With Tuesday’s news that the Philadelphia Eagles have cut linebacker Nigel Bradham, linebacker has suddenly become a huge need for this team.
You could argue linebacker was already a need before Bradham’s release, but now it’s paramount that Howie Roseman acquires a starting linebacker this offseason. Investing in the linebacker position hasn’t been a priority of Howie’s, though, so it will be interesting to see how he and the front office go about addressing it.
Cutting Bradham freed up $4.5 million in cap, giving the Eagles a total of $45 million in cap space to work with this offseason. With that much money to play around with, I’d expect Howie to address this need in free agency. Especially since the Eagles will probably use a high draft pick on a wideout or corner.
Here are three guys who the Eagles could possibly bring in to replace Bradham at linebacker.
2019 Stats: 133 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles
Joe Schobert could end up being the most sought after linebacker on the open market in March. At just 26-years-old, he still has a lot of football in him and he’s steadily gotten better each year in the NFL.
He’s your prototypical 4-3 middle linebacker, standing at 6-foot-1 and weighing in at 247 pounds. He’s a playmaker who does a little bit of everything for his defense, and he’s managed to stay relevant despite playing on a Cleveland Browns team that hasn’t won many ball games.
Schobert has been a rare bright spot for the Browns defense. But since they probably can’t afford to keep him around, the Eagles would be more than happy to take him off their hands.
Howie has the money to get this deal done. He would be a huge upgrade over what the Eagles have had at linebacker over the past few seasons.
2019 Stats: 134 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles
If Schobert doesn’t get the biggest contract of the linebacker free agents this offseason, it’ll probably because Corey Littleton did. Like Schobert, Littleton is just 26-years-old and has gotten progressively better throughout his career.
His athleticism and outstanding pass coverage ability should be appealing to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who has tended to favor more athletic linebackers throughout his coaching career.
Over the past two seasons, Littleton has posted a 90.6 coverage grade on Pro Football Focus, good for third-best in the NFL. However, his ability to stop the run is not nearly as solid as his pass coverage. He’s near the bottom of the league against the run according to PFF, ranking as the 103rd-best out of 126 qualifying linebackers.
Still, Littleton has shown improvement in that area over the course of his four-year career, so there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to progress. Given his inability to be a true three-down linebacker, Howie could possibly sign Littleton to a short term deal to see if he’s really worth the money.
2019 Stats: 155 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble
Although Blake Martinez recorded the most tackles of the three linebackers listed, he’s also missed the most tackles, accumulating double digit missed tackles in each year of his career.
It’s not like he’s been a bad linebacker for his Green Bay Packers, though. He’s been very solid at a lot of things, he’s just had trouble being consistently good at any of them. Which will probably have teams reluctant to hand him a big contract.
Like Littleton, Howie could probably get away with signing Martinez on a relatively cheap deal. Somewhere in the ball park of 2-3 years at an average salary of about $7-$9 million per year.