A closer look at six free agent linebackers who could be targets for the Philadelphia Eagles

Tuesday was a strange day for the Eagles. Phase 3 of OTA’s kicked off but it wasn’t without controversy. Inside linebacker Paul Worrilow reportedly tore his ACL and just hours later, the team parted ways with Mychal Kendricks. This leaves a position already light on depth, even thinner and without a tremendous amount of starting potential. This of course poses the question, ‘What free agent options are available to the Eagles? ‘

 

INSIDE LINEBACKER

NaVorro Bowman
The services of the four-time first-team All-pro won’t come cheap, but if the Eagles want to find a veteran who could not only replace Paul Worrilow, but help lighten the load for an injury-prone Jordan Hicks, Bowman would be a perfect candidate. Hicks sits favorably in the eyes of the coaching staff as one of the most efficient coverage linebackers in the league, but if they came somehow pry Bowman away from the grasp of Oakland with a short-term deal, it at least gives the unit some optionality.

He may have only played in 10 games for the Raiders after shockingly signing with the team, but he led the team in tackles, adding 5 for a loss, 1.5 sacks and even an interception during that time. It didn’t take long for Raiders fans to begin crying out for his return, but Gruden began to sign a flurry of depth talent, somewhat gaining leverage over the free agent.

Bowman would have a chance at a Super Bowl in Philadelphia and could be the perfect piece to help keep things fresh and rotational under Jim Schwartz. With a stunning 798 tackles, 40 for a loss, 14 sacks, 29 passes defensed and 7 forced fumbles in 99 games, this would be an elite signing. It all just comes down to would Bowman see enough playing time to justify the price tag, or could the Eagles make him part of a much bigger long-term plan?

 

 

Brian Cushing:
The former Texans linebacker served a ten-game suspension for violating the NFL’s PED policy last season, but he remains one of the top free agents available. After being drafted in the first round back in 2009, Cushing went on to battle a flurry of injuries that have dampened what would have otherwise been an incredible career. In nine years, he has 428 tackles, 13/5 sacks, 8 picks and 30 passes defensed.

Because of his long and damaging injury history, Cushing may be the perfect candidate for an incentivized prove-it deal in Philadelphia. In spite of his lack of durability, Cushing always seemed to win out a starting role and be dominant when on the field. He has the tenacious mindset and pass-rushing ability to be a great fit under Jim Schwartz, if the price is right.

 

Cory James
James is one of my favorite picks if the Eagles are going to bring in some extra linebacker depth. At just 24-years old, he started nine games for the Raiders last year, playing in 10 and amassing 56 tackles in the process, bettering the 48 he tallied as a rookie out of CSU. So why is a 24-year old linebacker with this much potential still available?

James had arthroscopic surgery on his knee before the start of his sophomore campaign. Aggravating the knee six games into the regular season, he would go on to miss three games before being placed on IR. The 6’1, 230 lbs, linebacker simply slipped down a very stable depth chart when he Raiders began to resign pending free agents.

A former four-year starter for Colorado state, he ended his career with the fourth most sacks in CSU history. The Eagles ‘LOVE’ project players and have one of the best sports science units in the league. James may not start for the Eagles, but he would at least provide some weak side depth in wake of such a peculiar Tuesday afternoon and affordably so.

 

 

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

Jelani Jenkins
This could be a steal for the Eagles should the signing ever happen. Jenkins has been most productive when competing in a 4-3 defense. Spending four years in Miami and tallying 227 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles, Jenkins eventually bounced over to the Raiders, Bills and then an injury stricken Texans. After signing midway through the season, he posted 11 tackles.

Prior to that however, Jenkins hadn’t appeared in a single 2017 season game. However, at just 25-years old and with 4.65 40-yard dash speed written all over him, he could be another candidate for a cheap ‘prove-it’ contract, who has the pace and upside to replace Kendricks.

 

Tamba Hali
One of the best outside linebackers of this generation, Hali was released by the Chiefs after knee injuries plagued his 2017 season. Appearing in just 6 games that year, the former first round pick spent most of that year on the sidelines. However, he does leave the Chiefs organization second in franchise history in sacks, with a stunning 89.5 since being drafted in 2006.

Hali wouldn’t replace the role Kendricks was set to play, but he would add some great versatility as someone who can rush the passer and really come down heavy on those pesky screen passes. A true veteran, he may not be the electrifying pass-rusher he once was, but he could certainly be an asset to a defense built on ruthless aggression.

Hali obviously has a relationship with Doug Pederson from when the Eagles Head Coach was still learning under Andy Reid and if he is going to sport another team’s jersey, it may as well be in the City of Brotherly Love.

 

Gerald Hodges
Hodges is an interesting case. The free agent recorded just 3 tackles in 11 games last year after previously being heralded as one of the league’s next big breakout linebackers. While his career may or may not be in jeopardy, what is certain is that he would provide special teams excellence.

The 26-year-old spent a chunk of time with the Minnesota Vikings before they traded him to the 49ers in 2015. Hodges started 12 games for San Francisco one year later, but after signing a free agent deal with the Bills, was eventually cut.

In his career, Hodges has amassed 224 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three picks and one forced fumble. This signing is unlikely, but again could present a low-risk, high-reward opportunity that could be too good to pass on.

Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Liam is a 23-year old sports journalist from the UK and founder of the Philly Sports Network. In just 36months he turned a hobby into one of the fastest growing Philadelphia sports sites in the world, amassing 5,000,000 views and writing over 2,000 articles.
Drawing attention from the likes of CSN, NJ.Com and Bleacher Report in the process, Liam is set on changing the way Philadelphia sports teams are reported on forever.

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