The sample size was limited, just seven games with five starts in 2019, but defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway did enough in his first season as a Philadelphia Eagle to earn a new contract just days before the NFL's 2020 League Year is set to open. The Eagles announced on Monday that they've agreed to terms with Ridgeway on a one-year contract, helping shore up a position that was devastated by injury last season. Ridgeway was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at 4 PM on Wednesday.
Acquired during draft weekend last spring from the Colts in exchange for a seventh-round selection, Ridgeway enters his fifth NFL season, giving the Eagles some valuable depth along the interior of the defensive line. Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson project as the starters at tackle, with Ridgeway and an emerging Anthony Rush, who played well in ramped-up duty last season, as the backups.
That, of course, is subject to change as the Eagles continue to address the roster throughout this offseason.
Certainly, Ridgeway delivered with a pair of quarterback sacks, 10 total tackles, including six for yardage lost, in just 242 total defensive snaps last season.
"He's a guy that we've been talking about for a long time with them," Howie Roseman said of Ridgeway when the trade was made last spring. "It just came at the end of the seventh round, and we had been talking about trying to find a fit, and they had kind of a player they wanted, and we're continuing to look for guys who can help us up front, and we think this guy fits our scheme. We think he's got a chance to develop into a good player for us. He's young. He's 24 years old (now 25). We have guys on our staff that were in Indy and drafted him. We have guys that were with him in Indianapolis. We feel we know the player. He's still young, so it gives him an opportunity to come here and get a second chance. We're excited about that move."
Ridgeway suffered an ankle injury in October and was placed on Injured Reserve on October 23, ending his 2019 season. The Eagles see him as an explosive presence inside who can give the defense quality snaps and who can help a unit that ranked third in the NFL in run defense a year ago as well as provide some punch rushing the quarterback.
A fourth-round draft pick in 2016 (116th player selected overall), Ridgeway played a key role with the Colts as a rookie, seeing action on 442 defensive snaps and recording 1.5 quarterback sacks, along with 21 total tackles. He had a career-high three quarterback sacks a season later even as his playing time decreased (only 177 snaps in 13 games) and in 2018 injuries limited Ridgeway to five games and 65 defensive snaps.
Ridgeway is a better fit in the Eagles' attacking style of getting up the field. That's what Jim Schwartz wants from his defensive line – to disrupt blocking schemes and create mayhem.
"I think one guy that's really made a lot of strides since we got him, because we got him right at the draft, has been Ridgeway, defensive lineman," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said last May. "We play a different style up front and sometimes players don't look good right away, but he made a quick transition to what we do, and he's been impressive out here."
The Eagles are hoping that Ridgeway further acclimates to the defensive scheme with a full offseason of activity in the program and on the field. The next step is staying healthy for the 6-3, 305-pound Ridgeway as the Eagles address the defensive line two days before the unrestricted free agency period is set to start.