Eagles sign linebacker Jeanty to 1-year deal

Posted: February 21, 2011

No one knows what lies ahead for the National Football League in the coming months. Maybe there will be a new collective bargaining agreement by March 4 and it will be business as usual, or maybe there won't.

Maybe there will be a long lockout and work-stoppage or maybe there won't. Maybe there will be free agency or maybe there won't.

These aren't ideal circumstances for an Eagles team that believes it can contend for a Super Bowl title next season if it can manage to improve a pass rush that had just 15 sacks in the last eight games, and tighten up a secondary that allowed a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes.

Which is why, with the prospect of an uncertain offseason ahead, the Eagles have been trying to do whatever they can now to improve their defense. They hired Jim Washburn, who is regarded as one of the league's best defensive line coaches. They signed Phillip Hunt, who led the Canadian Football League in quarterback sacks last season.

And yesterday, they announced the signing of another interesting street free agent, linebacker Rashad Jeanty.

Jeanty, 27, who started 32 games for the Bengals from 2006 to 2009, is coming off an ankle injury that sidelined him the entire 2010 season. He suffered a fractured fibula and torn ligaments in his ankle in the Bengals' 2009 playoff wildcard loss to the Jets.

The fibula healed fairly quickly, but the ankle did not. Jeanty said the injury initially was misdiagnosed and ultimately needed surgery to repair. He was unable to participate in training camp with the Bengals last summer and was released in late-August.

Jeanty said several teams contacted him last season about signing with them, but he said his ankle didn't completely heal until mid-December.

"It was a serious injury and I didn't want to come back half-speed or 80 percent," he said. "I wanted to be at 100 percent. That's just the type of guy I am. I didn't want to present myself to other teams without an oil change and a fresh tuneup. I wanted to get as healthy as possible."

Jeanty was a strongside linebacker in the Bengals' 4-3 scheme. He had a career-high 97 tackles in 15 starts in 2008. He started just one game in 2009, but led the Bengals in special teams tackles.

There's really no downside to signing him. His 1-year deal doesn't put him anywhere near the tax bracket that his former University of Central Florida teammate, Asante Samuel, resides in. Best-case scenario, he beats out Moise Fokou for the starting strongside linebacker job. Worst-case scenario, he beefs up their special teams.

Besides the Eagles, the Jets and Dolphins also expressed interest in signing Jeanty. Both of those teams play a 3-4 and projected the 6-2, 243-pounder as an inside 'backer.

"I would've been comfortable with that, even though I had never played in a 3-4 in my life," Jeanty said. "But at the end of the day, I just felt Philadelphia was the place for me. It gave me the best opportunity to get on the field."

Jeanty is considered a solid run-defender, a skill that should serve him well with the Eagles and their new pass-rushing approach. Washburn likes to line his ends up wider than a lot of coaches and have them rush upfield, which puts a little more pressure on the linebackers to fill the gaps and tackle well.

Jeanty was undrafted coming out of Central Florida. He spent three seasons as a defensive end in the Canadian Football League before signing with the Bengals.

After sitting out last season, Jeanty is eager to get back on the field. "It was tough," he said. "But it gave me the opportunity to reflect and analyze my whole situation and where I wanted to be when I came back.

"I can't wait to play again." *

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