The Eagles denied him, and it was a lucky thing – for everybody.

Though Kendricks was obviously happy to be an integral part of an Eagles Super Bowl run, he hinted a lack of playing time could once again become a source of frustration in ‘18.

"After this season, we'll be right back at square one, right? Every season is a new season," Kendricks said in January.

If the Eagles want to retain Bradham and eventually extend Hicks, as many observers suspect, Kendricks may finally get his wish.

Kendricks winds up on the hypothetical trade block every offseason, to the point where the mere suggestion is akin to crying wolf. The 27-year-old is also coming off of a strong year after a couple of disappointing campaigns for the Eagles, and actually might be of value to another team this time around.

That assumes the Eagles prefer Bradham to Kendricks, which isn’t necessarily the case. Both were highly effective. Including playoffs, Bradham finished last season with 103 tackles, 2.0 sacks, nine pass breakups and one forced fumble; Kendricks with 93 tackles, 2.0 sacks, seven pass breakups in one fewer game.

Either way, the Eagles should priotize one over the other.

Hicks’ recovery may be a factor. If the Eagles are at all concerned he won’t come back 100 percent, Bradham and Kendricks could both return

In any other scenario, retaining all three is just overkill.