Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Hicks could be what Eric Wilson wasn’t

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

In 2021, the Philadelphia Eagles added a veteran middle linebacker in the hopes of shoring up the middle of their defense.

Sure, the team already had Alex Singleton and T.J. Edwards and added a pair of intriguing young ‘backers in the 2020 NFL Draft in Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley, but ever since Jordan Hicks signed with the Arizona Cardinals in 2019, and Nigel Bradham left town to play for a “winning organization” like the New Orleans Saints in 2020 – which is never not a funny quote – the Eagles have struggled with consistency as the linebacker position.

Goodness, need I say more than Nathan “White Snake” Gerry?

So while Eric Wilson didn’t work out and was released midway through the season in 2021, that doesn’t mean the Eagles should completely ignore the linebacker spot in free agency, right? I mean sure, the team could, and rightly should finally break their longstanding aversion to drafting linebackers in the first round, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t pursue another linebacker who can contribute in the short-term.

Maybe the Eagles should sign Bobby Wagner. Granted, he’d probably rather play for a more ready-made contender, and at 31, he doesn’t exactly fit the Eagles’ timeline, but after a tough go of things for two straight seasons, it sure would be nice to land a Jordan Hicks-type who can hold down a linebacker spot regardless of down, distance, or defensive package.

… what, he was just released? Get your phone ready, the Philadelphia Eagles.

Jordan Hicks could be everything Eric Wilson wasn’t for the Philadelphia Eagles.

If Jordan Hicks had his way, he would have been released before the 2021 NFL season.

After watching his team, the Arizona Cardinals, draft Zaven Collins with the 16th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Hicks was informed that he wouldn’t even have an opportunity to compete for the team’s middle linebacker spot and would instead be relegated to reserve duties despite his status as a team captain.

But fortunately for Hicks, things worked out well in the end. Hicks played the most defensive snaps of any player on the Cardinals and finished out the season with 116 combined tackles, which ranked second on the team behind Jalen Thompson.

And yet, with Chandler Jones set to hit the open market and a little over $2 million in available cap space according to Spotrac, the Cardinals opted to release Hicks in order to free up $6.5 million and turn their attention to Collins in the middle full time.

Will the Cardinals come to regret letting Hicks walk? Potentially so, Collins only played 220 defensive snaps in 2021 for a reason and may struggle to produce at the same level as the former Super Bowl winner as a sophomore, but their loss is another franchise’s gain, maybe even a team like the Philadelphia Eagles, who have never quite replaced Hicks since he left.

Like Eric Wilson, Hicks is a proven veteran with schematic versatility, positional versatility, and an ability to play against the run, drop into zone, and even do a little man coverage if need be. Unlike Wilson, Hicks can’t still go and would immediately become the Eagles’ best linebacker should he take the field for the team once more.

Whether played at the middle linebacker spot or tasked with kicking it outside to serve as a playmaking specialist at weakside linebacker, Hicks has 5,605 regular season defensive snaps on his resume, which, if you can believe it, is 1,158 more than the sextet of Alex Singleton, T.J. Edwards, Genard Avery, Shaun Bradley, Davion Taylor, and Patrick Johnson have played combined.

Sidebar: How is that even possible?

At 29, Hicks still has plenty of gas left in the tank and could theoretically command a deal in the same ballpark as the contract he signed with the Cardinals in the spring of 2019, something in the vein of $32 million over four years, but if his market is ever so lighter and Howie Roseman could get his services for something like $12 million over two years, it would be hard to pass such a deal up. Why? Because Hicks is a very good approximation for Eric Kendrick, the player Minnesota had handling the middle of their defense during Jonathan Gannon’s formative years. Like the younger Kendrick brother, Hicks is good in coverage, a sure tackler, and athletic enough to go sideline to sideline. He has three different multi-sack seasons, one with the Eagles and two with the Cardinals, and has picked off a pass once every 11 passes over his seven-year career, which, again, is more than all of the Eagles’ current linebackers combined.

Want to never see another game with Singleton attempting to cover a tight end, running back, or heaven forbid a slot receiver? Well, considering Hicks hasn’t missed a game since 2018, he gives the team a pretty darn good chance to avoid that outcome.

Next. Howie Roseman won the Carson Wentz trade. dark

Subjectively speaking, the Philadelphia Eagles should have never let Jordan Hicks leave in free agency. Yes, he had injury issues, and yes, Jim Schwartz had a thing for Nigel Bradham, but goodness, Hicks has been the exact kind of player the Eagles could have used in 2020 and in 2021 and will need again in 2022. Even after watching T.J. Edwards come into his own down the stretch last season, the (re)addition of Jordan Hicks on a mid-term deal could hold the Eagles linebacking corps over until a player like Davion Taylor can step into a bigger role, or whichever player the team drafts in 2022 is ready to fully take over one of the three linebacking spots full-time.