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Weapon X Mailbag: All of your Ryan Kerrigan questions answered

The Eagle killer comes to Philly.

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Football Team Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

In what may go down as the biggest free agent signing in sports history, Ryan Kerrigan announced on his own Instagram page on Monday that he was signing with the Eagles. Kerrigan, who spent 10 years with Washington, has 13.5 sacks in his career against the Birds, though it feels closer to 135 in my mind.

In a post-draft, pre-training camp lull, the Kerrigan signing adds some juice to a usually uneventful part of the offseason. Given that, the mailbag this week will be focused on Kerrigan’s arrival. Let’s get to the questions!

@jackie_inertia: Is Kerrigan any good still?

@ConcreteCholly: Is Kerrigan strictly a rotational edge rusher projection? Or is he able to bring anything more to the linebacker room with his experience (and relative inexperience of our LBs)?

Let’s tackle these two together.

Kerrigan was dominant as recently as 2018, recording 13 sacks for the second-consecutive season. To that point, he had at least 7.5 sacks in every year of his career dating back to his rookie campaign of 2011. Kerrigan had at least 11 sacks in four of those seasons too. While I roll my eyes pretty hard at Benjamin Solak’s claim that Kerrigan is a Hall of Famer, Kerrigan deserves a comfortable seat in the Hall of Very Good.

His play hasn’t been quite the same since then. He missed four games in 2019, the first time in his whole career he didn’t play in all 16 games. Kerrigan still finished with 5.5 sacks though, which, to put it in perspective, would’ve been third on the Eagles ahead of Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat, and Fletcher Cox.

He was on the field for just 57 percent of Washington’s defensive snaps in 2019 after coming in at 79 percent the year prior. Kerrigan’s playtime dropped off again in 2020, taking 38 percent of Washington’s snaps on D despite appearing in all 16 games.

Some of that is due to the emergence of talented young edge rushers down I-95 in Montez Sweat and Chase Young, but it’s probably an indication that Kerrigan is no longer the player he once was in his prime. Hey, that’s what happens when guys hit their early 30s!

Still, Kerrigan did once again have 5.5 sacks in limited snaps. That’s the same amount Derek Barnett had in 13 games in 2020.

The obviously, frequently made comparison to Kerrigan’s arrival in Philly is that of Chris Long, a successful vet edge rusher who became a part of a strong defensive end rotation. Can we automatically pencil in Kerrigan for that role? I’m not so sure.

It’s been announced that defensive end Genard Avery will be playing linebacker in 2021. Seventh-round rookie Patrick Johnson, an EDGE prospect out of Tulane, was announced as a linebacker. We may be looking at a variety of fronts in new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s defense, a sharp contrast to what we continuously saw under Jim Schwartz.

Schwartz was famously allergic to blitzing. Could we be in store for situations where the Eagles have four traditional defensive lineman on obvious passing downs, but utilize someone like Kerrigan or those two other young dudes as stand-up rushers from the second level of the defense?

I appreciate what Schwartz accomplished in Philly, but I’m here for an added element of creativity.

Whether it’s with his hand in the dirt or him hanging back, I’d expect Kerrigan to get a healthy amount of snaps here. When healthy in a more situational role, I believe he can still thrive.

@JasonLostHisJay: How many sacks does Kerrigan have to rack up to be the best NFC East FA signing by the Eagles? 1.5? 2?

If he doesn’t play a single snap, does he still go down in history as better than James Thrash?

@3pointattempt: What number will he wear?

Odd situation. All of the 90s numbers for the Eagles are either taken or retired. The Chris Long comparisons won’t be stopping, but 56 is now Isaac Seumulo’s number after changing this offseason. All of the numbers in the 50s are actually taken while we’re at it.

The only number that’s actually available for a defensive lineman: 71. Can’t imagine a vet like Kerrigan who’s had a great career would dig that! Big downgrade from #91. [BLG Note: Also can’t imagine they’re ever giving out JP’s number.]

What if he reclassified as a linebacker, a possibility discussed above, and wore #43? That number seems to be out of the rotation at the moment for Darren Sproles, but they’re not retiring that. They already gave out Malcolm Jenkins’ number. Kerrigan has been an enemy for a decade, but he’s been damn good and is respected. Let him have a number worthy of a player of his caliber.

@JediMrFan: Who would you rather have on the Eagles team this season, Casey Toohill or Ryan Kerrigan? Washington chose Toohill.

Casey Toohill was a seventh-round pick for the Birds in 2020. Toohill did not make the Eagles’ roster out of camp, losing the last defensive end spot to Vinny Curry, a 32-year-old veteran defensive end who offered little in terms of upside for a roster in dire need of young contributors. It caused a stir among both Eagles fans and the media in the city.

Kerrigan, who turns 33 in August, will likely be taking snaps from the budding Josh Sweat and certainly from a developmental rookie like Tarron Jackson, who I really dug coming out of Coastal Carolina.

Is it wrong for us to be excited about the Kerrigan move when, optically, it’s not much different than the Curry signing? There’s a shiny new toy component here certainly. Curry had spent seven out of the last eight seasons in Philly and while he was a contributor on a Super Bowl team, never approached a Pro Bowl level. Kerrigan has performed since the moment he stepped onto an NFL field. He’s been a stud. It’s little bit different in terms of background.

It’s not a Super Bowl year. Developing young talent should be at the top of the priority list, but they can’t really just roll out guys who aren’t ready to play pro football yet. Not every player on the roster can be younger than 25.

However...

Imagine a situation where it’s November or December and the Eagles are long out of the playoff race. If Kerrigan is getting snaps over Smith, Jackson, or even Johnson and Avery at that point, what are we even doing here?