Those of you who've been waiting for the Philadelphia Eagles to sign a free-agent linebacker are still going to be waiting for a while. The Eagles have decided instead to address their most pressing need with a trade. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle first reported, and the team has since announced, that the Eagles have agreed to trade a fourth-round draft pick (the fourth pick in that round) to the Houston Texans for middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans. The Eagles also announced that the teams will swap third-round picks, with Houston getting the 77th overall pick in the draft and the Eagles getting the 89th.
John says the trade is contingent upon Ryans, who tore his Achilles tendon in 2010, passing a physical Wednesday. But assuming he passes the physical, Ryan is a great pickup for the Eagles. He was a leader of the Texans' defense and one of the emerging defensive stars of the league before his injury. Once fully healed in 2011, he played well, but he was a poor fit in the 3-4 defensive alignment to which the Texans had switched under Wade Phillips. He's better suited as a true middle linebacker in a 4-3, and that's surely the role the Eagles acquired him to play.
Ryan will turn 28 years old in July and is signed through 2015 at about $6.5 million per year, though none of the money is guaranteed past this season. He immediately becomes the best linebacker on the Eagles' roster and is as strong an option as any they would have found on the free-agent market. It's an excellent pickup for the Eagles, who needed as much help as possible at the position, and to answer a lot of people's first question, no, I do not think it precludes them from getting another linebacker or drafting someone like Boston College's Luke Kuechly in next month's draft.
What it does do is solidify the middle of a defense that was extremely vulnerable in that part of the field in 2011 and shows the Eagles are serious about addressing a position they ignored to their detriment during their free-agent signing spree last summer.