Brutal Eagles injury news could be death knell to Cowboys' Shaquille Leonard hopes

Minnesota Vikings v Philadelphia Eagles
Minnesota Vikings v Philadelphia Eagles / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys didn't reach an agreement with Shaquille Leonard by the end of Tuesday's meeting with the free agent linebacker.

That isn't necessarily an indictment on the Cowboys, however. Afterwards, it was reported that Leonard is keeping his options open. As the top free agent on the market, it would have been stunning if he rushed into an agreement with Dallas.

After all, the Eagles reached out to Leonard's camp before his meeting with the Cowboys. While Dallas was the first to get Leonard in the door, it's been feared that Philadelphia could offer Leonard a clearer path to playing time.

Already more thin at the position than the Cowboys, the Eagles' linebacker depth suffered another blow on Sunday when Zach Cunningham left with a leg injury. Cunningham is now expected to be out this week, and possibly longer, with a hamstring strain.

Could this be the death knell to Dallas' Shaq Leonard hopes?

Zach Cunningham injury could derail Cowboys' hopes of signing Shaquille Leonard

With Nakobe Dean battling injuries all season, Cunningham has been the Eagles' top performing linebacker. In 11 games (nine starts), he has 71 tackles, four passes defended, 33 defensive stops and a 71.6 coverage grade, via Pro Football Focus.

Without Cunningham, Philly is down to two healthy off-ball linebackers: Nicholas Morrow and Christian Elliss. Morrow has performed well relative to expectations, while Elliss was demoted to special teams after he started the year with a role on defense.

Elliss was thrust into action on Sunday against the Bills after Cunningham's injury and Buffalo wasted no time attacking the young defender.

Leonard admittedly wouldn't do much to offset Cunningham's coverage skills -- which is why he'd be a better fit with the Cowboys -- but the Eagles sheer need for bodies at linebacker could give them the edge in the Leonard sweepstakes.

Even though his production suffered, Leonard expressed frustration with his reduced playing time before he was released by the Colts.

A three-time All-Pro, Leonard played at least 93% of the snaps in each of his first four seasons. He saw that number plummet to 64% this year as young duo Zaire Franklin and E.J. Speed emerged as better fits in Gus Bradley's defense.

Make no mistake: Leonard cares about how much playing time he'll receive. With Clark and Bell playing close to 80% of the snaps in Dallas, Leonard might view Philly as his preferred landing spot now that the Birds are down Cunningham and Dean, who was put on injured reserve last week.

It feels like the Cowboys hopes of signing Leonard are fading fast.

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