The Philadelphia Eagles defensive line in 2013 was young and inexperienced, but also very talented. Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton, a second-year and a third-year player respectively, started every game at defensive end. Rookie Bennie Logan took over at nose tackle after Week 8, when Isaac Sopoaga was traded to the New England Patriots.
It was a move that involved a lot of risk, but Philadelphia won the bet. The defensive line was the strength of their defense. The Eagles finished in the top-10 in rushing yards allowed. Their opponents averaged less than 3.8 yards/carry.
What the Eagles’ defensive line lacked was depth. If one of the starters was injured, the Birds would be in a very difficult situation. Vinny Curry was good as a pass rusher, but the coaching staff didn’t see a three-down lineman in him. Clifton Geathers and Damion Square were insufficient as rotational players, let alone as potential starters.
The Eagles were lucky enougn to not find out how much an injury would cost them.
Bennie Logan was the only true nose tackle on the roster – in fact, he still is. The Eagles can’t go into the next season without adding another tackle. Looking for a guy in the 2014 NFL Draft would be the obvious way to go. However, given the little experience of the defensive line, someone who has already played in the NFL would make more sense.
Enter Linval Joseph.
Joseph has been in the league since 2010. He was a second-round pick for the New York Giants in the 2010 NFL Draft. At 6′ 5″, 325lbs, he looks like a slightly bigger version of Logan. Moreover, he fits the “big guys beat little guys” concept of head coach Chip Kelly.
Joseph has been a regular presence on the Giants’ defense for the last three years. He has not turned heads with his stats, but he has been productive and consistent throughout. He totalled 59 tackles (solo and assisted) in each of the last two seasons and averaged 3.5 sacks (h/t to ESPN).
At 25, Joseph is about to hit free agency for the first time in his career. After a four-year rookie deal worth $4.2 million, he will be looking for his first big contract.
Joseph does not impress with his athleticism. Most of the times, he leaves the impression that he does not give his full effort. Nevertheless, he would be a good option for the Philadelphia Eagles.
First of all, he is big and strong enough to be a two-gap lineman. Coming out of college, he was considered someone who could play in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. It is not by accident that a lot of people saw a versatile player in Joseph.
Joseph is not just strong. He also has a quick first step for an interior lineman. When he plays with intensity, he can beat most offensive linemen one-on-one and that’s why he can attract double teams as a 3-4 nose tackle.
His versatility also allows the Eagles to line him up at defensive end next to Logan and clog the middle.
Even though he has expressed his desire to stay a Giant, it is doubtful that he will return to New York. Joseph won’t come cheap after two solid seasons. The G-Men are not very flexible in terms of salary cap and this would most likely lead to Joseph hitting the market.
Joseph will demand at least $20 million for a four-year deal. When Fletcher Cox, the highest paid defensive lineman on the team is given less than $3 million per year, it’s hard to imagine the Eagles will offer a $20 million deal to a free agent.
However, if the Philadelphia Eagles add Joseph to the mix, they get an incredibly talented stable of linemen. This translates to a possible injury being less critical for the team and to a smaller drop in performance when rotating players. The Eagles will also have the ability to use multiple defensive-line combinations.
Furthermore, they steal one of the best players of an arch-rival. What’s not to like about getting someone the Giants want badly, while delivering a blow to their already mediocre defensive front?