The Eagles desperately needed help at middle linebacker. They just got some by way of the trade for two-time Pro Bowler DeMeco Ryans.
Whenever a move is made by a team it causes a natural domino effect. And the Ryans trade should prove to be no exception, so Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne are guys that you can officially cross of your offseason wish list.
Truthfully, those players were probably never on the Eagles’ shopping list because both are incomplete players who are each going to command serious money on the open market. So while the acquisition of Ryans probably hasn’t altered the Eagles’ free agency approach, it almost certainly must alter their approach to the draft.
The team couldn’t have counted on swinging a deal for Ryans; thus, it’s almost certain the team would have addressed the issue in the draft. But at what point?
It’s been written about ad nauseum that the Eagles haven’t used a first round pick at linebacker since 1979 when they took Jerry Robinson out of UCLA in the 1979 NFL Draft. It seemed, however, that this draft, more than any other over the past 32 years, might finally buck that trend. But I’m not so sure.
The Eagles would have had to address the need in the early rounds of the draft. We all know about Boston College’s Luke Kuechly, but the team would have to move up to make the deal. A more likely target would have been California’s ILB Mychal Kendricks. But that will no longer be necessary.
So what will the Eagles do now that they have what appears to be a legitimate fix for their most pressing need?
I have a hunch that the target has long been Mississippi State DT Fletcher Cox. Much has been made of Memphis DT Dontari Poe, a massive and extremely athletic run stopper, but he doesn’t fit the mold of what the Eagles want to do along the defensive line. Cox, meanwhile, brings a versatility that would be an ideal fit in the Eagles’ defensive scheme. The 6-4, 298-pound junior racked up 56 tackles and five sacks on the way to earning All-SEC first team honors last season. He possesses the strength to hold up against the run in the middle, but is quick to enough to rush from the edge.
And don’t let the Eagles’ need to begin breeding a long-term solution at quarterback go overlooked. We all know about Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, but Ryan Tannehill is quickly emerging as a top prospect at the position. He is a smart and athletic passer, capable of making throws both inside and outside of the pocket. His stock has risen dramatically in recent weeks.
The Browns or Dolphins look poised to select the former Texas A&M signal caller, but if he falls, the Eagles do have the firepower needed to move up and draft their quarterback of the future. In that event, they better be certain that Brandon Graham is going to have a breakout season.