Eagles have tough decision to make on Rodney McLeod

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A tough decision looming for Eagles on key leader originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles will have plenty of major decisions to make this offseason but none of them will be tougher than this one:

What should they do about Rodney McLeod?

Because on one hand, McLeod is 31 now, is set to be a free agent and the Eagles need to get younger in their secondary as they continue to build.

Gotta let him walk, right?

But on the other, McLeod is an unquestioned leader on defense, he played much better in 2021 as he got further away from his ACL recovery and he made the defensive play of the year when he picked off a pass in the end zone in Week 17 in Washington with seconds remaining to get the Eagles into the playoffs.

So you gotta keep him, right?

That’s what is going to make this such a touch decision for the Eagles with McLeod set to become a free agent in March.

Being a 10-year veteran in the NFL, McLeod definitely understands the business.

“Yeah, that’s real,” McLeod said after the Eagles lost in the playoffs. “The seas change every single year. My future here is unknown. This is not how I wanted it to end if this is the last time for me.

“But at the end of the day, man, I’m proud of my guys. Proud of what we’ve overcome this year and what we were able to do with this team. You’re just appreciative of the moment and really cherishing the moment because this team will never be the same again. But I like how we fought and I love those guys for continuing to fight all the way to the end.”

READ: Javon Hargrave knows the next step of his career

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has warned about the negative effects of sentimentality before. And it would be easy to get overly attached to McLeod. After all, he signed with the Eagles as a free agent in 2016, helped them win a Super Bowl in 2017, has come back from two ACL tears and has become a true team leader throughout his six years here.

Looking back at McLeod’s signing in 2016, that was an absolute slam dunk.

For what it’s worth, McLeod says he hasn’t thought about how much longer he wants to keep playing.

“No, not at all,” McLeod said. “Just always grateful to have a job and just looking forward to next year. Going into this offseason, attacking it as I always do, get better and work on a lot of things. I’m just happy that I was able to make it out of the season healthy. I think that’s a huge step for me.”

Before the 2020 season, the Eagles signed McLeod to a two-year contract worth just under $8.7 million, an average of $4.325 million per season. If the Eagles want to bring McLeod back in 2022, they’d be able to do it if the price is right.

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Either way, though, the Eagles are going to need to rebuild part of their secondary. In addition to McLeod, two other starers — Anthony Harris and Steven Nelson — are set to become free agents in March. Darius Slay was a Pro Bowler in 2021 but he’s 31 too.

The only younger starter in that secondary is nickel corner Avonte Maddox, who will turn 26 in March. He signed a three-year contract extension in early December, avoiding his own pending free agency.

No matter how you slice it, the Eagles need an influx of younger talent in their secondary. It really just depends if they keep McLeod around to bridge the gap. And it’s not an easy decision to make.