When the Eagles waived linebacker Christian Elliss on Wednesday, they hoped he would clear waivers so they could bring him back to their practice squad.
Instead, they lost him. The Patriots were awarded Elliss on waivers. And six teams (Patriots, Cardinals, Titans, Falcons, Broncos and Dolphins) put in a claim on the 24-year-old linebacker, ESPN’s Field Yates reported.
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“We knew he had some good special teams tape out there, I thought he had a good game the other day as well. We were hoping (he cleared waivers),” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said. “But you know what, happy for Christian to land on his feet. But, obviously, we were hoping to get him back. He’s in a good place. And I wish him the best of luck.”
Ultimately, this just seems like a miscalculation by the Eagles’ front office. The team waited until Wednesday to release Elliss, likely hoping to sneak him through.
The Eagles had other options to create a roster spot for incoming linebacker Shaq Leonard. First, they could have put Leonard on the practice squad to start. But they also could have cut Albert Okwuegbunam, who is now back to being the fourth tight end.
Instead, they cut a 24-year-old linebacker who is coming off a rough couple of games on defense but who has been a special teams mainstay. It’s not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. The Eagles are 10-2 and the loss of a special teams linebacker isn’t going to sink the season; but it was a curious decision.
The Eagles have four off-ball linebackers on their 53-man roster: Zach Cunningham, Nicholas Morrow, Leonard and Ben VanSumeren. Sirianni on Friday said he feels “good” about the Eagles situation at the position.
Where the Eagles might really miss Elliss, though, is on special teams.
Had the Eagles gotten Elliss to the practice squad, he would have been eligible to be elevated three times for game days. That’s likely the reason the Eagles waived him instead of VanSumeren, who had already been elevated the maximum three times this season.
In 2023, Elliss has played more special teams snaps than any player on the roster. Elliss leads the Eagles with 238 special teams snaps, ahead of Kelee Ringo (225), Josh Jobe (212), Patrick Johnson (189) and Nolan Smith (166).
Who will fill that void on Michael Clay’s impressive special teams units?
“Obviously, it’s not always just one specific guy in for the other,” Sirianni said. “But some other guys, we’ll have a bunch of different guys that are taking spots on all his different teams. Really excited about Ben and what he’s been able to contribute to the special teams. But we’ll miss Christian’s contribution to it and we’ve been really good on special teams this year.”