It was reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Monday that the Philadelphia Eagles will not be issuing a restricted free agent tender to 28-year-old linebacker Alex Singleton.
It may seem like a surprising move for a team to let a relatively inexpensive veteran, who led the team in tackles for the previous two seasons, walk for nothing. However, for those who have followed the Eagles closely during his three-year run in Philly, it is neither a surprise nor a bad move.
An Inspiring Story
Alex Singleton has been one of the coolest success stories in recent Eagles’ history. After joining the Seattle Seahawks in 2015 as an undrafted free agent, Singleton bounced around several practice squads before moving on to play in Canada. He was drafted sixth overall in the 2016 Canadian Football League Draft.
Singleton found immediate success in Canada. By year two had exploded onto the scene as the Calgary Stampeders’ defensive leader. He broke Calgary’s franchise record for single season tackles with 125 in 2017 (breaking that mark in 2018 with 129). He made back-to-back CFL All-Star teams in 2017 and 2018.
His outstanding efforts north of the border earned him another shot in the NFL. He was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles in January of 2019.
A Productive Run In Philly
Singleton spent his first year as Eagle as a special teams player after being promoted from the practice squad in October. He only recorded five tackles on the 2019 season. However, he showed the Eagles’ brass that he was a viable NFL contributor. He earned a much bigger role moving forward.
In the 2020 season, Singleton’s surprisingly productive campaign was one of few bright spots on an otherwise brutal season in Philly. The team struggled, finishing 4-11-1 and parting ways with their coach and quarterback at the season’s end. Singleton, on the other hand, got the opportunity to contribute on an injury-riddled roster and took full advantage. Singleton led the team in tackles with 120. He recorded 2.0 sacks, an interception, and a defensive touchdown. Singleton had arrived.
Singleton had yet another productive year in 2021. He once again led the team in tackles with 137, along with an interception, though he recorded zero sacks.
So, how does a team give up the rights to their two-time leading tackler? Particularly one with such a great underdog story?
Well, unfortunately, there is more to football than racking up tackles. Let’s take a look at some key areas where Alex Singleton has underwhelmed, and why the Eagles are looking to upgrade:
Too Many Holes In His Game
When you look past the impressive tackling totals, you will find that Singleton has massive holes in his game. He had one of the worst overall PFF grades on the team with just a 52.3.
Singleton has found some success as a fifth pass rusher on the team. However, has been particularly bad against the pass while in coverage. He allowed quarterbacks a shocking 111.4 passer rating when he was targeted in 2021. This was even worse than the 102.8 he allowed in 2020.
Those are unacceptable numbers and made Singleton a massive liability throughout the season. Through the first half of the 2021 season, Singleton had the third-worst coverage grade among linebackers at 34.6. He had given up the most yards, receptions, and touchdown catches by a linebacker in the league at that point.
For a team already short-handed in their secondary, Singleton’s lack of coverage ability was disastrous. As an athlete and a football player Singleton simply leaves too much to be desired for the Eagles to invest in him as a starter moving forward.
The Eagles need to upgrade their linebacking corps. Unfortunately, this may mean letting a fan-favorite in Singleton walk out the door. Many mock drafts have the Eagles using at least one of their three first-round picks on a linebacker, most notably Nakobe Dean.
That said, while the potential $2.43 million tender was too steep for the team to invest in a guy who will ultimately end up a backup and special teams specialist, there is still a chance he finds himself back in Philly. This all depends on the interest he draws from other teams, which considering how many of those teams torched him in the passing game over the two seasons, may not be all that strong. At 28 years old, most teams will assume he is not going to get any better at this point.
If the Eagles can bring him back at a steep discount, he is still a highly productive, positive locker-room guy to keep around. He could help mentor a young stud linebacker that the team may draft. He is a very productive special teamer.
That said, whether or not he eventually finds his way back to Philly, allowing Singleton to enter free agency at this point is the right decision for the Philadelphia Eagles.