The Eagles Secondary has been the subject of debate for a few seasons running now. From the Nnamdi Asomugha saga to the complete rebuild the unit faced at the beginning of this season. Unfortunately for Eagles fans, the debates are unlikely to end anytime soon..because the Eagles could well have a problem on their hands.
The problem is that during the rebuild that saw talents such as Walter Thurmond enjoy a successful season, the Eagles only taped over a leaking pipe and the water is about to burst through. By bleeding out the likes of Boykin, Fletcher and Williams..the birds left gaping holes and instead of finding long term solutions, they only “fixed” the lack of both talent and depth short term. That term is now up and as more and more players begin to sign extensions, you simply have to wonder if this Secondary is going to endure yet another rollercoaster year.
As it stands, Nolan Carroll, Walter Thurmond and E.J Biggers are set to become Free Agents in just over a month. If none of these three players are offered new deals then not only will the Eagles Secondary be down to its bare bones..but there will be a severe lack of experience.
If you remove 28 year old Super Bowl winner Malcolm Jenkins from the equation (who could also be vying for an extension considering his contract expires after the 2016 season), the situation would look like this;
Of the five cornerbacks that remain, four of them were rookies coming into this season, two were undrafted and one missed the entire season with an injury suffered during the Eagles workouts prior to the start of the season.
Chris Maragos is a special teams ace and vital to the team but is by no means a starting Safety. Jerome Couplin has just completed his second season in the NFL and Ed Reynolds has just finished his rookie campaign that was saved with a late interception.
With talks of a potential franchise tag on Sam Bradford, the astounding rumors surrounding Fletcher Cox and hypothetically more extensions to come, there has to come a point where the Eagles have to find a balance. Cox still has one year left on his deal for instance (as does Jenkins) and sure he’s projected to have another career season because of the change to a 4-3 Defense, but if he’s surrounded by rookie Cornerbacks and a group of players lacking elite talent, he can only do so much..the Eagles have to be strategic.
Walter Thurmond already made it very clear that he’s aware of the situation. In an interview with the media back in January, Thurmond had this to say;
“I understand the economics of it, how much money is going to be left over if they do some of these deals. . . . There’s so many variables. And that’s something I don’t know.”
However, the Eagles have recently cut Riley Cooper and been very smart with their recent negotiations to ensure that the cap hit for this season is not as damaging despite the bigger deals. This leaves the Eagles in a much better position considering the cap raise that’s due to follow..but the talks of a monster $50m deal for Fletcher Cox and a franchise tag on Bradford certainly bring the hopes back down again.
At some point, the direction of the team has to be decided. The Secondary has been one of the weakest areas of the team for quite some time despite some fantastic players both coming and going. Nolan Carroll showed tremendous hustle prior to his injury and was one of the few at the position who gave it everything on every play..often being the lone player chasing down a runner and Walter Thurmond played in every single game for the first time in his career whilst recording over 70 tackles, 3 interceptions, a touchdown and 2 forced fumbles.
Losing both of these players to Free-Agency would not only be a huge blow because of how much they helped the team out but because of how much it would cost to find a replacement. If the Eagles were forced to turn to the draft it would mean upsetting the scales and neglecting what could be a crucial upgrade in the Offensive Line. There are options in Free-Agency at cornerback, some expensive..some logical..some inexpensive and some unrealistic and the same goes for the Safeties in the league.
Chip Kelly made some very bold decisions when it came to revamping the Secondary, but all of it is set to come undone very swiftly unless the Eagles act fast, it’s not as if these guys are going to be off the radar of every team in the NFL. If the birds do fail to agree terms with the likes of Thurmond and Carroll then we could be seeing not only one of the most inexperienced Secondaries in the NFL, but one of the most inconsistent.
Whether it’s through new deals or new faces, the Eagles simply have to build a foundation for the future. Jim Schwartz is fantastic at building something special Defensively and working with what he has, but right now the Eagles have very little in the way of elite talent and two of their most talented players in the unit may well be playing in new colors next year depending on how the next few weeks unfold.
There’s a lot to be addressed when it comes to the Philadelphia Eagles and naturally the focus is on Bradford right now..but the Secondary cannot be neglected if the birds are to avoid another season like 2014.