2019 Off-Season Moves - Defense
Matt Finocchio - Head Writer
Here’s a quick rundown of the most notable off-season moves the Birds have made on the defensive side of the ball:
Re-signed Brandon Graham for three years – Graham, who will be 31 at the start of the 2019 season, is still one of the team’s top pass rushers. Though some fans point to his drop in sack production last year, I think much of that was due to a slow start to the season as he was still recovering from ankle surgery. Considering the Birds are squarely in their Super Bowl window, I think bringing back a proven veteran like Graham is a great move.
Eagle sign DT Malik Jackson – It unfortunate that Timmy Jernigan’s tenure as an Eagle is over, but Malik Jackson is a fine replacement. Though he may have lost a step since his 2017 Pro Bowl season, Jackson is still a good pass rusher and should be a nice complement to Fletcher Cox in the interior.
Sign Safety Andrew Sendejo – With Corey Graham and Chris Maragos both gone, Sendejo fills an immediate need at back-up safety. He brings a lot of experience both on defense and special teams with 58 starts over nine NFL seasons. Though many Eagles fans best remember him for getting trucked by LeGarrette Blount in the NFC championship game, I think this is a good pick-up.
Re-worked Rodney McLeod’s contract – Most thought that McLeod’s days as an Eagle were over, so the re-working of his contract is great news for Birds fans. His absence was evident throughout 2018 as the secondary struggled through most of the season. His return should help solidify the secondary and re-establish the Jenkins/McCleod duo as one of the better safety tandems in the league.
Signed Ronald Darby to one-year deal – Missing half the season each of the past two years has left many fans underwhelmed with Darby’s tenure in Philadelphia. Though still young at age 25, this one year “prove it” deal makes a lot of sense. Personally, I’m happy to see Darby coming back. If the recent history of this team tells us anything, it’s that you can never have too many cornerbacks.
Bringing back Vinny Curry – Curry’s homecoming is a welcomed surprise for the d-line, especially with the loss of Michael Bennett and uncertainly surrounding Chris Long’s future with the team. Curry should be a solid rotational player, backing up Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett at defensive end.
Michael Bennett traded to New England – This feels like a big loss for the defense as Bennett was very productive in 2018 (9 sacks, 15 tackles-for-loss and 30 QB hits). Luckily, I’m bullish about the return of a healthy and improved Derek Barnett. A big jump in his third year should soften the blow of losing Bennett.
Jordan Hicks signs with Cardinals – The Birds just couldn’t afford to pay Hicks big money when he spent so much time sidelined with injuries. Linebacker will be a major need to consider come draft time.
Declined Timmy Jernigan’s option – Though Jernigan played well in 2017, it was clear his off-season back injury impacted his 2018 performance. That paired with his big contract made him an inevitable cap-casualty. Malik Jackson is a solid swap for Jernigan – some may even consider Jackson an upgrade – so Birds fans shouldn’t worry too much about the interior d-line.