How Does Losing Kendricks Affect the Eagles’ Defense

For nearly three offseasons, trade rumors have swirled around outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks. On Tuesday of this past week, those rumors finally came to fruition — kind of. The 27-year-old linebacker was released on Tuesday as his six year run in midnight green finally came to an end. Personally, I felt like Kendricks always received more slack than he warranted. He wasn’t a world beater from the linebacker position by any means, but he was more than a capable starter and gave the Eagles six years of solid football.

When the Eagles hired Jim Schwartz as their new defensive coordinator back in 2016 he brought in his weak side backer from Buffalo, Nigel Bradham, and Kendricks seemed to be the odd man out in the linebackers room. And he was for most of that season — he only started in eight games and played just 27% of the total defensive snaps in 2016. The new defensive scheme that Schwartz implemented didn’t seem to have a place for Kendricks. This past season in 2017, Kendricks did play significantly more than he did in 2016, but that was primarily due to Jordan Hicks going down for the season with an injury.

After a solid 2017 campaign, most thought that the Kendricks’ trade rumors would finally end. Especially considering how light the Eagles were at linebacker heading into OTAs. But, that didn’t stop Howie Roseman from pulling the trigger. Instead of trading the veteran linebacker, we just released him to save about $6M in cap space. It was an odd move by Howie, who has found trade partners for some of the most unlikely players. Earlier this offseason he was able to trade veteran wide out Torrey Smith for a young cornerback. Granted, that corner is no longer on the team due to some off the field issues, but the fact that Howie found a team willing to give up anything for Smith is remarkable.

So why couldn’t Howie do the same for Kendricks? It’s not like he is old and washed up; he’s only 27 years old and coming off a bounce back year. The only reason I believe the Eagles are comfortable moving on from Kendricks, is because there just isn’t a starting spot on the defense for him. With Hicks returning from injury, he’ll assume his role as the anchor of the defense. And with Nigel Bradham being signed to a long term contract this offseason, Kendricks is the odd man out yet again.

Kendricks’ best years as an Eagles were played under Chip Kelly and then defensive coordinator Billy Davis. Davis ran a 3-4 scheme, as opposed to the 4-3 scheme that the Birds run today. Kendricks’ athletic ability is best suited to play the inside linebacker role in a 3-4 defense, so I’m expecting a team that runs this type of defense to eventually pick him.

So, where does that leave the Eagles? Well, it seems that the front office is banking on the hopes that Jordan Hicks can play a full 16-game season. In his first three years as a pro, he’s only accomplished that once. In that one full season, Hicks played at a Pro Bowl level and probably should’ve gotten the nod that year. He finished with 85 total tackles, 1 sack, and 5 interceptions. If Hicks stays healthy this season, Kendricks being released won’t have a major impact on the season. But that is a big ‘if’.

Howie did bring in linebacker Corey Nelson to essentially be Kendricks’ replacement during the free agency period. Nelson has spent four seasons in Denver, primarily playing special teams. He’s only started in five games over four seasons, which is somewhat alarming. I’m not sure what made Howie and company believe that this guy could come in and play a significant role in their defense, but they’re smarter than me so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here. Howie has never valued the linebacker position as a priority, and that’s evident in this situation. All-in-all, if Hicks stays healthy then this transaction won’t affect the Birds too much — let’s just hope Hicks can actually do that.

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