The Philadelphia Eagles entered the offseason hoping to upgrade at linebacker.
That goal was completed in a big way Tuesday thanks to a trade with the Houston Texans.
FOXSports.com learned, according to a source close to the negotiations, that Houston agreed to terms of a deal that will send two-time Pro Bowl selection DeMeco Ryans to the Eagles for a mid-round draft choice.
The teams later announced the deal was for a fourth-round draft pick in 2012, The Associated Press reported. The Eagles and Texans also swapped third-round choices in 2012. The Eagles now have the 89th pick overall, while the Texans have the 77th pick.
Ryans will provide an immediate upgrade at middle linebacker for the Eagles. Ryans, 27, has averaged 106 tackles in his six NFL seasons with the Texans and is regarded as one of the best at his position.
”DeMeco is a proven Pro Bowl linebacker in this league and we’re excited to be able to plug him into the middle of our defense,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said in the AP report. ”He’s been the signal caller and a leader on a very good Texans defense for the last several years. He’s a tough, instinctive football player and he’ll be a great fit for our team.”
The trade is a win-win for both teams. Because the Texans switched to a 3-4 defense last season under coordinator Wade Phillips, Ryans doesn’t have as much value to Houston as when the club played in a 4-3 scheme for his first five seasons. Ryans finished with 64 tackles in 2011, which was the lowest 16-game total in his NFL career. Darryl Sharpton is expected to take his spot next to Brian Cushing in Houston’s starting lineup.
Regarded as one of Houston’s team leaders, Ryans was named the Texans’ Ed Block Courage Award winner last season for overcoming a torn Achilles tendon that limited him to six games in 2010.
The Texans ranked second in total defense last season (285.7 yards per game), finished 10-6 and earned their first division title and playoff berth. But they lost key players in free agency, including Williams, right tackle Eric Winston and right guard Mike Brisiel and now Ryans, the team’s union representative.
Dealing Ryans left some of the remaining players wondering about the team’s direction. Defensive ends Antonio Smith and J.J. Watt talked about losing Ryans on the NFL Network on Wednesday night.
”It’s a big surprise to me,” Smith said. ”I don’t know what is going on at this moment, but DeMeco is a great player, a leader. He’s going to be an asset to each and every team he plays for. Our defense is going to miss him.
”That’s all I can say about it.”
Watt, Houston’s first-round draft pick last year, said Ryans was ”the most respected guy on the defense, our leader.”
”He’s a guy that everybody turns to, especially when things are going tough,” Watt said. ”It’s tough to see him go, but at the end of the day, what can we do? He’s obviously going to go play great football for the Eagles. Now it’s time for the rest of us, as a defense, to step up and find a new leader and go out there and play football. We can’t do anything about that, so it’s time for us to go out there and do it on our own.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.