Reports surfaced today that safety Rodney McLeod has torn his MCL and that he’ll miss the remainder of the season. The Eagles have yet to confirm these reports, but if they are true then they have a major hole to fill in their secondary.
McLeod has been stellar since his arrival to Philly. Having him on the field allows Jim Schwartz to move Malcolm Jenkins all over the formation. His leadership and understanding of the defense will be hard to replace, but the Birds have faced this kind of adversity before. If any team can take an injury and keep the train moving forward, it’s the Philadelphia Eagles. There are a few options to replace McLeod if he is indeed out for the season.
This is the most obvious option the Eagles have, and it may very well be the one they end up going with. Corey Graham already understands the defense and he has chemistry with the rest of the secondary. The problem with moving Graham to the starting role is that it just creates another hole at the third safety position. Graham has already played 55% of the defensive snaps this year, so someone is going to have to step up into the third safety role if Graham does get moved to McLeod’s spot. This would probably be either Tre Sullivan or Deiondre Hall. Sullivan is still on the practice squad, but he’s bound to get signed to the active roster once McLeod is place on IR. The team seems a bit more comfortable with Hall at this point, but I don’t think they ever envisioned having to play either of these guys in a significant role. Neither is a great option, but if Graham gets named the starter — which he likely will — then they might not have any other choice.
This is probably the most far fetched option, but it’ll still be the most talked about amongst fans. Earl Thomas is one of the best safeties in the game and he’s currently in the middle of an ongoing contract dispute with the Seahawks. It’s no secret that Thomas wants to get paid.
If the Birds were to trade for the All Pro safety, they have enough available cap space to take his cap hit for this season. Thomas’ cap hit would come in at just about $10.4 million and the Eagles have about $11 million in cap space to spare. The problem is that the Eagles probably won’t have the money to sign him long term once this seasons over, which is the whole reason he wants out of Seattle in the first place.
Plus, the Seahawks asking price for Thomas will probably be ridiculous. There were reports that they turned down a 2nd round pick from the Cowboys in the offseason, so who knows how much it will take to pry him away. Considering that McLeod is still under contract until 2020, it’s very unlikely that Howie will pursue someone like Thomas in a midseason trade.
I’ve been clamoring for Douglas to move to safety since the offseason and I think now may be the time to do it. Every time Douglas is given an opportunity to play, he shines. In week 1 against the Falcons, he came in for one play and caused a turnover. He has a nose for the football and he has the size to make hits when he has to.
Even if Jim Schwartz were to promote Graham to the starting role, I would love to see Douglas get an opportunity at the third safety spot. Graham’s primary role at that spot is to cover the tight end or a running back out of the back field. I don’t see why Douglas wouldn’t be able to do that, being that he already covers wide receivers as a corner.
Changing positions mid-season isn’t ideal at all, so this may not come to fruition just yet. But, it would save the Eagles some money and it would give Douglas the opportunity that I think he deserves.