Eagles send DT Walker to Bills in deal for LB Spikes
The Eagles also acquired veteran backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb as part of the trade package. In exchange, Buffalo received seven-year veteran defensive tackle Darwin Walker, who had become extraneous in Philadelphia because of the team's depth, and an undisclosed draft choice, believed to be a late-round pick.
The trade was first reported by ESPN.com.
"This is something that has been brewing," Bills general manager Marv Levy told The Associated Press. "Takeo is a good person, but we wanted to strengthen our defensive tackle. They've been looking for a linebacker and I think they wanted an experienced backup quarterback."
Officials from both teams, here for the annual NFL meetings, spent much of Monday hammering out the details of the trade. The basic parameters were agreed to earlier in the day, but it took into the evening to come to an accord on what Buffalo would receive.
The Bills had discussed Spikes trade scenarios with other clubs as well, but none of those had progressed on Monday as far as the talks with the Eagles. Contrary to reports, the New York Giants were not suitors for Spikes' services.
Spikes, 30, has quietly been seeking a change of scenery and the Bills, who feel that he is in the early stages of decline and prefer to go with younger players at the position, were ready to accommodate those wishes.
The Eagles have been trying to upgrade at linebacker for much of the offseason. Spikes probably will replace Dhani Jones as the starter at strongside linebacker. The Bills are expected to elevate second-year veteran Keith Ellison, who started seven games as a rookie in 2006, into Spikes' spot in the lineup.
"Takeo Spikes is a proven playmaker in the National Football League," Eagles general manager Tom Heckert told the AP. "He has the ability to play all three linebacking positions and were happy to add him to our defense."
A nine-year veteran, Spikes has played in 126 games. He has 878 tackles, 21½ sacks, 12 interceptions, 33 passes defensed, 12 forced fumbles and 14 recoveries. In 2005, Spikes ruptured his right Achilles tendon and appeared in just three games. He returned from the injury in 2006, and played in 12 games, but missed time with a hamstring injury.
The former Auburn star was the first-round choice of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1998 draft, then signed with the Bills as a transition free agent in 2003. He has one season left on his contract, at a base salary of $4.5 million, and then an option year in 2008, at a base salary of $5 million. The contract has not been altered.
Holcomb, 33, is an 11-year veteran who has played in Indianapolis (1996-2000), Cleveland (2001-2004) and Buffalo (2005-2006). He has appeared in 34 games, with 21 starts, and has completed 523 of 810 pass attempts for 5,401 yards, with 37 touchdown passes and 37 interceptions, for a passer rating of 79.9.
That the Eagles would part with Walker, even though he has been a starter at a premium position, was not surprising. Philadelphia used first-round choices in consecutives years to add young defensive tackles, taking Mike Patterson in 2005 and Brodrick Bunkley in '06. Philadelphia is very deep at tackle and last week added another veteran interior defender in free agent Montae Reagor, a move that prompted rumors Walker might be traded.
In seven NFL seasons, Walker, 29, has 170 tackles, 27½ sacks, five forced fumbles, five recoveries and 11 passes defensed. The former University of Tennessee star has played in 88 games.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com