In landing DeMeco Ryans, Eagles coach Andy Reid said he believes the team now has one of the top 4-3 middle linebackers in the NFL, a player who can be a "quarterback" of the defense.
"We're very excited to have him join our young linebacker corps and bring some senior leadership in there," Reid said.
Ryans, wearing a bright green tie, sat between Reid and general manager Howie Roseman at the NovaCare Complex, and talked about leadership, his health and the perception from some reporters that he'll be seen as a "savior" to a fan base starving for a play-making linebacker.
"Let's not put the savior on it," Ryans said with a laugh. "I'm just looking to step in and do my job."
But Ryans and the Eagles brass made it clear that they expect him to have a major impact as he returns to a 4-3 defense and away from the 3-4 he played in last season, when his production dropped and he was taken off the field in nickel situations.
"That's the defense I've been playing since high school," Ryans said. "It's back to what I do naturally, I'm a natural middle linebacker. I feel like this is what suits my ability."
Ryans said he was slowed early in 2011 by the Achilles tendon tear he suffered in 2010, but felt back to normal by the end of the season.
"I was moving around feeling like myself again," he said.
Roseman said Ryans was at his best in the playoffs last year.
Ryans will be the team's starting middle linebacker and play all three downs for the defense, Reid said. He wouldn't say who the starting outside linebackers will be, but sees the veteran captain as a leader that the defense needs.
"Bringing in somebody with experience I thought was important right now to this football team, really to have a quarterback on that side of the ball I think is good for (defensive coordinator) Juan (Castillo)," Reid said. "I think it’s good for players around DeMeco. He's a player that has made people around him better."
Ryans said he won't force his leadership on the team, but that teammates in the past have always gravitated toward him.
"I'm a natural leader," he said. "I'm not going to change anything about myself or my approach to how I go about my business."
Ryans faces one challenge in learning his new team: under new CBA rules he can receive a playbook, but can't meet with coaches until April 16.