Will the Lions moves this offseason includes targeting a free agent linebacker? If so, they should take a hard look at Eagles linebacker group this weekend. More specifically, its time to focus on TJ Edwards.
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TJ Edwards, a 26-year-old undrafted linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles, has made a name for himself in the NFL. After going undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft, Edwards has worked hard to earn a starting role on the Eagles team. This past season, he started every game and recorded a career-high 159 tackles, placing him second in the NFC behind Seattle Seahawks linebacker Jordyn Brooks.
Edwards’ Performance in 2022
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Edwards was finally given a true three-down role starting in Week 8 of 2021, and since then, his 88.5 grade is the top mark among off-ball linebackers. PFF also stated that Edwards was one of just four linebackers in 2022 to earn grades above 75.0 in both run defense and coverage. Despite his impressive performance, Edwards may not have a strong market this off-season with just 1.5 seasons as an every-down starter. However, all evidence suggests that he can continue to play at an extremely high level and deserves a strong multi-year deal that reflects that.
Potential for Edwards’ Return to the Eagles
Before the season began, Nick Rallis, the Eagles’ linebackers coach, had high expectations for Edwards. Rallis stated, “He’s going to play that much faster. He’s already an extremely fast processor, extremely smart, he’s moving really well, he’s playing physical. We’re just taking it to the next level. We want to take every aspect of his game up another notch.” (per Dave Zinger of NBC Sports Philadelphia)
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The Eagles drafted a potential replacement for Edwards last spring in Nakobe Dean, though it is assumed that Dean will supplant Kyzir White in the lineup. The Eagles would like to bring back Edwards, but it will come down to whether or not the offer they make to him will be enough to entice him to sign. Edwards may also choose to test free agency and gauge his worth on the open market.
Recognition for Edwards’ Performance
Edwards’ impressive season did not go unnoticed by the Butkus Foundation, which named him a finalist for the Butkus Award for professionals.
The other five finalists for the award are:
- Kansas City’s Nick Bolton
- New York Jets C.J. Mosley
- Baltimore’s Roquan Smith
- L.A. Rams Bobby Wagner
- San Francisco’s Fred Warner
All of these players were drafted no later than the third round, highlighting Edwards’ accomplishment as an undrafted free agent.
Edwards as a Potential Asset for the Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions should also take notice of Edwards’ performance as they look to strengthen their defense. The Lions need a leader who is also on an upward trajectory in their career. Edwards could be a key piece to the Lions defense alongside Malcolm Rodriguez. The Lions could also aim for another LB on day 3 of the draft to further bolster their defense.
The Lions have a decision to make regarding veteran starter Alex Anzalone, who is a free agent. Though he’s a solid leader and had a good year, Edwards would be a significant upgrade at the position.
Other Potential Free Agent Targets on the Philadelphia Eagles
- QB – Gardner Minshew, 26 – could the Lions get him on a 2-year deal to backup Goff and compete for a starting job in 2024? MCDC and Minshew Mania seems like a pairing thats too good to be true.
- CB – James Bradberry, 29 – Acquired by the Eagles after being released by the New York Giants, he made his debut by returning a Jared Goff interception for a touchdown in the 2022 season opener. He had a solid regular season for the Eagles and could be a valuable mentor for the Lions’ young corners like Jeff Okudah, Jerry Jacobs, or the multiple CB’s they’re expected to pick in the upcoming draft.
- RB – Miles Sanders, 25 – seems like he’s been around a while, but at 25 years old he still has a lot left in the tank. As a bonus, the Pro Bowler knows how to perform in a multi-feature backfield.
- DT – Javon Hargrave, 29 – The big man deserves a big contract. Though, it’s uncertain if Brad Holmes is ready to make that commitment at this phase of the “uproar.” If he did land in Detroit, he could be a force to be reckoned with on that defense for years.
- DE – Brandon Graham, 34 – It will be nearly impossible to get him away from the Eagles, however, it would be a fitting end to his career for Graham to compete for a Super Bowl with the Detroit Lions, wearing the team’s iconic Honolulu Blue jersey. Not only is Graham a talented player, but he is also highly respected by his peers and coaches. He possesses a unique combination of leadership and professionalism. His presence would undoubtedly help bring out the best in his teammates. The intangibles are what make him a valuable addition to the team and to the City of Detroit.
Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
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