There’s a lock down in South Philly! For the first time since the days of Asante Samuel, the Philadelphia Eagles have a bonafide #1 cornerback on the defense. Darius Slay was acquired in a trade with the Detroit Lions. While that’s a massive upgrade to the Eagles defense, management still needs to acquire some talent to balance out the other side of the defensive backfield. The main question is whether the void is filled via free agency, the draft, or trusting someone already under contract. Let’s take a peek at the options for improving the Secondary.
Cream of the Crop
The local football product from Berlin, NJ finally hits the open market this off-season. Logan Ryan had a solid year in 2019 for the Tennessee Titans. He recorded four interceptions, four forced fumbles, and finished with 113 tackles (73 solo). The former two time Super Bowl champion became the 1st player since 2000 to register three sacks, three interceptions, and three forced fumbles in the 1st eight games of a season. Pretty impressive! Ryan is a physical corner who defends the ball very well. He finished with 18 passes defended, which was good for 3rd in the league. Logan Ryan would be a solid addition to the Eagles cornerback rotation. However, the price will most likely be too steep to sign the talented CB to a contract.
A surprising addition to the free-agent cornerback group this off-season was Nickell Robey-Coleman. The talented slot cornerback, formerly of the Los Angeles Rams, was a cap casualty due to the depth of talent on their roster in the secondary. Coleman is a seven-year veteran who enjoyed an impressive run with the Rams. Coleman is responsible for the infamous non pass interference call in the 2019 NFC championship game that ultimately changed the rule book forever in the NFL. What we should be talking about is his talent on the field. He finished with a Pro Football Focus grade of at least 74 the last three seasons. Coleman doesn’t have a ton of tackles (36 in 2019), but he defends the ball well. According to Pro football reference, Coleman allowed a completion percentage below 66% in the last two seasons. Nickell Robey-Coleman could be a cost-effective addition to the Eagles roster in 2020.
Now, here’s a veteran defensive back we’re all familiar with seeing on the field. Prince Amukamara started in the league with the team we despise up the NJ Turnpike, the New York Giants. The NFL journeyman has made his way around the league with stops in Jacksonville and Chicago, but he’s set to hit the open market at 31 years old. Amukamara is still a talented defensive back in the NFL. He ranked as the 43rd best CB in the league last year, according to Pro Football Focus. The seasoned veteran still gets the job done as a physical cornerback. PFF gave him a 68.2 rating in 2019. The statistics took a dive in 2019, but he’s still a solid defender, and better than this defense is accustomed to in the past few years. Prince Amukamara can contribute as a solid #2 cornerback on this football team, and could be added at a discounted rate compared to the high-end players on the market.
Fortunately, the cornerback talent pool in this year’s draft is extremely deep. The Eagles will have options in the first three rounds to acquire a talented defensive back to build for the future. A few prospects have to talent to help the Eagles as soon as week 1 of 2020. First-round prospects include Jeffrey Okudah, C.J. Henderson, and Kristian Fulton. The position is much like wide receivers in this draft. We could see as many as 5 CB’s go in the first round. The cornerbacks projected to go in the second round are an exceptional group. The names highlighting this group are Jeff Gladney, Trevon Diggs, and A.J. Terrell. The board will be interesting to watch on draft night. I’ll highlight these prospects in a future article. Stay Tuned.
IN HOUSE OPTIONS
The Eagles do have depth at the cornerback position. However, they’re still waiting for one of their young players to step up and take the reigns of the other outside position in the defensive backfield. The Eagles have a few options if they decide to fill the position within the organization. Is Sidney Jones ready to live up to the pre-draft hype? Will Avante Maddox become a difference-maker? Can Rasul Douglas be serviceable at the cornerback position? Cre’von LeBlanccan step into the slot role, right? These are questions the organization must answer before committing to a future cornerback. Only time will tell.
What is going on in the mind of Mr. Roseman? Does he see a veteran cornerback on the market that he can scoop up at a discount price? Does Howie have a plan to select a premium defensive back prospect early in the upcoming draft? There’s an opportunity to bring in a veteran CB at a reduced rate while drafting the CB of the future for the Eagles. Football is back, and NFL Free agency is here to save us all from going crazy during these difficult times. Enjoy the ride!