The Philadelphia Eagles could use the same jersey and everything.
Who was going to play weakside linebacker next to T.J. Edwards and Nathan Gerry? How will Dave Fipp reconfigure his special teams unit without a 5-foot-11 speedster flying down the field? Will Howie Roseman finally learn his lesson and sign a linebacker to a two-year deal?
But do you know who else has been put in a pickle by Brown’s out-of-the-blue exit from the NFL? That would be the Eagles’ equipment management staff.
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I mean think about it, what are they going to do with all of those Brown jerseys? They probably printed what, like 10,000 of them? And the stitched variety players actually wear in-game. Have you seen how much they go for at the Pro Shop? Does Jatavis even comprehend the series of dominos he just set in motion?
Boy, if only there was another player named Brown who the Eagles could scoop up on the open market to fill the void, especially one who plays linebacker and has experience playing in Jim Schwartz‘s scheme.
Oh wait, there is: Preston Brown.
Brown, a third-round pick out of Louisville, started his NFL career off with the Buffalo Bills in 2014 under the watchful tutelage of Schwartz. Initially tasked with backing up eventual Eagle Nigel Bradham, Brown eventually supplanted starting strongside linebacker Keith Rivers in Week 7 and held the role for the final 10 games of the season.
Was Brown an ideal fit for what Schwartz likes to do? Not particularly, as Brown ran a 4.8 coming out of college and is far more of an interior thumper than a coast-to-coast coverage connoisseur, but his production, racking up 109 combined tackles, with six for a loss, and an interception, sort of made up for it.
From there, in a post-Schwartz Buffalo, Brown paired up with Bradham as co-middle linebackers in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 defensive front, continuing a streak of 100-plus tackle seasons through the duration of his rookie season. Brown then signed a pair of contracts with his hometown Cincinnati Bengals – the only reason I imagine one would willfully choose to leave a successful situation for Cincinnati – before being waived unceremoniously in November of 2019, eight months removed from signing a three-year extension.
Brown went on to play for the then-Oakland Raiders, was claimed off waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and remains a free agent to this very day.
In the NFL, things can change in a hurry.
Now on paper, Brown is an unusual fit in the Eagles’ defensive formation as a weakside linebacker. He’s not particularly fast, is only an average coverage player, and at 6-foot-1, 250 pounds, he doesn’t fit the physical mold Roseman is looking for in a modern-day quasi-safety inside linebacker, but at this point, beggars can’t be choosers.
It’s been five months since NFL free agency officially opened up on March 16th. As expected, the top available free agents, like Patrick Onwuasor, Cory Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski, and even Temple’s own Tyler Matakevich have all found homes on healthy, multi-year deals, and the second-tier linebackers, like Bryce Hager, Quentin Poling, and Adarius Taylor are finally finding homes as the summer drags on.
Heck, even Bradham has finally signed with a new team after the Eagles let him sit on the open market all summer long, joining Malcolm Jenkins and the New Orleans Saints on a one-year deal.
In Brown, the Eagles would be getting a veteran linebacker with six seasons of NFL experience despite only being 27-years-old. He’s cross-trained at both outside linebacker positions in Schwartz’s scheme and could be a factor in short-yardage plays and in base defense. Brown’s inclusion would also allow the Eagles to play Gerry on the weakside, his natural position at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds.
If Edwards fails to live up to the pre-season hype, Brown has the size to slide inside and take on would-be rushers on the interior as a big-bodied mike the likes of which the Eagles’ haven’t had since… DeMeco Ryans?
Fun fact: The Eagles haven’t had a linebacker record 100 total tackles since Bradham in 2016. They haven’t had a 250 pound inside linebacker since another former Bill, Zach Brown (no relation), so in theory, Brown could cross both off your ‘old school Philly fan’s bingo card’.
Will the Philadelphia Eagles sign Preston Brown to replace Jatavis Brown any time soon? Eh, probably not. Howie Roseman selected a pair of linebackers in the 2020 NFL Draft and his hubris may get in the way of replacing one free agent linebacker with another. Should the Philadelphia Eagles sign Preston Brown to replace Jatavis Brown? Oh most definitely, if for no other reason than to avoid making more work for those poor equipment staffers. They work hard enough as it is.