Eagles Rumors: Top 4 Defensive Stars Philly Must Target

Jasen ShenCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Cortland Finnegan of the Tennessee Titans poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles have assured themselves of having a top-rated offense by assigning the franchise tag to explosive wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

With the majority of their priorities situated on offense, the team should turn its’ attention to the defensive side of the ball.

On paper, the Eagles defense looked formidable and maybe even top-notch.  Last season, they allowed only 20.5 points per game (10th in the league) and 324.9 yards (eighth); however, there are still areas in which the Eagles can drastically improve.

These four defensive free agents would immediately solve some of their issues.


London Fletcher

Even at 36 years of age, London Fletcher would be a great fit for a team that desperately needs a sure-tackling linebacker and would be a short-term fix for a team that is looking to win now.

His veteran leadership and accountability are things that other free agents like Curtis Lofton and Stephen Tulloch can’t match.

The John Carroll product spent the first 13 years of his career establishing himself as one of the league’s best 4-3 signal-callers—only to be forced into a 3-4 scheme during his 14th season. 

All he did then was set a career-high in tackles with 166.  He also added 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two interceptions and eight pass deflections.

Fletcher sets the standard for reliability, consistency and durability.

The only year in which he posted less than 90 tackles was his rookie campaign.

He has also never missed a game and seems to perform well under any circumstance. Aside from Brett Favre, there may not be a sturdier player to have played in the NFL.

If the Eagles were able to sign him, not only would they be poaching their divisional rival’s best defensive player, but also adding a veteran who can command the respect of a star-studded huddle.



David Hawthorne

David Hawthorne should’ve been on Philadelphia’s radar ever since Week 13—when he returned an interception for a touchdown that all but sealed the Eagles’ chances at making the playoffs.

At the age of 26, he is just entering his prime and unlike Fletcher, would offer a long-term solution to the Eagles’ linebacker woes.

The Seattle Seahawks have made it clear that they won’t “break the bank” for his services, so this is where Philadelphia can make a play.

There are currently no Eagles linebackers who deserve to have a starting linebacker spot handed to them.  So this is where Hawthorne’s versatility and ability to play both inside and outside become of value.

This means that no matter how Philly addresses the other spots in their rotation, Hawthorne is guaranteed to see the field.

He is a legitimate three-down player who boasts a plus-38.6 run defense grade over the past three years.  If Hawthorne’s developing coverage skills can match his ability in run support, he’ll become one of the best linebackers for the next seven years.



Brodrick Bunkley

If the Eagles can’t acquire the necessary linebackers to play behind Jim Washburn’s wide-9 scheme, look for the responsibility of run stopping to fall upon the front-four.

With Mike Patterson set to undergo offseason brain surgery, and Antonio Dixon, Derek Landri and Trevor Laws all set to enter free agency, the Eagles may soon find themselves very thin at the defensive tackle position. 

To address this need, the team would be wise to bring back a player who they traded away.

In his five years in Philly, Brodrick Bunkley underachieved and failed to meet the expectations that come along with being the 14th overall pick. 

After playing alongside Tim Tebow in Denver, Bunkley seemed to undergo a revelation.

In his only season with the Denver Broncos, Bunkley finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ top ranked interior lineman against the run.  His 31 run stops accounted for an impressive 11.3 percent of his total snaps. 

If he somehow found his way back to Philadelphia, the Birds could pair him with Cullen Jenkins (who finished fourth on the list) to boast one of the fiercest tackle tandems in the NFL. 



Cortland Finnegan

After adding Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie during last year’s offseason, some of you might be wondering why the Eagles would need Cortland Finnegan.

It’s true that Philadelphia currently rosters three All-Pro cornerbacks; however, with Asante Samuel’s expected departure, the team may look to regain a luxury that allowed them to deploy Asomugha in different positions.

If Samuel were indeed traded, Finnegan would be an ideal fit.

His aggressive in-your-face style of press coverage would add a dynamic of toughness and physicality to Philadelphia’s secondary—something they’ve lacked since the departure of Brian Dawkins.

It’s true that Finnegan lacks the ball-hawking skills of Samuel, but that’s not where his value lies.

In his nine-year career, Samuel has a single-season high of 65 tackles.  In comparison, Finnegan has a season-low of 63.  And although Finnegan has played in 38 fewer regular-season contests, he has posted 105 more tackles.

If the Birds can swoop in on the Samford product, look for this to a be a repeat of last year—where the Dallas Cowboys end up as the losers.