Here Comes That Linebacker Help: Eagles Trade for MLB DeMeco Ryans

Here Comes That Linebacker Help: Eagles Trade for MLB DeMeco Ryans

The NFL's free agency market for linebackers has taken time to get rolling, but the pieces started to fly on Tuesday. One of the Eagles' top presumed targets was Stephen Tulloch, who re-upped to stay in Detroit. That signing was believed to be a catalyst for the market, and the Eagles struck quickly after, only they did not go with a free agent. 
On Tuesday night, the Eagles agreed to acquire MLB DeMeco Ryans from the Houston Texans, pending a physical. CSN's Reuben Frank relays that the Birds sent the Texans a fourth round pick in 2012 that was previously acquired from Tampa Bay, and the teams exchanged third round picks; the Eagles gave up the 77th pick and received the 89th. 
Roob lists Ryans' annual base salaries as $5.9 mil in 2012, $6.6 mil in 2013, and $6.8 mil in 2014 and 2015 and calls the move a big upgrade for the Eagles. Dan Graziano of ESPN adds that none of the money is guaranteed past the upcoming season. 
Roob initially passed along the trade information reported by John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. McClain describes Ryans as a team leader and one of his all-time favorite interviews. Great news for a defense that could use not only a strong MIKE, but also some personality. 
Ryans (6'1, 250) turns 28 in July and was drafted by the Texans out of Alabama as the 33rd overall pick in the 2006 draft. He was the 2006 Rookie of the Year, a Pro Bowler in 2007 and 2009, and a 2007 All-Pro. 
He was also the Texans defensive captain and a popular player with teammates and fans. 
So why did they let Ryans go for what may seem to be such a small haul? 
McClain points out that he played weakside interior linebacker in the 3-4 that the Texans defense now runs under Wade Phillips, a position that comes off the field in passing downs. When Houston went to the dime, strongside inside linebacker Brian Cushing was always on the field. 
A true MIKE, Ryans' strengths were wasted in Wade's scheme. In its first year of implementation, the new defense was successful without Ryans playing a big role, and the Texans are said to have asked him to take a pay cut, which is understandable given their cap constraints and his diminished role in the 3-4 scheme. 
Instead, they found a team with ample cap space and a desperate need for someone who fits Ryans' bill.  
Ryans also suffered a season-ending achilles injury in 2010 and was nicked up with elbow and hamstring injuries early in 2011, though he returned to play every game of the season and had a strong second half according to McClain. He'll need to pass a physical before the deal is finalized, and assuming he does, there's no guarantee he returns to pre-injury form.
It will be interesting to see what the Eagles do in the upcoming draft now that their most glaring need is presumably filled. Still plenty of room for improvement and future planning, and linebacker is still an option if the Eagles like their options when they're on the clock.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).