Philadelphia Eagles: Releasing Joe Walker feels like a mistake

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

After initially making the 53-man roster, the Philadelphia Eagles have officially released Joe Walker to make room for waiver claim LB D.J. Alexander.

A day after trimming their roster down to 53 and making a surprise trade with the Chicago Bears to acquire Joe Douglas protegé Deiondre’ Hall, the Philadelphia Eagles are at it again, this time making a waiver claim on a former Pro Bowl linebacker.

Though it seemed improbable, as they sat dead last on the waiver wire, Howie Roseman was still able to upgrade his team with former Seattle Seahawks linebacker D.J. Alexander.

What a pro.

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Alexander, a graduate of Oregon State, was initially drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2015 to add some youthful energy to their linebacking core but was never really able to carve out a niche on the defensive side of the ball.

But in true Eagles fashion, Alexander shined on special teams.

As the Chiefs’ special teams ace, Alexander utilized his legitimate 4.5 speed to fly around the field while covering kicks and setting up blocks for return men, earning him a spot in the 2016 Pro Bowl as a result.

However, even a Pro Bowl 2016 season wasn’t enough to earn Alexander an expanded role with the Chiefs and he was ultimately traded to the Seattle Seahawks for Boston College coverage linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis just prior to the 2017 NFL season.

Appearing in 12 games for Pete Carroll‘s squad in his lone season in the Emerald City, Alexander once again was mostly relegated to special teams duty, only recording a pair of tackles on the defensive side of the ball while failing to log a single start.

Though he continues to be a four-core special teamer on his new squad, Alexander was among the final cuts as the Hawks trimmed their roster down to 53, officially being subjected to the waiver wire, and eventually finding a new home in South Philly.

But unfortunately, for Alexander to join the team, another player had to go.

That player was 2016 seventh round pick, Joe Walker.

Walker, a former JUCO standout who played linebacker for Chip Kelly at Oregon from 2013-2015, made three starts for the Eagles’ last season after Jordan Hicks went down with a season-ending Achilles injury, holding down the middle of the field to the best of his ability.

Don’t get me wrong, Walker was clearly the team’s defensive weakest link when compared to the rest of the defense, only recording four tackles over 12 games, but is it really a wise decision to trade the team’s backup middle linebacker a five days before their regular season debut?

Probably not.

Now granted, technically Nigel Bradham would serve as the team’s second-string middle linebacker if Hicks were to go down with another major injury, but he’s suspended for the team’s Week 1 game against the Atlanta Falcons due to his off the field scuffle with a Miami hotel employee.

If Hicks misses any time in that game, we could be looking at a disaster.

Related Story. 5 reactions to final cuts for 53-man roster during 2018 season. light

With Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill expected to log their first starters against Atlanta, the team will only have one linebacker, LaRoy Reynolds, with any knowledge of their scheme as a potential backup should someone suffer an injury, and he only signed with the team back in May after bouncing around the league over the last five years.

Without Hicks who will call plays? Malcolm Jenkins?

For all of Walker’s relative shortcomings on the field, he’s been in Jim Schwartz‘s scheme since  May of 2016, having had extensive time to learn the subtle nuances and intricacies of the scheme inside and out.

Intricacies in a read-and-react attacking 4-3 that Alexander likely won’t master for at least a few weeks.

Though the team’s decision to move on from Walker could be short-lived, as he will likely join their practice squad should be clear waivers, it seems a bit shortsighted to release a tenured defender less than a week before the season to add an unproven replacement, regardless of his prowess at special teams, especially with the team’s starting weakside linebacker already suspended for Week 1.

Next. Get to know new safety Deiondre’ Hall. dark

With Kamu Grugier-Hill, DeAndre Carter, Wendell Smallwood, Shelton Gibson, Tre Sullivan, and eventually Chris Maragos and Deiondre’ Hall already on the roster, the Philadelphia Eagles really don’t need another special teams ace. They do, however, need some depth at linebacker, and only time will tell if this set of moves helps to bolster Ken Flajole‘s unit, or decimates its depth.