Replacing Rodney McLeod won’t be easy for the Philadelphia Eagles

NFL: SEP 20 Rams at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 20: Philadelphia Eagles free safety Rodney McLeod (23) looks on during the game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles on September 20, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Rodney McLeod’s tearful goodbye to the city of Philadelphia, concluded a six-year relationship that brought a Super Bowl championship to the City of Brotherly Love.

McLeod’s presence in coverage during Super Bowl LII and throughout his stint in Philly was not only a positive force on the field, but in the community as well. This raises the question:

Are the Eagles truly better off without Rodney McLeod?

The answer is far more complex than you may think.

On the Field

The Eagles secondary, surprisingly, was pretty solid last year when allowed to play to their strengths. McLeod was a big part of that.

In a new defense that requested more zone coverage and deep safeties, McLeod played fairly well scoring an above-average grade of 64 per Pro Football Focus. McLeod ended up with only two picks last year, but his interception at Washington ended up clinching a playoff spot for the Eagles.

A direct comparison is when the Eagles had Michael Lewis as its safety partner to Brian Dawkins. Lewis was a very good player in Philly, made a Pro-Bowl, and solidified a strong defensive unit.

But after a poor 2007 season, he was replaced by the likes of Sean Considine and Quinten Mikell. Eagle fans and coaches argued that ANYONE could play Lewis’ position and it wasn’t a necessity with Brian Dawkins on the other side. It turned out that the safety position became a revolving door for the better part of 10 seasons UNTIL McLeod arrived.

It’s easy to say the Eagles should throw money at someone like Tyrann Mathieu or draft a safety this year in the first two rounds, and they’ll be all set. But few players could fit the mold of the type of safety the Eagles needed other than Rodney McLeod.

In the Locker Room

Was McLeod the unquestioned leader on the defense that was in charge of getting the group ready on Sundays? Nope.

But was an important cog in a Locker Room that has kept things afloat and a large catalyst for the team’s success over the past six seasons. It’s fair to bring up the fact though that since Malcolm Jenkins left in free agency, McLeod took on a much larger role.

As reported earlier this season, McLeod’s speeches to the team would galvanize the locker room and have them ready for Sunday in an excellent way.

He wasn’t a Dawkins, or Jenkins. He was Rodney McLeod and that’s all the Eagles needed him to be.

Off the field

The Philadelphia Eagles have a rich and storied history of helping out in the community.

McLeod has been one of the top players when it comes to charitable help throughout the community. He and his wife Erika started the Change Our Future charity organization during the COVID-19 Pandemic and continued to help the community throughout his time in Philly. In 2021 McLeod was a finalist for the Alan Page Community Award, an award that “recognizes one player who demonstrates a profound dedication to positively impacting his team’s city and communities across the country, following in the spirit of the Pro Football Hall of Famer and social pioneer for whom the honor is named.”

McLeod was the third Eagle over the last five years to win the award.

It’s not so easy to replace an excellent person both on and off the field. While McLeod has already thanked the city for the love they have given to him, it’s very clear the love the city received from him was just as strong.

A new safety could come in and maybe play better than McLeod, especially after the last couple of years. But McLeod’s tenure in Philadelphia wasn’t just about the on-field success the team had, but about what he meant to the franchise, the fans and the community around him.

Whoever is next to suit up in McLeod’s place will have enormous shoes to fill as both an athlete and person.