Mychal Kendricks is not your father's inside linebacker.
At 6'0 and 240 pounds, he's both the shortest and lightest linebacker on the Philadelphia Eagles' 90-man roster. And yet, in defensive coordinator Bill Davis' defense, Kendricks is asked to work the middle of the field, drop into coverage, rush the passer and, oh yeah, defend the run.
Apparently, the Eagles are happy with the way he's been doing his job, because they just made Kendricks one of the richest linebackers on the 90-man roster. On Monday, Kendricks and the Eagles agreed to terms on a four year, $29 million contract.
On it's surface, the move is something of a surprise. After all, the "big people eat little people" mantra would seem to exclude Kendricks. Unless, of course, you ask his coach.
"You know, in this day and age, I think the prototype, he's getting close to it," Davis said Tuesday. "I don't think there's really a need with all the passing and really the spread‑out offenses out there, you need speed and athleticism in there.
"The old days, especially in a 3‑4, we used to find the big Levon Kirklands that could go butt heads with a guard and you don't need that quite as much anymore. At least, in our style we don't need that."
Of course, Kendricks' strength is not as a run-stuffing bruiser. What he lacks in stature he makes up for in athleticism; the kind that allows him to go sideline to sideline and rush the passer.
In 42 games over his first three seasons, Kendricks has 200 solo tackles, nine sacks, three forced fumbles and three interceptions. He is one of only 12 players in league history to put up these numbers in his first three seasons. Some notable names on that list include Patrick Willis, Brian Urlacher and Seth Joyner.
Going in to his fourth season, Kendricks hasn't let the new contract stop him from aiming high:
Mychal Kendricks on his goals: "You can quote me on this: My goal is to be the best inside pass rushing linebacker in the league."— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) August 25, 2015
Originally a second round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Kendricks started his career as a weakside linebacker in Andy Reid's 4-3 defense. When Kelly came to town he was moved inside and paired with DeMeco Ryans. From there, Kendricks flashed Pro Bowl skills, highlighted during the Eagles' win-and-in Week 17 game against the Cowboys in 2013. He led the team with eight total tackles in that game, and also had an interception and a forced fumble.
The move makes plenty of sense for Kendricks as well as the Eagles, who will play him alongside Kiko Alonso and DeMeco Ryans to form an impressive combination of inside linebackers. And while it is a good football move, it does come as something of a surprise. The Eagles traded for Alonso and re-signed Ryans in the offseason, leading to speculation that Kendricks would be on the way out. The flames of that theory were further stoked when the Eagles drafted Texas inside linebacker Jordan Hicks in the third round of this year's draft.
But on Tuesday Kendricks said the team approached him two weeks ago about a new contract, and Kelly told Kendricks the team wanted to keep him around. Now, Kendricks now has the most certain future of any linebacker on the team.
As for Kendricks himself, the deal isn't quite on par with fellow 2012 draftees Bobby Wagner or Lavonte David, but Kendricks wanted to stay because of the way the Eagles are building their program. From CSN Philly's Reuben Frank:
"I truly believe in what we’re doing here. I feel like I’m a part of something special and I feel like we’re doing things that no other entity in the league is doing. There’s no other team doing the things that we’re doing, and I’m happy to be a part of it, and I really believe in this team. I just feel like we’re on a path to greatness. I feel it."
Kendricks may not be the bulkiest linebacker to ever wear any Eagles uniform. But in this era of Eagles football, not only does it not matter, it's actually something of a positive. And now that he has a new contract and a concrete spot on the roster, Kendricks can focus on making his big goal come true.