When the Philadelphia Eagles passed on Detroit’s Stephen Tulloch and never made a move for Atlanta’s Curtis Lofton, it seemed apparent that the Eagles were willing to wait until the NFL draft to improve one of the league’s weakest linebacker corps.
Ryans was drafted by the Texans in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft, earning Defensive Rookie of the Year status for his phenomenal debut season in the league. That year, Ryans racked up 126 tackles, 3.5 sacks, seven passes defensed, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception.
He struggled in the recent switch to the Texans’ 3-4 defense, and wasn’t a great fit under Wade Phillips’ system. The Texans also have a slew of talented linebackers with Brian Cushing, Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin—plus last year’s standout first-round pick J.J. Watt at defensive end.
Ryans also missed 10 games in 2010 after tearing his left Achilles tendon, and it’s unknown just how much that may have affected his play in 2011. The deal is pending a physical after all, but Ryans did play all 16 games last year for the Texans.
Pro Football Focus, a website that grades each player on every play, graded Ryans as a +6.8, rating him 20th among 50 qualifying inside linebackers. Ryans is said to be a terrific run stopper, but he’s also solid in pass coverage, and he didn’t commit a single penalty in 602 defensive snaps.
Ryans will immediately step into his role as the starting middle linebacker for the Eagles, as he tries to fortify a unit that kept the Eagles from making the playoffs in 2011.
Ryans is on the hook for $5.9 million in 2012, $6.6 million in 2013, and $6.8 million in both 2014 and 2015, meaning the Eagles must really like him to take on that kind of a salary.
Many fans had been clamoring for the team to take Boston College standout Luke Kuechly with the team’s 15th overall pick, but Reid has never drafted a linebacker in the first round, and I find it highly unlikely he would have taken Kuechly. There’s still a chance he could and will, but I think Reid will go defensive tackle to help solidify his favorite unit of a football team, the defensive line.
For now, Ryans will be the starter at middle linebacker and Brian Rolle is likely to resume his role as one of the starting outside linebackers. The Eagles may give Jamar Chaney another try, or they may try to acquire another proven veteran.
They also may address the position in the draft, but either way, the Eagles just got significantly better with the acquisition of Ryans.