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11 linebacker options for the Eagles after losing Jatavis Brown to retirement

The Philadelphia Eagles were looking pretty thin at linebacker prior to Jatavis Brown unexpectedly retiring from the NFL on Sunday afternoon. Now they’re looking even thinner.

The Eagles might just choose to move forward with their internal options. But it’s a very young and inexperienced group:

Alex Singleton — 26 years old, 0 career starts
Duke Riley — 25 years old, 16 career starts
Nathan Gerry — 25 years old, 15 career starts
T.J. Edwards — 23 years old, 4 career starts
Shaun Bradley — 23 years old, 0 career starts
Dante Olson — 23 years old, 0 career starts
Davion Taylor — 22 years old, 0 career starts

That’s an average age of 23.8 years old and a total of 35 combined starts.

It’d be understandable if the Eagles are looking to add some more depth and experience to their linebacker corps. The options obviously aren’t going to be very good at this time of year but let’s run through them anyway.

JALEN REEVES-MAYBIN

Wait. Who?

Believe it or not, this is probably the most intriguing option. And it might not be very realistic considering JRM is under contract with the Detroit Lions and might need to be acquired via trade.

But the Lions could be willing to move on from JRM, who is in the final year of his rookie deal. He showed promise in coverage as a rookie but hasn’t proved to be a good fit for Matt Patricia’s defense. JRM only has three starts in 39 games played.

JRM fits the mold the Eagles value. And by that I mean the 25-year-old is an undersized and athletic defender with experience as a hybrid linebacker/safety.

Pro Football Focus also graded out JRM as the 12th best special teams player in the league last year. So, even if he can’t help on defense, he could at least help in that area.

Trading for JRM shouldn’t cost much. Maybe a conditional seventh-round pick? Or a roster bubble player like, say, Sua Opeta?

MARK BARRON

The Pittsburgh Steelers released Barron in March to clear $5.25 million in cap space. Not an extermely difficult decision to move on from a merely adequate and aging linebacker with one forced fumble and one interception in his last 27 games played.

Barron turns 31 this season and his best football is probably behind him. Still, he brings experience to the table with 102 career starts. PFF had Barron graded out only one spot lower than Nathan Gerry in 2019. The No. 7 overall pick from the 2012 NFL Draft also boasts hybrid experience after starting out at safety before moving to linebacker in 2015.

Barron could be the best bet if the Eagles are looking to add a seasoned vet.

ALEC OGLETREE

The New York Giants released Ogletree to clear $8.25 million in cap space earlier this year.

The soon-to-be 29-year-old doesn’t lack experience with 93 career starts under his belt. But I can’t imagine the Eagles will be itching to sign the dude they’ve seen regularly dusted by Zach Ertz twice per season. Ogletree was often a liability in coverage for the Giants.

PRESTON BROWN

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz trusted Brown enough to have him start 14 games for the Buffalo Bills as a rookie in 2014. The Eagles haven’t shown any interest in Brown when he’s been available in recent years, so they’re hardly dying to have him. He’s 27 years old, though, and he’s logged 77 career starts. Maybe worth a look? Or maybe not considering he was 94th out of 104 linebackers graded by PFF last year.

WESLEY WOODYARD

Woodyard boasts a wealth of experience with 110 starts in 180 games played since 2008. He also turned 34 years old in July, which makes one think he’s too old for the Eagles’ preference. It’s worth noting that PFF had Woodyard graded at 65th just behind Gerry and Barron last year.

DARRON LEE

The No. 20 overall pick by the New York Jets in the 2016 NFL Draft is still only 25 years old. Lee’s notched 38 starts in 56 career games played and he fits that undersized but athletic Eagles mold:

Lee hasn’t graded out favorably by PFF but he’s pretty young and athletic. Why not take a shot for a minimum contract? Kind of replaces what Brown could’ve offered.

VONTAZE BURFICT

Do I really have to explain why I don’t think this is realistic?

PAUL WORRILOW

The Eagles originally signed Worrilow during the 2018 offseason. He suffered an unfortunate ACL injury on the first day of OTAs. The Eagles re-signed Worrilow during the 2019 offseason but the Eagles cut him in mid-August last year. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens for a like a day before requesting his release to contemplate his NFL career. Worrilow worked out for the Eagles during the 2019 season before reuniting with Joe Douglas on the New York Jets. He only appeared on special teams with the J-e-t-s. Worrilow’s a local guy as a Wilmington, Delaware native so he’s not too far if the Eagles need to call the 30-year-old veteran.

NAJEE GOODE

Najee’s the kind of signing the Eagles might make if they get decimated by in-season injuries. No need to bring him in right now.

MYCHAL KENDRICKS

Fans might like to see this one but Schwartz isn’t really a big fan. Not to mention that Kendricks is still awaiting sentencing (and possible jail-time?) for his inside trading charge. I just don’t see a reunion happening here.

COREY NELSON

The Eagles liked him enough to sign him on the first day of free agency in March 2018. But then they released him ahead of final cuts. Probably not going to be bringing him back.


WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

The expectation here is that the Eagles will roll with their in-house options. A low-cost trade for someone of JRM’s ilk could be the most realistic addition. I don’t see them seriously going after one of the older guys. The Eagles could look to add a linebacker through waivers if/when some options become available after final cuts.

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