About 24 hours ago, I thought I had the Eagles off-season figured out. The Eagles were going to trade Kevin Kolb to Arizona for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and an early round draft pick. The Eagles were also going to sign a defensive end and use the rest of their cap space resigning DeSean Jackson and filling out the roster.
Now the Eagles have added another player on their free agent wish list, Titans middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch. Tulloch is just 26 years old and has racked up over 100 tackles in back to back seasons including 159 tackles last season.
The Eagles rarely go after linebackers in free agency but with Stewart Bradley likely not to be resigned and a very young core of linebackers with little to no experience, signing Tulloch would make a lot of sense.
Stephen Tulloch would be a great move for the Eagles. He is very young, has experience playing in front of Jim Washburn's defensive line scheme and he isn't a big star at this point so his contract won't be as lucrative as some.
Stephen Tulloch spent the last three years playing for the Tennessee Titans. New defensive line coach for the Eagles, Jim Washburn, was also working for the Titans the last three years. This is important as Washburn's scheme asks the defensive line to wreak havoc in the backfield more than to take up blockers which puts offensive lineman in the face of middle linebackers at times. Having a guy who knows how to play in that type of a system is a big plus.
Stephen Tulloch is just now entering the prime of his career. Signing him to a long term deal at this point means he should be in his prime through the entire contract while he shouldn't command much more than about $10 million guaranteed and about $6 million a year.
Most people believed that either Stewart Bradley or Jamar Chaney would be the Eagles middle linebacker in 2011. Stewart Bradley, like every other Eagles free agent, will not be resigned. That leaves Jamar Chaney as the Eagles starting middle linebacker right? Wrong.
Adam Caplan is reporting that the Eagles "have already penciled Jamar Chaney in at starting strongside linebacker". Chaney has been hitting the weight room hard throughout the lockout and has added some muscle to his 240 pound frame. Chaney has already proven himself to be a complete linebacker playing both inside and outside at Mississippi State while also doing an exceptional job taking over for injured Stewart Bradley at middle linebacker in 2010.
Moise Fokou started 12 games at strongside linebacker in 2010, while he improved the run defense after taking over in Week 5 he never really showed that he could be really good to great starting outside linebacker. Chaney has more speed and size than Fokou and obviously the Eagles staff really sees Chaney as a true outside linebacker if this report is true.
So with Chaney at SAM and Tulloch at MIKE if he is signed, who would play the weakside? Well, that's what training camp and preseason is for. Keenan Clayton started one game at the position last year in Week 17 but is a bit undersized. Casey Matthews is a rookie out of Oregon where he played middle linebacker. Matthews could move to the weakside even though he doesn't have as much speed as Clayton, he has better instincts and a high football IQ. Brian Rolle is the long shot to win the weakside spot but he has great speed and his lack of size actually works in his favor. Rolle plays with a serious chip on his shoulder.
The Eagles are not alone in the Stephen Tulloch sweepstakes as the Detroit Lions are a serious contender for his services. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was Tulloch's defensive coordinator during his rookie season in 2008.
The Lions top two priorities this off-season appear to be linebacker and cornerback. It has been speculated that Stephen Tulloch and Johnathan Joseph are the two players the Lions covet the most on the open market.
The Lions will have roughly about $16 million to spend in free agency and are intent on upgrading a very mediocre defense. The Lions have also been reported to show major interest in former Green Bay Packer linebacker Nick Barnett. If the Lions feel that Barnett is a solid Plan B for them at middle linebacker, they may be willing to bow out of a bidding war with the Eagles for Tulloch and sign Barnett instead.
Most reports out right now have the Lions as the clear favorite to land Tulloch but the Eagles have the cap space and a already solid core of players ready to contend for a Superbowl. Look for the Eagles to make a very serious offer for Stephen Tulloch in the next 24 hours.