Steven Means Release Shows Eagles Depth on D-Line
Last week, stories began to emerge about the importance of Steven Means. Eagles starting right-tackle Lane Johnson discussed how important the recently released defensive end has been to his success.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz also discussed what he meant to the teams locker room.
"Everybody thinks the world of Steven," Schwartz stated. "I don't know what you guys feel, but in our locker room, in our building, he is as respected as any player that I've been around. He'll have great success. He'll land on his feet and he'll have success. I just hope it's not against us."
As a fifth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013, Means bounced around the league as a situational player. The Eagles signed Means back in 2016, and the coaching staff liked his ability to bring heat off the edge as a rotational player.
The team extend his contract through the 2018 season in August of 2017, and this preseason he led the Eagles with four sacks, but the Eagles decided not to keep him on the 53-man roster.
Means appears to be a victim of his team’s tremendous depth across the defensive line. That starts with Brandon Graham, Chris Long, and Michael Bennett, who was acquired this offseason in a deal with Seattle. Those three veterans project to get a majority of the snaps for Jim Schwartz.
"We're fortunate that we're so deep at that position, that we had a hard time finding a spot for him," Schwartz explained. "You guys have alluded to it, really since training camp maybe even back in mini-camp, talking about our depth at that position."
The Eagles could have had a veteran presence like Means hold down a situational role, but the Eagles have a couple of younger guys who they obviously value more at this time.
Last year's first-round pick Derek Barnett posted five QB sacks last season in a part-time role, and is expected to have an expanded role this season, showing plenty of growth and potential during training camp.
Josh Sweat, a raw prospect with great athleticism was drafted in the fourth-round of this year's draft. Sweat finished with 138 tackles, 29 TFL, 14.5 sacks, 3 FRs and 1 FF in 37 career games at Florida State.
There’s also the possibility that Means is gone in part because of a domino effect from the signing of linebacker D.J. Alexander. Adding the former Seahawk to help with special teams may have eliminated the need for another defensive end.
"A lot of times, as I've said before, this comes down to possibly a special teams issue, being able to play on teams," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. "Some of the young players that we end up releasing possibly can come back on practice squad and all of that. Those are all the things we're working through these next few days."
The Eagles apparently did have some interest in adding another proven pass rusher, there was a report that the Eagles put in a waiver claim for two defensive ends.
As the defending Super Bowl champs go forward, they have to make every decision possible to have the best 53-man roster they can, even if Means presence alone would have been a positive, it doesn't mean it was an easy decision.
"Steven was the last cut," Eagles Executive Vice President of Football Operations Howie Rosemam admitted. "And I think because of what he means as a person and a player, [it was] really hard. Hard one. Again, I think for us, as we get going here, you have to think about where we are from a roster perspective and where we are on the 46 and what we need to give our coaches the best chance to win this week and the weeks going forward."
"We're deep at some positions that are hard to find, and at the same time, it doesn't make it any easier. Incredible person, a guy who's meant a lot to us on and off the field, and [it was] a tough one."
His release is a sign of the times as the Eagles head into 2018 with the highest of expectations.
"It's the nature of the business," Pederson said. "You're trying to get to 53. You’re trying to find the best 53. There are some tough decisions that have to be made. Obviously, Steven is one of them, what he's meant to this football team."