Super Bowl Linebacker & Eagles Potential Fit in Free Agency

Brooks Reed

Getty Former Falcons pass-rusher Brooks Reed is a defensive end/linebacker hybrid available in free agency.

When the Eagles let Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nigel Bradham walk in free agency, the thinking was they would sign a veteran replacement. That never happened.

Instead, GM Howie Roseman invested two fairly high draft picks — third-rounder Davion Taylor, sixth-rounder Shaun Bradley — in the position. (Seventh-rounder Casey Toohill is listed at linebacker but viewed as an edge rusher). They also went out and signed Jatavis Brown to compete for a spot. The Eagles are banking on that patch-work group, along with veteran Nathan Gerry and second-year man T.J. Edwards to carry the load.

But losing two starters from a team three years removed from a Super Bowl championship is no easy task. Philadelphia can blindly hope the rookies step up and turn into franchise cornerstones, although it sure would be nice to grab an insurance policy. Enter Brooks Reed, a former second-round pick (42nd overall) from Arizona.

Looking to Add Situational Pass-Rusher to Mix

Reed aligns perfectly with the type of player that Roseman values. He’s a hybrid linebacker and defensive end who excels at rushing the quarterback, another area of need for the Eagles.

The team lost reserve defensive end Vinny Curry and need to replace his five sacks. They are heading into training camp with starters Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett, with Genard Avery and Josh Sweat scrapping for snaps.

Reed has racked up 22.5 sacks (55 quarterback hits) and 284 tackles (36 for loss) in nine NFL seasons. He can fill that void at edge rusher. More importantly, the 33-year-old has big-game experience. He played in 15 games (seven starts) for the Falcons in 2016, including 44 defensive snaps in Super Bowl LI.

“I think my position has definitely changed a little bit,” Reed told reporters at the Super Bowl when asked about his style of play. “I’m not really a dropper anymore. I’m just going after the quarterback, which I like and prefer. I’d rather not cover quick running backs and try to catch quarterbacks.”

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Reed Has Loose Connections with Eagles Organization

There is one major connection between Reed and the Eagles, in the form of heralded new secondary coach Marquand Manuel.

Reed played for Manuel during his one-season stint as Falcons defensive coordinator and worked with him when Manuel was defensive backs coach in Atlanta. It was partly his idea to unleash the linebacker and use him more as an attacking defensive end. The Falcons nicknamed him Thor due to his aggressive nature yet quiet leadership.

“A lot of people misunderstand him because he doesn’t talk,” Manuel told the Falcons’ website in 2018. “He has a motor that talks about everything that we do — and we talk about effort and energy. From the standpoint of him bringing everything and sacrificing everything every day, his effort is what separates him apart from everyone.”

Reed is an older player now, maybe a few years past his prime and a step or two slower. Arizona let him walk in free agency after just one year there. Plus, he’s coming off a serious hamstring injury that ended his 2019 campaign after nine games. Prior to that, he hadn’t missed a single game since 2016.

He finished with one sack and eight tackles last year in a situational pass-rushing role for the Cardinals. It’s the same role the Eagles would likely need him to embrace in Philadelphia. Reed is an interesting player to consider on a cheap “prove-it” deal for one year. He certainly has the right attitude.

“I’m more of a lead-by-example type,” Reed said in 2018. “I try to be humble about where I am.”

Wait, Reed has one more sort of Eagles connection. He was a rookie in 2011 for the Houston Texans where he spent two seasons as Connor Barwin’s teammate. He often gushed about Barwin’s influence since he was another hybrid linebacker/defensive end who excelled at racking up sacks. Remember, Barwin is in the Eagles’ front office as a special assistant to the general manager. He definitely has say in personnel decisions.

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