Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Eagles Make Out Like Bandits In DeMeco Ryans Deal


Give head coach Andy Reid, GM Howie Roseman, team President Joe Banner and the Eagles front office credit for trading for former two-time All-Pro middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans.  It was a steal by the Birds for only a fourth round pick and swapping this year’s third round pick, as you would expect they were elated in their comments following the deal.

“DeMeco is a proven Pro Bowl linebacker in this league and we’re excited to be able to plug him into the middle of our defense,” said Reid. “He’s been the signal caller and a leader on a very good Texans defense for the last several years. He’s a tough, instinctive football player and he’ll be a great fit for our team.”

“We’re thrilled to be able to add a young and productive linebacker in DeMeco Ryans,” said Roseman.

“We’d like to thank [Houston general manager] Rick Smith and the Texans. Once we found out that he could be available to us in a trade, we quickly found a way to work together to produce a good outcome for both teams.”

Acquiring Ryans is a better option than signing Detroit’s Stephen Tulloch or Atlanta’s Curtis Lofton, if he’s healthy.  He’s scheduled to make about $5.9 million this year.  The deal will be dependent upon Ryans passing a physical for the Eagles later today.

Ryans is not only a great football player, but he’s also a great leader.  There will be no question about who will be in charge of the Eagles defense.  A couple of the Texans key defensive players, defensive ends J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith just happened to be on the NFL Network last night and they spoke glowingly about Ryans as a teammate and leader.

“DeMeco by far and away [is] the most respected guy on the defense, our leader”, said Watt on the NFL Network. “He’s a guy that everybody turns to especially when things are going tough. It’s tough to see him go, but at the end of the day, what can we do? He’s obviously going to go play great football for the Eagles.

Now it’s time for the rest of us as a defense to step up and find a new leader and go out there and play football. We can’t do anything about that so it’s time for us to go out there and do it on our own.”

“It’s a big surprise to me”, Smith said on the NFL Network. I don’t know what is going on at this moment but DeMeco is a great player, a leader. He’s going to be an asset to each and every team he plays for. … Our defense is going to miss him. That’s all I can say about it.

I’m not in agreeance with it.”
The timing of this deal was the key to the Eagles being able to make off like bandits.

One reason that the Texans traded Ryans was because of their salary cap problems.  The Texans had a football team that was on the verge of playing for a Super Bowl.  Houston was a playoff team despite losing starting quarterback Matt Schaub for the season with a foot injury.

They have now allowed Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams to walk in free agency and traded away a former Pro Bowler like Ryans.

In addition, they’ve lost starting offensive guard Mike Briesel to the Raiders in free agency, and released starting right tackle Eric Winston, who subsequently quickly signed a big deal with the Chiefs.  Remember this offensive line helped running back Arian Foster average 142 yards per game in the playoffs.  Foster ran for 1224 yards during the season regular season and Ben Tate ran for 942.

Why would you let two of your starters on that line walk unless you had serious cap problems?

Secondly, Ryans ruptured his Achilles tendon in the middle of the 2010 season.  He missed the rest of that season, came back in 2011 but had the least productive season of his career.

It’s common knowledge amongst athletic trainers that the rupture of an Achilles tendon takes a full year to recover from.  Ryans should be back to his old self in 2012, so the timing is great for the Eagles.

Another factor playing into the Texans decision to trade a linebacker as accomplished as Ryans for basically a fourth round pick in this year’s draft, is because they changed from a 4-3 defensive alignment to a 3-4 setup under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

He was sharing time with second-year linebacker Darryl Sharpton in their new 3-4 defense, which led the league.  The 3-4 defense forces the inside backers to cover their gaps in the defense, unlike the 4-3 which allows the middle linebackers to use their quickness and instincts to go wherever they need to go to make tackles.  You don’t have to be as instinctive to play the 3-4 as compared to a 4-3.

Most teams ask their defensive linemen to keep the middle linebackers free in the 4-3.  Ryans is a quick and instinctive tackling machine who was used to some cover in the middle of a 4-3, so he could move freely and make tackles.  He played very well down the stretch for the Texans in the 3-4, but he’s at his best when playing a 4-3.

Ryans will have adjustments to make in playing behind the Wide-Nine because Jim Washburn teaches his defensive line to attack the line of scrimmage and not worry about keeping the middle linebacker free.  They create chaos and the backers are able to clean up what’s left.  I don’t think Ryans will have much trouble making the adjustment and I expect him to flourish for the Birds.

The Eagles have plenty of reasons to be smiling today.

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