Philadelphia Eagles: Andrew Sendejo is a major upgrade in the big nickel

(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

With Corey Graham on his way out, the Philadelphia Eagles just upgraded their big nickel package by signing ex-Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo.

The Philadelphia Eagles use the big nickel a lot, and in 2019, Jim Schwartz‘s latest iteration looks like the scariest yet.

For years now, we’ve seen the same trio of safeties take the field for about 30 percent of the Birds’ defensive snaps, Rodney McLeod, Malcolm Jenkins, and Corey Graham, and for the most part, it’s been a great pairing.

With McLeod perched back in deep center field, Jenkins playing a quasi-linebacker role near the line, and Graham splitting the difference, the Eagles were pretty much able to matchup with any offensive package without having to make a sub-out when facing off against a no-huddle, switchable scheme.

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That’s right, with two linebackers, four lineman and five defensive backs, the Eagles could confidently faceoff against a four-receiver spread assault or an I-formation power attack without having to worry about getting caught in an advantageous offensive mismatch.

And now, in 2019, that package is about to get a whole lot more lethal.

While the spiciest segment of free agency may be fully behind us, Howie Roseman has remained vigilant and somehow secured a major upgrade for his defense’s most versatile package in 31-year-old safety Andrew Sendejo.

Sendejo, entering his 10th year in the NFL, has pretty much seen it all, from playing for the Sacramento Mountain Lions in the now-defunct United Football League, to signing with the Dallas Cowboys as a practice squad player, to his six-year tenure as the Minnesota Vikings’ starting strong safety, and now he’s attempting to further his career in the City of Brotherly Love after having his option declined.

That’s right, for $5.5 million, the Vikings allowed a player with 48 starts to his name in Mike Zimmer‘s defense to join their NFC rivals on a one-year prove it deal.

Not smart.

Now granted, Sendejo is coming off of a Week 5 groin injury (fittingly against the Eagles) that sent him to IR, and may need some extra time to return to his former strength, but it’s hard not to be at least a little excited about the prospects of adding the 31-year-old into the fold to fortify the Birds’ big nickel subpackage.

While Sendejo doesn’t have the coverage skills of Graham, who entered the league out of New Hampshire as a 4.42 running cornerback, he’s two years younger and has appeared in 89 fewer games over his career and even when playing a part-time role, that matters.

Furthermore, Sendejo has played a hybrid role with the Vikings over the last seven-years while paired with Harrison Smith, sitting back on one play, and playing near the line on the next. This makes Sendejo an ideal reserve who could conceivably fill in for either Jenkins or McLeod if the injury bug rears its ugly head.

With Jordan Hicks now a member of the Arizona Cardinals and no true heir added in free agency save for ex-Steelers special teamer L.J. Fort, it looks like the Eagles will rely on the big nickel package more than ever in 2019, potentially even using it as their ‘base’ package to face off against 12 package offenses (two wide receivers, two tight ends, and a running back).

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By locking up Sendejo on a value-conscious deal (though the exact figure has yet to be made known), Howie Roseman has identified an undervalued commodity in the open market that without a doubt makes the Eagles’ defense better in the lead up to the 2019 NFL Draft. How much Andrew Sendejo sees the field remains to be seen, but the Philadelphia Eagles are without a doubt a better team with him on the roster in 2019, and that foresight should be lauded.