Should the Eagles take a flyer on former Packers DT Mike Daniels?

The Green Bay Packers released veteran defensive tackle Mike Daniels on Wednesday morning, leading many to speculate where the 2017 Pro Bowler will land.

Daniels is coming off a year where he played 10 games, starting nine, and had 18 tackles and two sacks. His season ended on IR with a foot injury in December. Despite the number of games, he still came in eighth among interior defenders, according to ProFootballFocus, in pass-rush grade with 78.5.

The Eagles currently have just over $21 million in cap room, so the money is there in case the team is interested in Daniels. But what would happen to the playing time for the other defensive tackles if he is signed? Let’s take a look at the depth of the defensive tackle position.

Depth Chart

The Eagles only surefire starter at defensive tackle is Fletcher Cox. Malik Jackson was signed in March, after his release from the Jaguars, and brings an elite skill set to the team. His playing time and spot on the depth chart would be unchanged if Mike Daniels were to sign.

The two names whose playing time would be in question after the signing would be Timmy Jernigan and Hassan Ridgeway.

Jernigan missed all but three games in the regular season due to back surgery and played in both playoff games. In the three games he played during the regular season, he only played in 45 snaps.  

Ridgeway came to the Eagles via trade from the Colts in the 2019 NFL Draft.  Originally a fourth round pick by the Colts, Ridgeway only played in five games last season after playing all 16 games his rookie year and 13 games the year after. In his five games last season, he only played 65 snaps, an average of 13 snaps a game.

Last season, the snap counts for the Eagles went like this:

  • Cox: 79.96%
  • Haloti Ngata: 35.45%
  • Treyvon Hester: 21.77%
  • Destiny Vaeao: 15.13%
  • Jernigan: 4.34%
  • Bruce Hector: 7.90%
  • T.Y. McGill: 4.43%

Of that list, only Cox, Hester, Hector, and Jernigan are still with the team.  Ngata’s snap counts would presumably go to Jackson, maybe even more than that.  Hester’s snap counts from 2018 would be lined up to be Jernigan’s. Vaeao’s would be lined up to be Ridgeway’s. Hester and Hector would be relegated to special teams and/or late game blowout appearances.  

With the addition of Daniels to this, Jernigan would be bumped down the list and Ridgeway would possibly be in that special teams role instead of a prominent fixture in the rotation.  

Back in May, Jernigan sent out a cryptic message on his Instagram story:

The Telvin he is presumably referring to is Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith who decided to take a year off from football.  

Could an addition of another defensive lineman who would play more snaps than him lead to a holdout?  It’s definitely possible given the Instagram post.  If so, it would lead to more opportunities for Ridgeway, Hector, and Hester.  

The Eagles would save $625,000 if they were to release Jernigan, but he would also count $1,000,000 against their cap in dead money in 2019.

If Daniels does sign with the Eagles, what would the production of that defensive tackle position look like?

 

Production

To accurately describe Fletcher Cox’s production since 2015, I give you a quote from ProFootballFocus’ Austin Gayle:

Among the 125 interior defensive linemen with 500 or more pass-rush snaps since 2015, Donald ranks first in pass-rush grade (95.9), total pressures (375) and pass-rush win percentage (22.1%). Cox ranks second behind Donald in all three metrics.

And the trend continues, as Donald led all at his position in pass-rush grade in each of the past four seasons (2015-18). Cox ranked second two of the years (2017 & 2018) and third in another (2015).

Malik Jackson was in the top ten in quarterback pressures from 2013 to 2017 and being next to a player who commands double teams as much as Cox does could lead to Jackson revisiting those dominant days.  

Mike Daniels was eighth among interior defenders from 2015-2017 in pass-rush grades and 13th in run-defense grades in that same time frame, according to ProFootballFocus.  

Hassan Ridgeway was first among interior defenders in the 2018 preseason with defensive stops and tackles for loss or no gain.  

Think that foursome would strike fear into quarterbacks’ eyes?  I certainly do. Even with the threat of Jernigan holding out/quitting football, the risk is worth taking and Howie Roseman should get on the phone immediately.  

Mandatory Credit: Jim Matthews/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

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