The Eagles corners have been bad the past few years. In fact, the last time the Eagles had a dependable player at the position was Asante Samuel’s last season with the birds in 2011. The last time both sides of the field were responsibly covered was 2008 when Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown prowled the field with Samuel, backed up by future Hall of Famer, Brian Dawkins. That year the Eagles ranked 2nd in opponent passing yards per game (OPYPG). Since Samuel’s departure in 2011, the Eagles have ranked outside the top 10 in OPYPG in all but one year, ranking in the bottom four teams for three of those years. NFL analysts and casual fans alike have identified cornerback as the biggest need the Eagles have to fill this offseason. With Jalen Mills, a 2016 7th round pick, as the only potential serviceable starter, to say that upgrades are needed is an understatement. So what should they do?
Sign one of the remaining free agents
Any team that signs Revis is going to get him on a veteran minimum contract. The Eagles would be wise to jump on the chance to sign someone with his experience to kick the tires throughout training camp to see if there’s anything left. At the very least, the Eagles will get a player coach who can help tutor the few rookie corners they are going to draft.
Robey-Coleman wasn’t a stud for Buffalo, but clearly fans were upset when he was cut. If (read: when) the Eagles cut Ron Brooks, they could replace him with another cornerback familiar with Jim Schwartz’s defense. Robey-Coleman is above average in the slot and would relieve Malcolm Jenkins of having to make up for poor slot corner play by doing it himself.
Reports have surfaced that the Eagles have some interest in 49ers free agent Marcus Cromartie. The 26 year old only recorded one start for San Francisco in his 3 seasons there but with experience at both corner and safety, he’s just the kind of versitile player the Eagles like. He’d be worth a flyer on a minimal deal to see if there’s something there.
Analyze the trade market
The Chicago Bears are entering 2017 with recently signed Marcus Cooper and Prince Amukamara along with returning starter Tracy Porter, not leaving much room for Kyle Fuller. The Bears may be ready to give up on him after an injury wasted 2016 season and it could be just the opportunity the Eagles need. Fuller was one of the Eagles’ targets in the first round of the 2014 draft and considering the regime who drafted him is no longer around, they may be able to get him for a low cost. The Eagles have been reported to be willing to part ways with one of their “recently drafted receivers” so perhaps a bust-for-bust swap may be beneficial to both teams. Nelson Agholor has struggled greatly in his first two seasons as an Eagle and a change of scenery may be just what he needs.
This is a pipe dream but man, how great would it be to see the best corner over the last several years in midnight green? It was reported yesterday that the Seahawks are willing to move Richard Sherman for the “right price.” The Seahawks are desperate for offensive line help and it just so happens that the Eagles have too many starters on the offensive line. Again, massive pipe dream, but maybe Howie can work magic again and get rid of Kelce and Peters while simultaneously infusing the secondary with talent.
Prepare for the draft
Humphrey is a big rangy corner with excellent straight-laced speed and physicality. His strong extension and balance allow him to harass receivers at the line in press coverage but he also displays the awareness to close quickly in zone coverage. Ranked second at his position on most analyst’s draft board, Humphrey possesses the talent to be a major upgrade and day 1 starter on the outside for the Eagles.
If anything stands out about Jackson, it’s his ball skills. Having spent time on all 3 units of the USC team, his time as a receiver is especially evident when the ball is in the air. He excels at tracking the ball and attacking it in the air, capitalizing in most situations where he can get his hands on the ball. Jackson often baits quarterbacks into making throws he can get his hands on but his aggressive style of play can leave him susceptible to giving up big plays if he fails to get a hand on the ball or falls for a fake-out move by the receiver. Being on the smaller side of the spectrum at 5-11, Jackson looks a lot like Asante Samuel with his play style and aggressive attitude, something the Eagles have missed since Samuels’ departure.
Once considered a consensus top 3 prospect at the cornerback position, Jones tumbled down teams’ draft boards after tearing his Achilles at his Pro Day. Jones, like Jaylon Smith last season, is likely to miss his entire rookie season but will be a great buy “low” candidate for a team willing to wait for his rehab. The Eagles can’t exactly afford to wait around for their rookies to start playing but if by some miracle Jones is still on the board when the Eagles are on the board in the 3rd round, it’s absolutely worth it to grab the 1st round talent at a discount.
At this point it’s up to Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas to make some deals and draft well. I wouldn’t put it past Roseman to take a chance on at least one player from each category. This year’s draft is one of the deepest cornerback drafts in history, with guys projected as fourth and fifth rounders carrying second round grades in any other season. The best chance of landing a long term solution will be through that class but short term help via free agency and trade shouldn’t be overlooked. With no clear starters at the cornerback position, the Eagles need all the help they can get this offseason. Hopefully they can make a few splashes.
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