Linebacker Will Witherspoon
was released by the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, partly because he was scheduled to earn $5 million in base salary this season. Could he be targeted by the Titans as a replacement for Keith Bulluck at weakside linebacker? I believe he'd be a good fit.
The Eagles obtained Witherspoon in a mid-season trade last year to bolster an injury depleted linebacking corps. They gave the Rams WR Brandon Gibson and a fifth-round draft pick for Witherspoon, which is a steep price to pay for someone for just eleven games. Now the Eagles are letting him go and it's not because he can't play. He can.
In a rarity, Witherspoon appeared in 17 regular season games last year, starting in 16. He registered 92 tackles and added a sack, a forced fumble and a pick-six.
Witherspoon has played both Mike and Will throughout his eight-year career and even a little Sam.
He played middle linebacker in his rookie year, followed by three years at Will, with the Carolina Panthers. He then played in the middle for three years in St. Louis. Interestingly, he played next to weakside LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, who Tom Gower identified as a possible target for the Titans
Last year Witherspoon started six games at Will with the Rams before being traded to Philadelphia, where he split time between Will and Mike.
The Eagles will have former starting MLB Stewart Bradley, who missed all of last season with an ACL injury, back this year, along with three young linebackers they tendered. The quartet makes Witherspoon and his $5 million salary expendable.
I've asked Thomas Jackson and Alex Whiteleather of Eagles Eye
's Philadelphia Eagles site, about Witherspoon for their opinions on him. While I was at it, I also asked them about DE Jason Babin, who was with the Eagles last year and is now visiting the Titans. Here's what they had to say:
'Spoon at 6-1 and 235 is two years younger than Bulluck ... I think he has the smarts and the athletic ability to fill in at the WILL outside linebacker spot for the Titans in place of the great Bulluck. He was brought into Philly last October 20 in a trade with the Rams to plug a hole at MIKE for the Eagles, and he made an immediate impact against the Redskins with a bunch of tackles, an INT and a sack. As the season went on, however, 'Spoon's lack of a training camp with the Eagles began to show. He was uncomfortable in the Eagles' defensive system and was often caught out of position in the middle, with lapsed coverages on TE's and missed arm-tackles. The Eagles moved him to the outside at WILL for the duration of the season. To his credit, 'Spoon never missed a game, and was usually on the field for every defensive down. He never made the impact at WILL he is capable of---having that training camp knowledge and timing with his teammates is crucial to Witherspoon's game.
If the Titans stay in a 4-3 defense, I believe 'Spoon will give them a nice option at WILL. He may be best utilized as a 3-down player, but I would not rule out his value as a situational linebacker in a rotation...just make sure he gets the playbook in July instead of October!
As for DE Jason Babin: At 6-3 and 270, Babin fills a lot of space, but he does not have the great quickness or hops to make him your full-time speed rusher. Babin was brought to the Eagles as a free agent last summer, essentially as a "camp body" to stir up some competition. He did so well in preseason games they had to keep him! He could be a bargain for the Titans as a situational pass rusher. To be honest, though, his 2.5 sacks in a part-time role came in garbage time at the end of games already decided.
That's the skinny on 'Spoon and Babin as we see it! I'm pretty sure the Eagles would have held on to 'Spoon if MLB Stewart Bradley were not due to make a full recovery and start at MIKE in 2010. The Eagles think Bradley is All-Pro material and a future great. Also, it didn't help 'Spoon's cause that he was due to be paid $10 million over the next two years if he remained on the Eagles roster.------Tom and Alex at Eagles Eye
Thanks to Tom and Alex for their thoughts.
Titans fans, what do you think about Will Witherspoon?