Philadelphia Eagles Should Set Sights Higher at LB Than Dan Connor

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMarch 13, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - CIRCA 2010: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Dan Connor of the Carolina Panthers poses for his 2010 NFL headshot  circa 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images

Although numerous reports have circulated that the Philadelphia Eagles were set to agree to terms on a contract with free-agent-to-be Dan Connor of the Carolina Panthers (who they haven't talked to yet, of course, because that would be tampering), recent updates seem to suggest that may have cooled off, at least according to this tweet from Howard Eskin from NBC-10 TV in Philadelphia.

Told LB Dan Connor not direction eagles are going right now.

— Howard Eskin (@howardeskin) March 13, 2012

If Eskin is correct, then good for the Philadelphia, because while Connor has shown himself to be a serviceable pro, given how badly the Eagles were gashed up the middle at times last year they could stand to do better. They could also likely do so without devastating their reported $10 million or so in cap space.

In a perfect world the Eagles would pursue Detroit Lions middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who not only has 276 total tackles over the past two years, but also has experience in the "Wide 9" defensive front that the Eagles employ from his time with the Tennessee Titans.

However, as Tulloch recently told Sirius XM Radio via the Detroit Free Press, he's looking for a big payday after playing under a one-year deal last season in Motown, and that may have priced the seventh-year pro out of Philly's market.

"I just want to continue to play football and get what I deserve. That's what it boils down to."

In February, the Cleveland Browns re-signed middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson to a five-year, $42.5 million extension ($19 million guaranteed). Some believe that was a good sign for Tulloch, but after watching Paul Posluszny score a big contract in 2011, Tulloch isn't sure what to expect.

"Paul is a great player and he deserved it," Tulloch said. "I definitely felt like I was in the same ballpark after he signed the deal, but things didn't work out that way. Like I said, everything happens for a reason. I'm a positive person. I know my time is coming when it comes to that."

The Eagles could also look to lower-priced options that are still preferable to a journeyman such as Connor. One such player is David Hawthorne of the Seattle Seahawks.

Hawthorne, who topped 100 total tackles three years in a row in Seattle, is a more than capable run defender that has seemingly fallen from favor in Seattle, at least according to Pro Football Weekly.

MLB David Hawthorne, the team's leading tackler the last three seasons, is another key free-agent re-signing target, but we hear the Seahawks will not break the bank on Hawthorne's behalf because of his durability issues.

"Breaking the bank" is a pretty relative term, as Hawthorne will all but certainly sign in the $4-5 million annual range at best. Also, Hawthorne did play through a knee injury last year, but the four-year veteran has missed all of three games in his four-year career, so I'm not sure of which "durability issues" the report speaks.

The Eagles could also forgo free agency altogether and draft a middle linebacker in the draft such as Luke Kuechly of Boston College or Bobby Wagner of Utah State. The latter of those two possibilities is more likely, as the Eagles under Andy Reid have rarely made the middle linebacker position a big priority in the draft (or free agency for that matter).

That needs to change this year if the Eagles are going to get back into the thick of things in the NFC East, and given the number of options at their disposal, it's good news for Philly fans if the Eagles have figured out that they can do a lot better than Connor.