The 'Kearse' at Left Defensive End

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With the announcement that the Panthers will not franchise tag Julius Peppers, look for the rumors linking him to the Eagles to heat up. Even at 30, expect Peppers to get a handsome payday from whichever team offers him a contract. I just hope that team isn’t our beloved Birds.

I wanted Peppers last season, but not so much now. For some reason, I have a feeling he will turn into another Jevon Kearse should he join the midnight green. Back in 2004, the Birds made Kearse, who was 28 at the time, the highest paid defensive lineman in the league by shelling out $65 million to acquire his services.

Needless to say, 22 sacks, torn knee cartilage and a fractured tibia in four seasons wasn’t what Reid and Co. had in mind. Kearse did help the team reach the Super Bowl, but his time in Philly did not meet expectations.

So, before we start pounding the ‘Sign Peppers’ drum, I suggest we exercise caution. Does the defense need an upgrade at left end? Yes. Would Peppers provide an immediate upgrade? In theory, yes. But we’re talking about a player known to lose interest on occasion and one that has expressed interest in being a 3-4 OLB. He’d also be coming to a more complex system than the one he excelled at in Carolina.

Then there’s the fact that the Birds have been snakebit at left defensive end for years. Besides Kearse, there have been other disappointments. Derrick Burgess flashed but couldn’t stay healthy; then he went to Oakland and dominated. Victor Abiamiri has four sacks in three years and has missed several games with various injuries. Chris Clemons was handed a 5-year contract to help in the pass rush department. He has zero starts in two seasons and just seven sacks.

Juqua Parker is a solid player coming off a career season, but he’ll be 32 in May and is better suited in a reserve role. Sadly, Parker might be the best LDE of the Reid era, at least in terms of reliability and consistency. (Apologies to Greg Jefferson and Brandon Whiting.)

Rather than dip into the free agent pool, I’d rather see a first-round draft pick invested in left defensive end. I’m not saying reach for a player, but like Jeremy Maclin last April, should a legit talent slip to the #24 spot, the Birds should pounce.

I’ll have a close eye on the Scouting Combine the next few days just to see who’s getting the most praise from the draft pundits. Linebacker, center, safety and cornerback are also areas of need for the Eagles. But as far as I’m concerned, LDE is the most pressing position. I’m just not convinced Julius Peppers is the answer.

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Tags: 2010 NFL Free Agency Jevon Kearse Julius Peppers

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