The biggest swing the Eagles could take in the 2024 NFL Draft after adding Saquon Barkley

The Eagles have channeled their inner risk-takers. Now we'd like to see them consider doing so on the defensive side of the ball in the NFL Draft.

Edgerrin Cooper, Philadelphia Eagles
Edgerrin Cooper, Philadelphia Eagles / Kara Durrette/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

Most of you reading this weren't around to see the year 1979. As is always the case, history was made. Here's a recap of some of what happened. Jimmy Carter was the president. Margaret Thatcher was elected as the U.K.'s prime minister. Sony released the Walkman, 1979 was also the last time the Philadelphia Eagles drafted a linebacker in Round 1 of the NFL Draft. Think about that for a second. Think about how long ago that was.

There have been 44 NFL Drafts since Philly selected Jerry Robinson out of UCLA. A 45th nears at the end of April, and we're asking a familiar question. Might this be the year the Birds FINALLY give serious thought to investing a first-round choice into adding an elite player to play at the second level of their defense?

No Nolan Smith doesn't count. He is an edge rusher, not a conventional linebacker.

The Eagles are shaking things up now. See the Saquon Barkley signing for evidence. Might their new risk-taking nature extend itself into April? Frankly, we have an idea. This one involves the defensive side of the ball.

Taking a linebacker in Round 1 is the biggest (and most unpredictable) swing the Eagles can take in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Ask any Birds fan what their theories are about Philly's business model, especially roster building. They'll tell you the Eagles don't treat linebackers like they play a premium position. The evidence supports that theory. Several things must be considered though.

The first is this. The Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers qualified for the most recent Super Bowl. What do they have in common? We could answer that by mentioning a few things. One of which is both teams are solid at linebacker. If you examine the top NFL rosters, the same is true about them. Mull this over while we're on the subject.

If there were ever a time for Philly to invest in the position and do so early in the draft, this would be the time to do so. Stars like Edgerrin Cooper and Cedric Gray are stars in the making, and some talented guys should hear their names called in Round 2. Payton Wilson and Junior Colson come to mind.

Cooper isn't a natural in coverage, but he is hugely proficient as a run defender. He totaled 83 tackles, eight sacks, two forced fumbles, zero interceptions, and a pass breakup in 2023. Gray tallied 121 tackles, five sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles, and four pass breakups during his final season with the North Carolina Tar Heels. Both would look great in an Eagles jersey.

Both are game changers. Both have Pro Bowl nods in their futures. The Eagles have obvious needs at the position as Nakobe Dean is still unproven (and returning from injury). There's nothing past Dean to be excited about, and we're including a possible Zach Cunningham extension when we say that.

Maybe the drought continues and the Eagles again wait to address the needs of their defense's second level until later rounds of the selection meeting. Maybe they don't. We'll have to wait and see,

Philly may elect to wait until day two or day three of the selection meeting to take a TRUE linebacker rather than doing so with an early-round selection (if they take one then). If that was the strategy, it won't be because they lack options. We certainly trust Howie Roseman's judgment though.

He has earned that. And, yes, many guys will be available in Round 1 who play other positions that could make an immediate impact for Philadelphia. It is, however, worth noting, that there's more than one way to build a roster, and we hope our Birds can see that.

Hey, look at it this way. We never thought Philly would pay big-time money to a linebacker, and as mentioned earlier, they added Saquon Barkley. Maybe this is the dawn of a new way of thinking. We can't wait to see what transpires.

Read more NFL Draft news

manual