With the Philadelphia Eagles trading a fourth-round draft pick and swapping third-round picks with the Houston Texans for middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, the Eagles have taken a major step in improving their talented but inconsistent defense. Ryans, who signed a six-year extension with the Texans back in 2010, will now count $6 million against the Eagles’ 2012 salary cap.
After watching Casey Matthews bomb at the middle linebacker spot in their 4-3 defense and watching Jamar Chaney play out of position, acquiring Ryans gives the Eagles the perfect veteran player to center their young defense around.
Ill-suited for Wade Philips’ 3-4 defense in Houston, Ryans took a good part of last year getting over a torn Achilles suffered in 2010. He really came on toward the end of the year, though he was pretty clearly playing out of position. Prior to his injury, he averaged 130 tackles over his first four seasons.
Returning to a 4-3 should allow Ryans to get back to the form that saw him selected for the Pro Bowl and saw him win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors back in 2007.
Prior to the Ryans trade, the Eagles had already had an excellent start to the offseason.
From the re-signing of Trent Cole (for my money, the best 4-3 defensive end in the NFL—and yes, that includes Mario Williams) to getting DeSean Jackson taken care of, the Eagles have been in the business of taking care of their own.
One such signing that has gone a bit under the radar is the Eagles' decision to bring back Evan Mathis. Mathis flirted with the idea of joining the Ravens, but instead came back to the Eagles on a five-year deal for $25 million, including $7 million guaranteed. The reason I zero in on this signing is because the Eagles got a player who isn’t that much different than Carl Nicks, who signed with Tampa Bay for $4 million more a year, or Ben Grubbs, who landed with New Orleans for $2 million more a year.
Identifying the talent you have on your roster and getting them signed to below-market deals is a great way to ensure you have not only a manageable salary cap situation year in and year out but it’s the best way to ensure you don’t need to go on the wild spending sprees we see each year, where teams overspend on marginal talent.
Of course, sometimes you need to fix roster holes that bad drafting (e.g. Casey Matthews) expose. The Eagles saw a great opportunity with Ryans being available and made their move, not giving up much in the process.
It’s early in the offseason process, but you have to like how the Eagles are coming together so far in 2012.