Philadelphia Eagles: Zach Brown could perfectly fill Jordan Hicks’ shoes

(Photo by Michael Adamucci/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Adamucci/Getty Images) /

After being released by the Washington Redskins, Zach Brown could be a perfect fit as the Philadelphia Eagles’ next great middle linebacker.

Sometimes things just work out.

After lamenting the loss of Jordan Hicks to the Arizona Cardinals on a four-year, $36 million deal, the perfect linebacker for Jim Schwartz‘s scheme literally just fell into the Philadelphia Eagles‘ lap.

Folks, meet Zach Brown, and no, he’s not that Zac Brown.

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The NFL’s Zach Brown began his career as a second-round selection by the Tennessee Titans in 2012 and played a season in Buffalo before signing a free-agent deal with the Washington Redskins in 2017.

Though his stat line is far from prolific, having recorded 445 career tackles, 17.5 career sacks, and seven career interceptions, Brown is arguably the best coverage linebacker in the entire NFL.

The owner of a 76.8 catch percentage and an average NFL passer rating of 96.5 according to Pro Football Focus, the 6-foot-1, 250-pound linebacker is the kind of linebacker who can stay on the field for all three downs, and remain incredibly effective both against the run and against the pass.

You can see why Brown in Philly makes sense, right?

Possessing an almost pathological fear of rushing more than four with any regularity, Schwartz drops his linebackers into coverage on pretty much every play, having them read the play and either attack a runner or drop into zone coverage.

Schwartz also likes linebackers who are interchangeable, which is a big reason why Mychal Kendricks was never able to grasp onto consistent playing time from 2016-17, despite being arguably the team’s most athletic linebacker. With Brown next to Bradham for 70 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, the duo should be able to split the field down the middle, and even matchup if one has a particular advantage over the other, like covering a specific tight end or running back.

Oh yeah, and there’s that whole Buffalo thing.

As we all know from the team’s decision to sign players likely Leodis McKelvin, Ronald Darby, Nigel Bradham, and Corey Graham, Schwartz loves to coach players from Buffalo, the only stop on Brown’s NFL tour that earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl. Now granted, Brown didn’t actually play for Schwartz, as 2016 was his first season in Philly, but his impressive tape playing alongside future Eagles like Darby does have merit.

Sure, he’ll be 30 when the regular season begins, as opposed to being 27 in Buffalo, but outside of maybe losing a step, there’s no reason to believe Brown couldn’t continue to play at a high level in a scheme tailored to his strengths.

Unlike in Tennessee, Buffalo, or Washington, a trio of 3-4 teams, Brown would immediately slot in as the Eagles’ starting middle linebacker, given a chance to read and react to opposing defenses from the widened gaps of a wide-nine. Whether serving as the team’s weakside linebacker next to an elevated Bradham or filling Hicks’ former role as the signal-calling Mike, Brown’s athleticism and flexibility is simply too good to ignore.

Sure, Washington may have let Brown go for nothing, as they clearly want to roll with the interestingly named tandem of Mason Foster and (oft in trouble) Reuben Foster, but by letting Zack Brown walk in free agency for nothing they’ve essentially allowed him to sign with any other team in the league, including the Eagles.

And the best part? Because he was released, signing him won’t count against compensatory picks.

So not only can the Eagles further fortify their inside linebacking position with arguably the prototypical player for the role in the entire league, but they could actually do so without jeopardizing potential compensatory picks they have in line for next spring thanks to Nick Foles, Golden Tate, and even Jordan Hicks.

There’s a weird symmetry to that.

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At this point, I’d like to see a reason why Howie Roseman shouldn’t offer Zach Brown a contract.