Philadelphia Eagles News

Eagles Have Man For D-Middle

This is one that had been in the works for several days, at the very least. The Eagles wanted an impact linebacker and they got one in young veteran DeMeco Ryans, a two-time Pro Bowl player who should fit in perfectly to what the Eagles want to do with the defense.

It is a master stroke by general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Andy Reid as the Eagles moved stealthily in search of a difference maker at middle linebacker. Ryans fits in every way -- he has had success as a Pro Bowl player, he is a three-down linebacker with the size, speed, toughness and leadership the Eagles need.

A torn Achilles tendon in 2010 interrupted what to that point had been a brilliant career in a losing situation: The Texans built their defense around Ryans and he became the leader of the franchise. Then came his Achilles tendon injury and a lost 2010 season before bouncing back in 2011.

It generally takes two seasons to get all the way back from that injury, so Ryans should be as good as ever in 2012. He is still a young player (he will be 28 in July) with great football in front of him, and he fits a huge need for this team.

How the Eagles configure the linebackers and what it means for their future plans -- will they draft a linebacker?, for example -- remains to be seen. This story is about the Eagles moving quietly, confidently and acquiring a player who has a chance to make a big-time impact here.

How did they do it without as much as a peep of a rumor in a day and age when every whisper is magnified? Leaking intentions has never been an issue with Reid in charge of the football side of things. That Roseman was able to bring in a player of Ryan's caliber for, in essence, a fourth-round draft pick -- a high one, fourth in that round, acquired by Tampa Bay in a 2011 draft weekend trade that sent the Bucs a fourth-round draft pick (that became tight end Luke Stocker, who caught 12 passes for Tampa Bay as a rookie) for a 2011 fourth-round pick to the Eagles (linebacker Casey Matthews. who found his role as a nickel linebacker working in space as a rookie) and this 2012 pick that goes to Houston -- seems more than reasonable. The Eagles also exchanged third-round draft picks, dealing the 77th pick overall for the 89 selection overall.

Seems like great value, actually.

Anyway, the Eagles still have room to maneuver within the salary cap, and they still have nine draft picks, including the 15th overall selection. There is work ahead, yes, and there are holes to fill. The Eagles know that.

For this moment, and it won't last long, the Eagles have to feel like they solved some of their middle-defense concerns.

Jamar Chaney played well as a rookie and then ping-ponged from strongside linebacker to the middle in 2011. He needs to find a home, and that looks like it will be at SAM, challenging Moise Fokou and Akeem Jordan for playing time. Monte Simmons, signed after he was released by the 49ers, also figures in the mix.

Brian Rolle is the weakside linebacker and Matthews and Keenan Clayton could get looks there, too.

At the moment, there are a whole lot of linebackers without a lot of clarity on how they fit in. Time, people, time.

The Eagles may not be done yet at linebacker.

Then again, they could be done, and now they might just move on to other needs. A safety? Possibly? Any value along the defensive line out there? Could be an option. What about the glut of talent at cornerback here? Will the Eagles make a play there?

Whatever they have planned, they aren't going to say a thing. A move or two more and the team could really go into the draft without a single glaring front-line need. That is an enviable position to be in, so the team can rely on its draft board and not look to fill a "need."

We do know this much: When healthy, DeMeco Ryans is a great football player. There is no doubt about that. He is one of the best middle linebackers in the game, he is a leader and he is a heart-and-soul type of guy. The Texans loved him (he was voted the team's 2011 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award) and they expressed shock on Tuesday night that he was traded.

How much has the injury taken away from his game? Obviously, the Eagles think he will be all the way back in 2012. How does he fit into the scheme? Clearly, the team believes he is the perfect fit.

Is there a downside here? It's hard to see one now, from this perspective. The Eagles went out and got their guy and didn't give up a whole lot in the process. It is another move in a step-forward, very quietly, kind of offseason here.

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