Eagles Meet With Shaquille Leonard; Cowboys Remain In Mix

DECEMBER 3: According to Russini, Leonard passed his physicals with the Eagles and Cowboys and will let the clubs know of his decision after Philadelphia finishes its game against the 49ers today (subscription required). ESPN’s Adam Schefter, meanwhile, reports that Leonard will sign “within the next 48 hours or so.”

Regardless, Leonard will have a new home soon, and given the timelines provided by Russini and Schefter, it is clear that Philadelphia and Dallas are the only contenders for the LB’s services. The two division rivals play each other next week.

NOVEMBER 29: Leonard’s Eagles visit has wrapped, McLane tweets. The free agent linebacker took a physical during the visit, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport notes the wait is on. Leonard will take the next few days to weigh his options. No other meetings are scheduled.

NOVEMBER 28: Shaquille Leonard‘s rumored Eagles meeting will end up coming to fruition. The decorated linebacker has completed his Cowboys visit, according to Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz, who reports the Eagles meeting should precede a decision from the standout defender.

Classifying the Cowboys visit as “successful,” Schultz and The Athletic’s Dianna Russini add Leonard is expected to make a decision by the weekend. Even after not reaching an agreement with Leonard, the Cowboys remain in the mix, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler tweets. Other visits are possible as well, per Fowler, but as of now, a Cowboys-Eagles matchup is transpiring. Each having pursued LB help before the trade deadline, both Super Bowl contenders have been linked to Leonard since his Colts release.

The Leonard-Eagles summit is expected to occur Wednesday, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane, who adds the team will likely put the free agent linebacker through a workout and a physical. Leonard has dealt with injury trouble over the past three seasons, with the health issues moving him off the top tier among off-ball ‘backers. Leonard would have a clear Eagles connection; Nick Sirianni was in Indianapolis as OC from 2018-20.

Leonard, 28, visiting other teams would delay his timetable, but NFL.com’s Jane Slater adds he is anticipating visits to “a couple” more teams after leaving Dallas. A decision coming this weekend, however, would potentially have the sixth-year veteran on track to debut for his new team by Week 14. Though, it would also be understandable if the Cowboys or Eagles — or a surprise finalist — would want to extend a ramp-up period a bit longer due to the late arrival.

The Vikings and Broncos have been mentioned as other suitors here, though with neither having secured a meeting, it may be an all-NFC East race for the four-time All-Pro. Minnesota recently reunited with Anthony Barr, who has been a gameday elevation in each of the past two weeks. The Broncos re-signed Alex Singleton this offseason, continuing a two-year ILB partnership with Josey Jewell.

The Eagles hold the NFL’s best record, and with the Lions losing on Thanksgiving, Philadelphia is the league’s only one- or two-loss team. The defending NFC champions’ conference cushion notwithstanding, they have been dealing with linebacker issues for much of the season. Nakobe Dean has suffered two foot injuries, each sending him to IR. The Eagles can activate the second-year ‘backer from IR for a second time, but Dean remains off the 53-man roster entering a crucial 49ers matchup. Zach Cunningham has also run into an injury issue, going down with a hamstring malady during Philly’s overtime win over Buffalo.

This leaves Nicholas Morrow as the Eagles’ top healthy linebacker. Letting T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White walk in free agency, the Eagles aimed to make Dean the centerpiece of a low-cost linebacking corps. The foot injuries have scuttled that plan. The team brought in Cunningham and Myles Jack during training camp, but the latter retired after several days of practice. Cunningham, whom the Titans released in February, has been a regular starter this season. But he also landed on IR twice during his second and final Tennessee campaign.

Leonard will not fetch anything close to the five-year, $98.5MM extension he signed with the Colts before the 2021 season. Two back surgeries in 2022 changed his Colts trajectory, as did Gus Bradley‘s arrival as DC. With a few teams interested, Leonard still figures to come away with a deal north of the prorated veteran minimum. It is unclear if the Division I-FCS success story is eyeing a multiyear pact — as Odell Beckham Jr. was rumored to be seeking at this point last year, when the Cowboys heavily pursued him — or if he wants a temporary gig to better position him for a free agency bid in 2024. Whichever team signs Leonard now would have exclusive negotiating rights with him until the March legal tampering period.

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