This hasn't been mentioned often in this fashion. We all know that the Philadelphia Eagles have a tendency to devalue the linebacker position, but try this little nugget on for size. Prior to their decision to select EDGE/linebacker Nolan Smith 30th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, Philly hadn't taken a linebacker during the first round of any selection meeting since they settled on Jerry Robinson in 1979.
If you're confused about why many believe the Birds are negligent in staffing this unit appropriately, look no further than their willingness to let a home-grown talent like former undrafted rookie T.J. Edwards walk. We get it. The theory was it was Nakobe Dean's time to shine, but he is on injured reserve and possibly somewhat fragile.
If you classify three of their listed linebackers as edge rushers, which most would (Nolan Smith, Patrick Johnson, and Haason Reddick), Zach Cunningham, Christian Elliss, and Nicholas Morrow are the only true linebackers on the current 53-man roster.
Nakobe Dean will be back at some point, but he has only played 83 snaps in his two-year career. Should further injuries occur, Philly needs a contingency plan. Might they look to free agency? Unfortunately, they may not like what they find there either.
Here are the top free-agent options the Eagles have at the linebacker position.
If we were to offer some advice that no one will listen to, we'd suggest coaching the guys up who are currently on the roster or asking Sean Desai to play some 'big nickel' and put another safety on the field.
It's always good to keep tabs on the free-agent market though. Believe it or not, the best option might be the guy the Eagles just released.
1. The slightly familiar face: Rashaan Evans
Rashaan Evans is arguably the best of the free-agent bunch. He's a former first-round selection of the Tennessee Titans, but after signing him on September 12th, the Eagles elected to release him three days later. Keep an eye on him. He could still land somewhere.
2. Jaylon Smith
Jaylon Smith helped fill a huge hole for the New York Giants at linebacker last season. He proved to be well-rounded and versatile with a skill set the Birds need on their roster.
3. Mykal Walker
Mykal Walker is one of those better free-agent possibilities that you may not have heard of. He has appeared in 49 games over three seasons as a member of the Atlanta Falcons. He has been the starter in 20 of those. His resume reads as follows: 187 tackles. three interceptions, 11 pass breakups, one sack, and one forced fumble.
4. Josh Bynes
A former undrafted free agent (2011), Josh Bynes has found a way to hang around. He even has a Super Bowl ring for his efforts (XLVII).
In terms of the measurables, he's six-foot-one and tips the scales at 235 pounds. He has 582 tackles, 8.5 sacks, five interceptions, three forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries on his professional resume, but it's doubtful the Eagles will add a 34-year-old journeyman to their roster.
5. Anthony Barr
Anthony Barr can be very effective if the plan is to use him in blitz packages. The noticeable weakness in his game is he isn't nearly as effective when he is asked to play in coverage. That isn't something Eagles fans want to hear about potential prospects.
With that said, we can remove him from consideration.
6. Honorable mention: Jayon Brown
Jayon Brown was much better earlier in his career than he has been as of late. He's only 28 years old, so there's a chance that, with some good coaching, he could see a resurgence.