Eagles Encouraged to Consider Reunion With Former All-Pro LB

NFL pundits largely consider safety the biggest remaining need for the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason. But linebacker is another position that could use an upgrade or additional depth. SI.com’s Eagles Today’s Patrick McAvoy argued to fill that need at linebacker, the Eagles should consider bringing back former All-Pro Shaquille Leonard.

The veteran linebacker played the final five games of the 2023 regular season with Philadelphia.

“One player who could make a lot of sense is veteran linebacker Shaquille Leonard,” wrote McAvoy.

“He missed the majority of the 2022 season so the 2023 campaign was his way of working off the rust and getting back on the field. If the Eagles want to add to the linebacker room, they should take a chance on him because he isn’t far removed from being a star and is just 28 years old.

“Philadelphia still has money to spend and should consider a reunion.”

Leonard, who will turn 29 on July 27, missed most of the 2022 season because of a back injury. He underwent offseason back surgery in June 2022 and then needed a second procedure in November of that year.

In 14 games with the Eagles and Indianapolis Colts combined last season, Leonard posted 88 combined tackles, including 4 tackles for loss, 1 quarterback hit and 1 sack.

Could the Eagles Bring Back LB Shaquille Leonard?

Philadelphia won the Leonard sweepstakes late last season. The veteran linebacker signed with the Eagles instead of other contenders, including the rival Dallas Cowboys.

Leonard started three of his five regular season contests with the Eagles. Overall, he recorded 23 combined tackles, including 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack. He didn’t play in the team’s playoff game.

But it wasn’t long ago that Leonard was a monster in the middle of Indianapolis’ defense. He made first-team All-Pro three times from 2018-21. During that stretch, he recorded 17 forced fumbles, 15 sacks and 11 interceptions.

Leonard led the league in tackles as a rookie in 2018 and forced fumbles during 2021. In 2021, he was a turnover machine with 8 forced fumbles and 4 interceptions.

Since his back injury, Leonard hasn’t been the same player. But as McAvoy explained, Leonard still has upside and could be better in 2024 because he was still fully returning from major back surgery last year.

Eagles LB Depth Heading Into NFL Training Camp

The facts Leonard remains unsigned, and the Eagles have brought in other linebackers are an indication Philadelphia is not interested in a Leonard reunion.

This offseason, the Eagles signed linebackers Devin White, Zack Baun and Oren Burks. Those three linebackers combined to start 24 games last season.

There’s also an expectation that third-year linebacker Nakobe Dean could finally breakout with a strong campaign this fall.

With those four linebackers already, that could mean little playing time for Leonard if he returns to Philadelphia. But NFL pundits, such as Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine, aren’t confident Philadelphia’s top four linebackers will be good enough.

“The arrival of a new defensive coordinator and Dean returning from injury could mean that [linebacker] isn’t a weakness at all, but it is still one of the most unproven rooms on the roster,” Ballentine wrote. “White was benched in Tampa Bay last season, and Baun didn’t exactly light the world on fire in New Orleans.”

There’s little risk for the Eagles if they can add Leonard on a short, inexpensive deal. But the reward could be extraordinary if White, Baun, Burks and Dean do not live up to expectations.

The Eagles also have Ben VanSumeren, Brandon Smith and fifth-round rookie Jeremiah Trotter Jr. on the roster at linebacker.

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