This is one of those moves that can mean so much in the thick of the taxing NFL season. Signing a veteran like inside linebacker Brad Jones, as the Eagles did on Monday, gives a position that was riddled with injuries in 2014 a much-needed boost of depth for 2015.
Jones played six seasons with the Packers before being released on February 20. He 76 games and 36 starts under his belt along with seven playoff appearances and five starts in the postseason. A Green Bay seventh-round draft pick in 2009, Jones fits the profile of what the Eagles need inside to join a group that is very much in question after last season's spate of injuries challenged coach Rick Minter's room to the maximum.
There are no promises here with Jones, no guarantees of a starting job or, even, of making the roster. Signing Jones doesn't mean the Eagles are finished added to the position, honestly. He's going to have a chance to compete for a roster spot and earn playing time, and that's the promise head coach Chip Kelly makes to everyone on his roster.
As you know, the Eagles' depth at inside linebacker was taxed big time last season.
The Eagles lost Travis Long, a player projected to make the 53-man roster, in the final preseason game against the Jets. Long likely would have made the 53-man roster as a player who could play both inside linebacker and on the edge, and who could run down and help in coverage on special teams. Instead, Long suffered a torn ACL in that game and spent his second consecutive year on Injured Reserve.
In the opening-day win against Jacksonville, young veteran Najee Goode was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Goode had been counted on for depth inside and as a core member of Dave Fipp's special teams in his second season after playing 14 games in 2013, and instead spent a frustrating year healing and working hard in the weight room.
On Monday, the Eagles signed linebacker Brad Jones, who spent his first six seasons with Green Bay. Here are ten facts about the newest Eagle ...
Mychal Kendricks, the on-the-rise ball of energy at linebacker, suffered a calf injury in the Week 2 victory over Indianapolis and spent the next four games inactive as he rehabbed the injury. Kendricks missed four games and eased his way back in the fifth game before shaking off the rust and enjoying a terrific second half of 2014. Still, those five games represented more than a quarter of the season on the sidelines for one of the team's best defensive players.
And then, of course, the heart of the defense, DeMeco Ryans, went down with a torn Achilles tendon in the eighth game of the season at Houston and the Eagles did all they could to have enough healthy bodies to line up and handle many responsibilities inside.
The picture looks a lot brighter for 2015, but there are still some answers to come. Jones is one of them. He is a low-risk, we'll-see-what-kind-of-reward signing prior to the start of free agency.
Jones is healthy after battling a hamstring injury in 2014. He had more than his share of hamstring injuries in Green Bay and missed the team's Super Bowl run with a shoulder injury. The Eagles feel that he's good to go now and that his experience will help the competition inside, along with adding to the special teams – Jones had 33 special teams tackles with Green Bay in his six seasons.
How does inside linebacker look with Jones on board? Ryans is at the NovaCare Complex every day rehabbing his Achilles tendon, but there is really no way to know how far he can come back from the injury until he's on the field pushing it. Kendricks is fine and ready to build on his terrific 2014. Goode is healthy and itching to play again. Emmanuel Acho gained valuable experience playing 14 games with two starts last year. Long is healthy and hoping to stay that way as he competes for a roster position. Casey Matthews, a starter when Ryans went down, becomes an unrestricted free agent on March 10 and there has been no word on what the Eagles want to do with him.
Adding a veteran inside, in light of Ryans' recovery from injury in particular, was something many expected the Eagles to do. They didn't have to wait until free agency began to start addressing the need.
It's a move that kind of goes under the radar now, but one that could pay large dividends during the course of a long and physical 2015 season. Brad Jones isn't a household name in the NFL, but he's a smart, versatile and productive player who can do exactly what the Eagles need: compete for a roster spot and playing time at inside linebacker and crush it on special teams and give the defense a layer of security they did not have a season ago.