The Dallas Cowboys came up short in the Shaquille Leonard sweepstakes. Though a household name, Leonard's free agency was a national talking point because his decision boiled down to the Cowboys and Eagles, who play on Sunday Night Football this week to decide the leader of the NFC East.
Predictably, Eagles fans are taking a victory lap after landing Leonard. It's admittedly a nice morale boost ahead of a huge rivalry game, but they're painting it as Leonard picking Philly over Dallas. In actuality, though, the former All-Pro picked the team that could afford him the most playing time.
While the Cowboys linebacker depth is lacking behind Damone Clark and Markquese Bell, the Eagles are significantly worse off at the position.
Leonard would never admit it to the media, but playing time was undoubtedly a driving force in his decision. It helped the Eagles that Leonard played for head coach Nick Sirianni for three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.
In an effort to endear himself to the Philly faithful, though, Leonard might have unintentionally thrown some shade at the Cowboys defense.
Did Shaquille Leonard shade the Cowboys in explaining why he picked the Eagles?
The "dawg mentality of the Eagles defense." So the Cowboys don't have that same mentality? Leonard likely didn't mean any shade, but the ink from his signed contract isn't even dry yet. He should've had the awareness that any Eagles praise would be spun as bulletin board material for Sunday night.
And what "dawg mentality" is Leonard referring to? The same defense that got dog-walked by the 49ers to the tune of six touchdowns last week? The same defense that allowed 34 points to a teetering Bills team two weeks ago? The same defense that is sixth-worst in EPA per play and 30th in EPA on third downs?
You get the point.
If you read the tea leaves, it's obvious why Leonard chose the Eagles. They waived linebacker Christian Elliss on Thursday after he started against the 49ers. That's where they're at linebacker. As far as contenders go, no team has a more grim outlook at the position than Philadelphia. Leonard's decision was likely wrapped up the second the Eagles reached out to his agency.
We get Leonard was just window dressing upon touching down with his new team, but these comments could prove costly come Sunday.
This isn't the AFC South. Rivalries run deep in the NFC East. Anything and everything players and coaches say can (and will) be flipped to paint them as the villain.
Leonard might learn that the hard way on Sunday night.