Philadelphia Eagles: Thomas Davis is a perfect veteran linebacker addition

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

While he may not be a sexy signing, ex-Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis fits Jim Schwartz and the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive scheme to a T.

When the 2019 NFL season officially begins this fall the Philadelphia Eagles‘ defense is going to look very different.

With Michael Bennett heading to New England, Chris Long flirting with retirement, and Jordan Hicks and Ronald Darby heading to free agency, the Eagles are going to have to reload their roster with a number of smart money deals in order to remain under the cap and competitive against the Dallas Cowboys atop the NFC East.

But what, or should I say who should the Eagles invest their cap space on, especially after receiving an almost $7.2 million reprieve following Bennett’s exit?

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That is the $21.85 million question.

When examining’s Top 101 NFL free agents board, it’s clear there are a number of high-profile players who could make the Eagles instantly better, like Le’Veon BellNdamukong Suh, or Anthony Barr, but there’s one player a little further down the list who is almost a picture perfect fit in Jim Schwartz‘s 4-3, wide-nine scheme: Thomas Davis.

Davis, the 14th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft is the most storied player available in this year’s free agent class, and despite being almost 36-years-old looks like he can still be a productive player in the right role.

Need proof? Look no further than Davis’ 2018 numbers.

According to Pro Football Focus, Davis played 650 defensive snaps for the Carolina Panthers, or roughly 65 percent of their 995 snaps.  While he did miss four games to start the season, Davis finished out the year with a 74.2 PFF defensive grade. That number would have ranked second among the Eagles linebackers, 6.5 points below Hicks’ 80.7 average.

While it’s a bit down from Davis’ career high, an 83.4 set back in 2013, that’s to be expected. Not only was Davis 35 last season, but he also played 412 fewer spots, as his role on Ron Riveria‘s defense has shrunk from an every-down ‘backer to a more traditional 4-3 will linebacker.

Last season, the Eagles used Kamu Grugier-Hill as their base will linebacker, but spent the vast majority of their defensive snaps in the nickel package, with Hicks and Nigel Bradham remaining on the field.

Though the team’s relatively light linebacking corp wasn’t particularly brutalized, as Bradham only missed one game, and Hicks only missed four, the team was often a sprained ankle away from total disaster in the middle. Adding an esteemed veteran like Davis, with extensive experience in a Philly-adjacent defensive scheme, could help to ease those fears, and allow Schwartz to deploy a linebacker rotation in the same way he shuffles in and out his defensive line.

In a lot of ways, Davis’ game is remarkably similar to that of Stephen Tulloch; one of Schwartz’s favorite players.

Like Tulloch, Davis is a bit on the shorter side for a starting linebacker (5-foot-11 vs. 6-foot-1), but mostly makes up for it with athleticism, coverage skills, and an ability to read-and-react to an offenses’ play call.

And off the field, Thomas couldn’t be a better guy.

The winner of the 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year award for his work with the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation, Davis became one of the most popular players in Pathers history not only because of his on the field acclaim, but for helping people in and around the Carolinas.

I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of guy I’d be targeting in free agency, and frankly, Howie Roseman should do the same.

Sure, he’s almost 36 and has played 10,025 defensive snaps over 13 NFL seasons, but on a short-term, market-priced deal, Thomas Davis could be an amazing addition to the Philadelphia Eagles both on and off the field. With enough experience to play all three 4-3 linebacking positions, and an assumed desire to play for a contender, there isn’t a more natural union to be found in free agency this year.

Next. Michael Bennett trade puts Philadelphia Eagles in tough spot. dark

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