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Gaither Signs Tender, Browns Interested in Gocong

Gaither Signs, Gocong On the Move
By Lance Epstein

Yesterday, the Eagles had two of their restricted free agents sign their tenders. Today, linebacker Omar Gaither became the third player in two days to sign his one-year contract.

At the start of free agency, the Eagles tendered Gaither with his original fifth-round draft level. Gaither has finally signed and is scheduled to make $1.176 million in base salary.

However this signing cannot be overlooked and is somewhat significant. Last year, Philadelphia had a mess at linebacker position, which was kind of like music chairs. Each week it seemed someone went down to injury or some linebacker was playing out of his natural position.

Gaither gives the Eagles depth at a position that could have desperately used it in 2009. In only five games in 2009, Gaither recorded 38 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Unfortunately, the Eagles lost him for the season with a Lisfranc injury.

Gaither has the versatility to play the weak-side linebacker position and can be the backup to Stewart Bradley at the middle linebacker position. He might even be the middle linebacker if Bradley struggles to return to form from his torn ACL. In 2007, he registered a career high 170 tackles while playing the middle linebacker position. The following year, he was moved back to the WILL position and started 10 games. In addition, Gaither can be a contributor on special teams, which could always use an upgrade.

While Gaither is most likely going to be a backup to Akeem Jordan and Bradley, he is a very nice asset for the Eagles to have. He has playoff experience and starter experience. Furthermore, if Jordan, Bradley or Fokou struggle, Gaither can step in right away since he has prior starter's experience and knows the defensive philosophy.

Although Gaither is not the only linebacker making news today, linebacker Chris Gocong has been the center of trade discussions.

Yesterday, Gocong signed his restricted free-agent contract, but it appears that he might not becoming back to the Eagles in 2010. National Football Post's Aaron Wilson is reporting that a league source has said the Cleveland Browns are having "preliminary discussions" with Philadelphia for Gocong's services.

Trading Gocong to Cleveland makes a ton of sense since they play a 3-4 defense, where his skills sets can better be utilized. In college, he was a pass rushing threat at defensive end andrecorded 42 sacks during his time at Coly Poly.

However the Eagles have tried to convert him to a SAM linebacker. Unfortunately, that has been like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. He often gets beat in coverage against tight ends, but has looked impressive against the run or when they allow him to pressure the QB. In a 3-4 defense like the Browns run, he will be able to rush the passer more consistently and have his career flourish.

Additionally, new Browns and former Eagles GM Tom Heckert has a connection to Gocong by drafting him in 2006. Also, he still believes Gocong can strive in a new type of defense.

While Gocong might be better against the run than seventh-round pick Moise Fokou, he was replaced by the rookie at strong-side linebacker late in the 2009 season.

May be the Eagles believe that Fokou is the real deal and is going to be the starter in 2010, but they should not anoint him so fast. The Eagles need and must have someone in place to challenge Fokou.

Also, if they indeed trade Gocong, they will only have one current SAM linebacker on the roster. Moreover, Fokou was not that impressive last year as the starter. He committed too many "dumb" penalties, did not shed blocker and was not much of an upgrade over Gocong in coverage. In fact, Gocong had a better game against Dallas in the playoffs then Fokou.

Even if Gocong stays or goes, expect the Eagles to take a possible SAM linebacker with one of their four picks that are in top 87 of the draft.

1 comment:

  1. Gocong looks to be gone, I would be OK with that but I wouldn't trust the Browns to give fair value.