Physical. Tough. Smart. Passionate. Linebacker T.J. Edwards embodies everything that the team wants on defense. That's why the Eagles on Monday announced that they signed him to a one-year extension through 2022.
"It feels really good. I came in here in 2019 as an undrafted guy and just wanted to put my head down and go to work and try to just get better at something and truly get one percent better every day," Edwards said on Monday at the NovaCare Complex for an upcoming interview for the Eagles Insider Podcast. "I knew if I did that good things will happen and good things will come. It feels really good to be at this point and I just want to do what got me here and keep my head down and go back to work."
A rookie free agent out of Wisconsin in 2019, Edwards would have been eligible to become a restricted free agent after the season. The Eagles continue their long-standing practice of identifying and retaining key homegrown players, both drafted and undrafted, as Edwards is the fifth Eagle to sign an extension since the start of this season.
"T.J. brings a physicality that really is contagious," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said of Edwards following Sunday's 40-29 triumph over the New Orleans Saints.
"He's a good communicator with the defense and talking to everybody. He's playing really good football. And sure, those guys from Wisconsin, that played as a Badger, my experience with those guys is they're tough and they're nasty and they can play physical ball. I'm sure glad he's playing the role he's playing right now."
The 25-year-old Edwards' responsibilities have expanded in recent weeks. After earning NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his blocked punt against Carolina in Week 6, one of the biggest individual plays of the season, Edwards moved into the starting lineup and never looked back. As the Eagles have won three of their past four games, Edwards has posted double-digit tackles in each of those victories.
On Sunday, Edwards paced the defense with 10 tackles and recorded two takeaways – a first-quarter interception that provided quality field position for the offense to score its first touchdown followed by a third-quarter fumble recovery that resulted in a Jake Elliott field goal to make it 33-7.
Edwards is now the Eagles' three-down linebacker, playing at least 92 percent of the snaps in each of the past three weeks.
"The way I'm built, I want to prove myself every single day," Edwards said. "That's kind of how it's been my college career. You know in the NFL, it's, 'What have you done for me lately?' Every day you have to be at your best and that's what I try to do every single day."
Edwards' energy, enthusiasm, and downhill-attacking mentality are recognized and respected by his teammates and coaches.
"I've known T.J. since he got here and I always scream out his name as soon as I see him," said cornerback Avonte Maddox, who inked a three-year extension on Saturday. "He's a motor and he makes big plays. I'm happy and proud of him and hopefully he will be here a long time as well. He does everything. He runs the defense from the middle linebacker spot and every time I go out there, he's talking to me and we're always communicating. He's making big plays and I'm proud of him."
"I think from a standpoint of being in the right spot, playing in the run game, running the defense, he's doing a really good job. He's playing winning football for us," Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon recently said of Edwards' performance.
On the year, Edwards has a career-high 72 tackles with four tackles for loss, one sack, one interception, and one fumble recovery. He has been one of the league's most productive linebackers since entering the starting lineup.
A first-team All-Big Ten selection as a senior at Wisconsin, Edwards not only made the Eagles' roster as a rookie, but earned significant time on both defense and special teams. He played in all 16 games (4 starts) and recorded 19 tackles on defense and a team-high 14 on special teams while playing the second-most special teams snaps.
Edwards followed that up by starting all 12 games he played in last season, racking up 65 tackles and two sacks while playing 45 percent of the snaps on defense.
This season, Edwards flourished on special teams and impressed the coaching staff to get more playing time on defense. Edwards took advantage of the opportunity and the Eagles want to see him grow more and more into the role, signing him to the extension.