With an eye on improving depth and adding experience and a proven track record, the Eagles signed linebacker Shaquille Leonard to a one-year contract on Monday.
Leonard joins a linebacker corps that has been challenged by injuries: Nakobe Dean is on Injured Reserve with a foot injury and Zach Cunningham missed Sunday's game against the 49ers because of a hamstring injury. The Eagles have three off-ball linebackers on their active roster – Christian Elliss, Nicholas Morrow, and Ben VanSumeren.
Head Coach Nick Sirianni is very familiar with Leonard from their days together with the Colts, with whom Leonard, a second-round draft pick (No. 36 overall) played from 2018 until just a couple of weeks ago. Leonard was a three-time first-team All-Pro, once a second-team All-Pro, and a three-time Pro Bowl player. He was the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018.
In short, Leonard was a star from the time he stepped on an NFL field.
"He made a lot of plays, that's for sure," Sirianni said. "He had a knack for the football and how to get the football. What I remember is just how, as an offensive coordinator, how hard he was to throw around. His length was comparable to Jim Boeheim's (former college head basketball coach) 2-3 zone at Syracuse. He's going to make a play in the passing lane.
"He was a great teammate and I really enjoyed being around him. I still have a relationship with him. I think he is a great person, great teammate, and like I said, the main thing was the ball and the length that come to mind with that."
Injuries in the 2022 season, including one resulting from offseason back surgery, along with a broken nose and a concussion, limited his play and Leonard saw action in just three games that season. This year, Leonard registered 65 total tackles, including 2 for loss, in nine games.
He visited the Dallas Cowboys first and then the Eagles at the NovaCare Complex last Wednesday before making his decision to join Philadelphia. Sirianni talked that day about his "pitch" to Leonard on joining the Eagles.
"All I'll ever do is just be honest with him and tell him what the situation is here, what the situation is in this building," Sirianni said. "I think the pitch is just the guys that we have in this building, and some of them he has a prior relationship, too. I want Shaq to make the decision that's best for him. Because, again, when there is that prior relationship you want to make sure – and that's what I said to him, 'I just want you to make the best decision for you. Take all the information from both places and do what's best for you.'
"So, I've called him a bunch the last couple days, and, shoot, he'll make the decision that's best for him. I'm confident in that. He's a good person."
And now he's an Eagle, who has the experience and the talent to help the Eagles down the stretch of this 2023 season.