In this extremely busy period of time when players are making decisions on their next stops in the NFL, safety Rodney McLeod is staying an Eagle. The team announced on Tuesday that McLeod agreed to terms on a two-year contract, a big move for a defense that has some questions to answer in the defensive secondary.
McLeod started 16 games in 2019 and recorded 108 total tackles, second highest on the team. He also had 10 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and an interception coming back from a 2018 campaign in which he suffered a knee injury in Week 3 and was lost for the remainder of the season.
"Rodney is able to do a lot of things for us," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said during the season. "He's a versatile guy. He's a leader back there. Since he got here, he's been a big part in what we do."
The Eagles signed McLeod in 2016 as an unrestricted free agent after McLeod played four seasons in St. Louis. McLeod is one of two NFL safeties with 10-plus interceptions (he has 13) and 10 forced fumbles (he has 11) since 2014. He's got range to cover in the passing game and he brings it as a tackler supporting the running game.
With uncertainty in the secondary – cornerback Ronald Darby is scheduled to become unrestricted free agent on Wednesday at 4 PM and the team announced earlier on Tuesday that it wouldn't exercise Malcolm Jenkins' contract option for 2020 – keeping McLeod was important. And the Eagles got it done.
McLeod's most significant hurdle came after he suffered the knee injury in 2018. It was a long and very difficult rehabilitation, but McLeod was able to recuperate and join the starting lineup for last season's opener against Washington at Lincoln Financial Field. By Week 4, McLeod was all the way back and in the stirring win at Green Bay, he had 10 total tackles and two passes defensed as the back end of the defense held firm against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the potent Green Bay passing game.
"Every week it just got better and better," McLeod said during the season. "It was a lot of work. It was tough. It was grueling. But you set a goal and you have to reach that goal. I wanted to be back on the field. I had to put in the work to get out there with the guys."
McLeod enters his ninth NFL season and is a remarkable success story after having gone undrafted in 2012 after playing collegiately at Virginia. After playing only four defensive snaps in his rookie season, McLeod became a starter in 2013 and hasn't looked back. He signed a five-year contract with the Eagles in 2016 and then reworked his deal prior to the '19 campaign.
The Eagles have been busy prior to the official start of the free agency period, retaining defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, quarterback Nate Sudfeld, defensive back Jalen Mills, and now McLeod. The official start of free agency, and with it the new League Year, is on Wednesday at 4 PM.