The Eagles made their first signing of 2019 yesterday and it wasn’t one that many people expected. 28-year old linebacker Paul Worrilow signed a one-year extension with the team following a 2018 season that never was. But what does this mean for the positional group moving forward?
Worrilow signed a prove-it contract last offseason after a strong year in Detroit where he started eight of 13 games played. He registered 20 tackles, one pass defensed, and a fumble recovery in the process. Prior to this, he started 43 games for the team to give him his first shot in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons. With 242 tackles, 2 picks and 3 forced fumbles in that span, Worrilow became a renowned run defender. What’s even more impressive is that Worrilow played in 48.7% of Detroit’s special teams snaps in 2017, a season where he memorably recovered a muffed punt against the Packers.
A torn ACL during the 2018 offseason forced Worrilow to miss his ‘prove-it’ year in Philadelphia, but he now gets a second chance…and he may have a bigger opportunity than ever.
Depth at linebacker is thin for the Eagles. Jordan Hicks, D.J. Alexander, and LaRoy Reynolds are set to hit free agency and it’s unlikely all three of them return. At the very least, the Eagles will need an insurance policy.
Nigel Bradham has done a fantastic job alongside Hicks since joining the Eagles and has been rewarded handsomely. When Hicks battled injuries, it was the former Buffalo Bill who was asked to step up and lead the defense. The Eagles have experimented with using extra defensive backs in place of a linebacker in some of these instances, while Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill played outside in other formations. When healthy, Jordan Hicks has proven himself as one of the most instinctive young linebackers in the NFL…but the term ‘healthy’ is the issue.
Even if the Eagles do bring Jordan Hicks back for 2019 and beyond, he’s only completed one full 16-game season without injury since being drafted in 2015. If Hicks goes down, there needs to be a reliable veteran who can come in and fill the void.
If the Eagles don’t bring Hicks back due to financial restrictions, they will need to be looking at the next developmental star and in true Eagles fashion, that means a ‘prove-it’ contract will fill the void. The Birds have built their team to feast in the new era of Football by bringing in notable veteran leaders to help marinate the younger guys on the roster until such a time as they’re ready to take over. Patrick Robinson, LeGarrette Blount, Chris Long, Torrey Smith and to an extent, Sam Bradford, who was re-signed to bridge the gap until Wentz was ready, all fit this mold.
The Eagles have one less weight to worry about, it seems. Instead of an added pressure to re-sign Hicks due to a sheer lack of depth, this will, in fact, give the Eagles leverage as they now have a sturdy contingency plan in place. The next step is simply deciding whether or not they can make bringing Hicks back a financially viable option and if not, whether Worrilow will be the starter in his lone prove-it deal with the team.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports