February 23, 2024   5 MIN READ

Line Change

Futures Uncertain For Several Birds Linemen, LBs


Stoutland University has not only served as a proving ground for Eagles offensive linemen but has also commanded attention from NFL teams looking to lure one of offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland’s pupils.

Kayode Awosika, Julian Good-Jones, and Tyre Phillips are the most recent who come to mind.

What could that mean for pending free agents Sua Opeta and Jack Driscoll? And how does one forecast the imminent decision of revered center Jason Kelce?

And then there’s the typically underwhelming linebacking position, where sweeping changes are expected under new DC Vic Fangio.

As a free-agent primer, our Inside the Birds “Stay or Go” series featuring one offensive position group and one defensive position group daily concludes with offensive line, linebacker, and punter.

On Monday, I looked at quarterbacks and defensive tackles. On Tuesday, I examined running backs and edge rushers. On Wednesday, I assessed the wide receivers and a safety. Thursday, it was tight ends.

Jason Kelce

GETTY IMAGES: Will C Jason Kelce call it quits after 13 seasons, 7 Pro Bowls and 6 All Pros?

C Jason Kelce

Another franchise legend and future Hall of Famer, Kelce’s future projection has never been an exact science. But reading between the lines from this offseason, it appears Kelce — who already has a media career waiting — is leaning toward retirement. Irreplaceable as he might be, the Eagles will have to prepare for the post-Kelce era.

Verdict: Go

Jack Driscoll

GETTY IMAGES: Will Jack Driscoll be the latest in a line of Birds backup OL to find better opportunity elsewhere?

G/T Jack Driscoll

Driscoll’s buzz has faded a bit over the past year, but familiarity, versatility, and price point should keep him around. I’m not sure he’ll be viewed around the league as a potential starter at tackle or guard.

Verdict: Stay

Sua Opeta

GETTY IMAGES: Backup OG Sua Opeta has been a good story of development for the Birds.

G Sua Opeta

Opeta was a difficult projection. On one hand, the Eagles would presumably prefer to keep Opeta, who started 10 of a possible 38 games over four seasons. A valuable plug-and-play veteran, Opeta offers versatility to play right or left guard and has been a great story of development under Stoutland. But like most Stoutland pupils with other opportunities, Opeta could garner starting interest elsewhere.

Verdict: Go

LB Shaun Bradley

A home-grown product who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury, Bradley wouldn’t cost much to bring back on a one-year prove it deal. While the former sixth-round pick won’t factor into the picture defensively, Bradley has established himself as a core special teams player.

Verdict: Stay

Zach Cunnigham

ITB PHOTO: LB Zach Cunningham played well but didn’t stay healthy down the stretch.

LB Zach Cunningham

Universally regarded as the Eagles’ best linebacker in 2023, Cunningham was a home-run band-aid signing for GM Howie Roseman. A tough and physical second-level player, Cunningham was at his best playing downhill and defending the run, but also had some nice moments in coverage. But the Eagles LB unit as a whole was not good enough, and new coordinator Vic Fangio will likely have a say in personnel. As a third or fourth linebacker, you could certainly do worse, but perhaps it’s best to move forward with only Dean and Ben VanSumeren from the 2023 crew.

Verdict: Go

LB Shaquille Leonard

A projected late-season reinforcement, Leonard brought little to an overmatched and undermanned defense. The veteran linebacker was effective driving downhill but his range and lateral movement were substandard. Injuries have evidently taken their toll, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Leonard called it a career.

Verdict: Go

Nic Morrow

GETTY IMAGES: LB Nic Morrow was cut before the season but ended up being a major part of a disappointing Eagles defense.

LB Nicholas Morrow

Morrow began the season on the practice squad but an early-season Nakobe Dean injury pressed the veteran defender into duty. Smart and heady, Morrow sported the green dot on defense. While the free-agent signing was reliable, logging over 800 snaps, his limitations too often proved costly in critical moments. Both parties will mutually benefit by parting ways.

Verdict: Go

P Braden Mann

Of all the Eagles’ in-season signings, none generated greater impact than Mann. The 26-year-old achieved franchise records in gross punt average (49.8) and net punt average (43.9). A prominent piece on a resurgent special teams unit, Mann should be a priority to retain.

Verdict: Stay

LS Rick Lovato

Since replacing an injured Jon Dorenbos late in the 2016 season, Lovato has served as a key member of the kicking and punting operation. Automatic and precise in his snapping, Lovato has developed a long-standing rapport with K Jake Elliott, and the thought here is the Eagles won’t mess with continuity.

Verdict: Stay

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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