Tuesday, March 20, 2012

DeMeco Ryans, defensive savior?

How can you not love the deal that brings two-time Pro Bowl linebacker DeMeco Ryans to the Eagles for a fourth round draft pick?

The Eagles, as usual, have a ton of draft picks. And the Eagles, as usual, had a serious problem at the linebacker position.

Even until today, it was widely assumed that the Eagles would look to move on either Curtis Lofton, Stephen Tulloch, or London Fletcher once their asking prices dropped, or would look at Luke Kuechly if he were available at their spot in the first round of the draft.

Fletcher is 37 years old. Lofton has been described by some around the league as a two-down linebacker, which isn't what the Eagles need. Tulloch has played behind the wide-nine, but clearly has an inflated opinion of his value, and the Lions may yet retain him to stay in Jim Schwartz's wide-nine scheme. I'm a big Kuechly fan, but any rookie comes with question marks.

Ryans himself is not without question marks. He missed ten games in 2010 after rupturing his Achilles tendon, and recorded just 46 tackles in 16 starts last year (though, it should be noted, the Texans switched to a 3-4 under Wade Phillips before the season, which de-emphasized Ryan's role.

But before that? Oh, my. Ryans was a tackling machine, recording 86 or more solo tackles in each of his first four seasons. He was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006, and made the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2009.

Make no mistake, he hasn't been much of a big-play guy, recording just 8.5 sacks and two interceptions in his career. But I can think of plenty of times last year, as opposing backs ripped through the middle of the Eagles defense for huge gains, when I thought to myself, "Wow, it sure would be nice to have a real starting middle linebacker."

If Ryans can regain even 85 percent of his pre-injury form, the Eagles will have plugged that hole for the foreseeable future. In the mean time, they gave up just a fourth round draft pick.

The Eagles last ten fourth round picks have been Casey Matthews, Alex Henery, Trevard Lindley, Keenan Clayton, Mike Kafka, Clay Harbor, Mike McGlynn, Quintin Demps, Jack Ikegwuonu, and Max Jean-Gilles.

There are a couple of erstwhile contributors on that list, but it's not exactly a who's who of impact players. I'd say the Eagles got themselves a steal.


  1. I am also pleased with this trade. Minimal risk, big potential reward. My only major concern is that the Eagles will view this as fixing their linebacker problem. If it turns out that Ryans is no longer an impact player, then what? If I'm the Eagles, I go out and use my first round pick on the top linebacker available. Plus, even if Ryans is an impact player, the Eagles weren't exactly one linebacker away. Still need to make another move. BTW I think the Lions re-signed Tulloch.

  2. And to call that list of 4th rd picks "erstwhile contributors" is far too complementary. That list is a bunch of backups and scrubs. The best player on that list is either a kicker, a 3rd string QB, or a backup TE.

  3. To be fair, Jean-Gilles and McGlynn each started a bunch of games with the Eagles. That doesn't mean they were good, or should have been starting, but they did contribute.

    But more importantly, as much as I like Kuechly, I've always thought it was completely wishful thinking that Big Red would use such a high pick on an inside linebacker when he's never, ever done it before. There was a much higher chance that they would put Jamar Chaney back at middle linebacker, spend a mid-round pick on the next Chris Gocong, and spend the rest of the offseason and preseason trying to convince us that things were totally fine. I think the Eagles are done with the linebacker corps for the offseason, bar a mid-to-late draft pick.

  4. This trade was phenomenal. But it makes me worry. Teams always know more about their own players injuries than all the other teams obviously. So is their rationale simply a defensive change, or is he a lot more banged up then any of realize. Either way the trade was definitely worth doing. But it does kill my maner (man-boner) for Curtis Lofton.

  5. Yea I wouldn't have minded Curtis Loften. The quotes from Ryans former teammates about him being a leader and them being shocked he's leaving are pretty encouraging though