Philadelphia Eagles: Rodney McLeod returns to his Midwestern roots

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Rodney McLeod‘s first NFL team doesn’t exist anymore.

Now sure, technically, the Rams are very much still a football team and just won the darn Super Bowl for crying out loud not three months ago, but the “St. Louis Rams?” Well, they haven’t existed since 2015, which, coincidentally, is also the final season Rodney McLeod played for the gold and navy.

While more than a few members of the 2015 team have remained fixtures of the Rams when they took the “Greatest Show on Turf” from the midwest to the City of Angeles, McLeod forged his path back to the East Coast to become a top-10 paid safety as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. Whether paired up with Malcolm Jenkins, Jalen Mills, or, most recently, Anthony Harris, McLeod became a fixture of Philadelphia both on the field and in the community and played a core role in the team’s eventual rise to Super Bowl victory in 2017.

And now? With Anthony Harris re-signed and Tyrann Mathieu flirting with Jonathan Gannon’s defensive, Rodney McLeod has opted to follow in the footsteps of his fellow 2020 Philadelphia Eagles captain – you know the guy – and is reportedly finalizing a feel to return to his Midwestern roots as a member of the Indianapolis Colts. Will it be weird to see number 23 in anything but a midnight green uniform? You bet, but hey, after six years in our fair city, he deserves a chance to decide how his career comes to an end.

Rodney McLeod was a foundational player for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Philadelphia Eagles’ 2016 free agent class was foundational to the team’s Super Bowl victory in February of 2018. Fully back, re-empowered, and flush with some cash to spend, Howie Roseman went out and signed not one, not two, but three quality performers in starting right guard Brandon Brooks, swing guard Stefen Wisniewski, and Rodney McLeod, a UDFA cornerback out of Virginia who worked his way into one of the better safeties in the country according to PFF.

While some initially questioned the decision to bring in McLeod over more household names like Eric Widdle, Reggie Nelson, and Tashaun Gipson, he immediately proved Roseman’s evaluation right and formed one of the best safety tandems in the NFL alongside Malcolm Jenkins, another free agent signee who aged incredibly well versus the more lucrative contracts handed out in 2014.

Considering McLeod was tasked with replacing Walter Thurmond, who surprisingly retired after the 2015 NFL season, that’s pretty darn impressive.

Initially deployed as a center fielder in Jim Schwartz’s 4-3 attacking defense opposite Malcolm Jenkins, who liked to do his damage in the box, McLeod helped to sure up the back end of the Eagles’ defense and provided support for a defensive backfield that was initially deficient in talent on the perimeter. When that changed in 2017, the Eagles were able to ride their defense all the way to a February 4th date with the New England Patriots in Minnesota, a game that would immortalize McLeod, Jenkins, and the rest of their teammates forever as the first Super Bowl champions in franchise history.

From there, McLeod went from a solid second contract performer to a true veteran leader for a defensive unit constantly in flux. He was named a captain heading into 2020 after watching his longtime partner in crime return to New Orleans for what would prove to be the final run of his career and saw his role expand out on defense as well, playing far more snaps in the box and in the slot versus deployed deep in the middle of the field. Despite tearing his ACL in December of 2020, McLeod returned for the 2021 season as a defensive starter alongside Minnesota transplant Anthony Harris and turned in a solid 13 game run – a run that saw the 31-year-old surrender no touchdowns for the first time since 2018.

Had Tyrann Mathieu signed elsewhere and the Eagles left the 2022 NFL Draft without a solid plug-‘n-play option at the back end of their secondary, maybe McLeod would have been back with the Eagles this fall, but alas, it just wasn’t meant to be. Indianapolis came calling on the lookout for a new free safety to deploy deep in Gus Bradley‘s 4-3 defensive scheme, and McLeod has reportedly agreed to fill that Earl Thomas role for the Colts this fall.

Next. Darius Slay needs to call Tyrann Mathieu. dark

So Rodney McLeod, thank you for all of the things you did for the Philadelphia Eagles over the past six years, both on and off the court. You were a key contributor during the Super Bowl run, helped to hold things down once Malcolm Jenkins left town, and served as a solid veteran resource under a rookie head coach and defensive coordinator. After many years away, it’ll be nice to see you return to your Midwestern roots, even if you’ll always have a home in the City of Brotherly Love.