Now that the Eagles have found their 2012 starting middle linebacker, what impact will the acquisition of DeMeco Ryans have on who they might take in the first round of the draft next month?
Prior to Tuesday’s trade, most mock drafts had the Eagles selecting Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly with their first-round pick, the 15th overall. Because of his impressive showing at the scouting combine in Indianapolis last month, Kuechly probably wouldn’t have made it to 15, but the thinking was the middle-linebacker-needy Eagles would target him and find a way to move up and get him.
Well, Kuechly, who scouts think could be a Day 1 starter both in the middle and on the strong side, still certainly could be a possibility, depending on the Eagles’ opinion right now of Jamar Chaney, Akeem Jordan and Moise Fokou.
Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo moved Chaney from MIKE to SAM at the beginning of training camp last year because he said the SAM spot was a more critical position in his defense. But after rookie Casey Matthews struggled in the middle in the first two games, Chaney was moved back inside. Whether Castillo and linebackers coach Mike Caldwell still are bullish on Chaney at SAM remains to be seen.
Fokou opened the season as the starting weakside linebacker, moved to SAM after Matthews was benched, and made five starts there before being replaced by Jordan. Jordan did a nice job in his eight starts at SAM. The Eagles held opponents to 3.7 yards per carry those eight games.
While the Eagles got Ryans for next to nothing (a fourth-round pick and a swap of third-round picks with the Texans), they still have to pay him $5.8 million next season, which is more money than they’ve ever paid a linebacker. Given that and the fact that they’ve never valued linebackers very high, would they also then take a linebacker in the first round? Not seeing it.
If you eliminate Kuechly from the first-round equation, there’s several different ways the Eagles could go with that first round pick. They could take a defensive tackle. It’s probably the deepest position in the draft. As many as seven could go in the first round. It’s not a position of absolute need for the Eagles. But Cullen Jenkins turned 31 in January and Mike Patterson is coming off some tricky brain surgery. The draft’s top three DTs – Dontari Poe, Michael Brockers and Fletcher Cox – all should be within the Eagles’ reach, if not at 15, then close enough for a trade-up.
After spending second-round picks on safeties in the last two drafts, would the Eagles use their first-round pick on the only first-round worthy safety in the draft, Alabama’s Mark Barron? Probably not.
My sense is that the Eagles view their safety situation a little more positively than you and I. Even if they don’t add a safety in free agency, they still have high expectations for Jaiquawn Jarrett, who they took in the second round last year and spent most of his rookie season on the bench. The fact that Barron, who is recovering from double-hernia surgery, still hasn’t worked out for scouts, makes him a little bit of a wildcard. The 6-2, 218-pound run-enforcer is scheduled to work out next week. We’ll see if the Eagles send anybody to watch him.
With the re-signing of left guard Evan Mathis, the Eagles have their entire starting offensive line coming back. But they still need to find somebody to back up tackles Jason Peters and Todd Herremans. There’s plenty of journeymen-types they could bring in, but given Andy Reid’s fondness for linemen, it wouldn’t totally shock me if they took an offensive tackle like Iowa’s Riley Reiff, Stanford’s Jonathan Martin or Ohio State’s Mike Adams in the first round. Peters is the best left tackle in the game, but he turned 30 in January and hasn’t played a full season since 2006.
Then there’s quarterback. Mike Vick will be the Eagles’ starting quarterback this season. That we know. What we don’t know is who will be the starter beyond 2012. Vick, who will turn 32 in June, has five years left on his deal. But the Eagles are only financially committed to him through this season.
Vick didn’t play well last season. Finished 23rd in interception percentage, 25th in fourth-quarter passing, 26th in third-down passing and had six red-zone turnovers.
The Eagles are hopeful that, with a full offseason of field and classroom prep, he’ll rebound with a big year in 2012 and everyone in Philadelphia, including Vick, will live happily ever after.
At the same time, they’ve got to consider their options if the 2012 Vick plays like the 2011 one. They’ve got to have a plan for the future. Mike Kafka? I don’t think so, but maybe Reid and Marty Mornhinweg do. Trent Edwards? Uh, no.
Obviously, they’ve got no shot at Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, who will be the first two players taken, or even Ryan Tannehill, who could go third or fourth, and certainly no lower than seventh.
But what about the next three highest rated QBs, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins or Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden or Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler? None of the three are expected to go as high as 15th, but one, two or even all three of them could go later in the first round or early in the second. Osweiler, who is recovering from a foot injury suffered in Arizona State’s bowl game, will work out for NFL teams next week.
The Eagles obviously have a lot of experience with trading down. It’s how they wound up with Kevin Kolb in ’07. With two second-round picks in their draft arsenal already, they could drop down, grab one of the quarterbacks and pick up some more Day 2 ammo to address some of their other needs.
Then again, they might just decide to mess with our heads again and take another defensive end.