EAGLES HAVE SIGNED SHAQ LEONARD: CAN HE SAVE WOEFUL DEFENSE?

By Lew Gould

The Eagles have won the Shaq Leonard bake-off with the Dallas Cowboys.

The All-Pro free agent came to terms yesterday on a one-year deal,

Issues related to playing time led the Colts to move on from the 28-year-old last month.

Eagles LB Zach Cunningham has been dealing with a hamstring injury, and his absence was a major factor in Philadelphia’s pursuit of Leonard. The former was missed during the Eagles’ blowout loss to the 49ers, a game in which the team’s defense endured a sustained inability to slow down San Francisco’s offense. Leonard could play a part in helping a unit which ranks 23rd and 24th in total and scoring defense, respectively. Especially after Cunningham returns, though, a rotational role will likely await the three-time Pro Bowler.

Leonard has been limited to 12 games across the past two seasons as back issues have led to surgery and signficant missed time. Questions abound regarding his ability to regain his previous form after he logged a snap share of 70% in Indianapolis this season, by far his lowest in a full campaign. The Colts have moved on with younger, less expensive options at the second level, but the Eagles will take a flier on Leonard still being able to make an impact. Philadelphia entered the day with $3.39MM in cap space, meaning today’s deal will not be a lucrative one.

Still atop the division despite yesterday’s loss, the Eagles remain in the driver’s seat for the NFC’s top seed. Leonard will look to give their postseason push a boost and in doing so help his free agent prospects. How he fits into Philadelphia’s defense and the impact he can make will be a key storyline to follow down the stretch.

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