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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Glenn Erby

Instant analysis of Eagles signing Shaq Leonard to a deal ahead of game vs. Cowboys

After watching his team get shredded by the 49ers, Howie Roseman didn’t stand pat and made linebacker depth a priority, signing Shaquille Leonard to a one-year contract on Monday.

Leonard joins a linebacker corps decimated by injuries: Nakobe Dean is on Injured Reserve with a foot injury, and Zach Cunningham missed Sunday’s game against the 49ers because of a hamstring injury.

The Eagles have three weakside linebackers on their active roster – Christian Elliss, Nicholas Morrow, and Ben VanSumeren, and they all lack the athleticism and dual-threat abilities at the position.

Leonard, a second-round draft pick (No. 36 overall) of the Colts, was a three-time first-team All-Pro, once a second-team All-Pro, and a three-time Pro Bowl player.

He was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018.

With Leonard now in the fold, here’s an instant analysis of the move.

Howie Roseman has work to do

Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53) tries to chase down Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. (1) who scores a touchdown immediately after a teammate’s fumble recovery during game action at EverBank Stadium on Sunday, Oct 15, 2023, in Jacksonville.

The Eagles GM gets credit with building a championship roster and rebuilding a key positions, but his inability to land an elite weakside linebacker and safety will cost this franchise in the long run.

Darius Slay and James Bradberry are both 30+ years or older, and the 42-19 loss to San Francisco proved that opposing offenses can still produce explosive plays while avoiding elite cornerbacks.

Roseman chose to let T.J. Edwards (Bears) and Kyzir White (Cardinalds) depart in free agency, while losing Nakobe Dean (Lisfranc sprain) and Shaun Bradley (torn Achilles) to injuries.

Leonard now joins an Eagles linebacker unit that includes Zach Cunningham and Nicholas Morrow, along with the already acquired All-Pro safety Kevin Byard from the Tennessee Titans, and Bradley Roby in free agency earlier this season.

Even with the signings, Roseman needs to add more elite SEC Talent at other positions besides the trenches and skill posiitions.

Philadelphia must change their approach at Weakside Linebacker and Safety in this new age of NFL offense.

How much does Leonard have left

Oct 30, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53) rushes the ball after intercepting a pass by Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, during a game against the Washington Commanders at Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Mandatory Credit: Max Gersh/IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

Leonard was waived for a reasons, and he’s only a year removed from missing 14 games during the 2022 season and undergoing two procedures in June and November on his back to address a persistent nerve issue.

He started nine games for the Colts and made 65 tackles, but his playing time decreased over time, leading to his eventual release.

When healthy, he can do it all

The Indianapolis Colts Shaquille Leonard (53) gets hyped up for practice between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears on Wed. Aug. 16, 2023, at Grand Park in Westfield Ind.

Leonard has played 6 NFL seasons for the Colts and now Eagles, logging 381 solo tackles, 224 assists, 15.0 sacks, 7 fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions.

Leonard is rare-air as a blitzer, and athlete in pass coverage.

Leonard is an immediate upgrade

Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53) gets pumped on the sideline Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, before a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Leonard has logged 65 total tackles, including 2 for loss, in nine games, and he’d be the third leading tackler on the roster ahead of Week 14.

Linebackers Nicholas Morrow and Christian Elliss were each targeted a team-high four times, per Next Gen Stats data, allowing five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.

Leonard’s experience and athleticism should be an immediate upgrade.

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