The cornerback position was a nightmare for the Eagles in 2016. That sentence could be copy and pasted each season dating back to 2011, Asante Samuel’s last season in Philadelphia. Since Samuel’s departure, the Eagles haven’t had a starting cornerback that thrived in the way he once did, save for Brandon Boykin who had a standout 2013 season as a slot corner.
The Eagles best cornerback under contract for 2017 is Jalen Mills. Mills had an impressive rookie season matching up against some of the best wide receivers in the league and holding his own. The finger-wagging “Green Goblin” has a bright future as a product of the defensive-back-U of recent years. The LSU star finished the season with seven pass breakups with 61 tackles.
Nolan Carroll had his one-year deal expire and is set to become a free agent. With a high priority placed on the cornerback position, Carroll will likely be headed elsewhere. The Eagles will possibly be addressing cornerback with one of their first two picks in the draft and signing another in free agency. Cornerbacks like AJ Bouye of the Texans, Logan Ryan of the Patriots and Stephon Gilmore of the Bills all make sense for the Eagles to pursue.
The Eagles haven’t had luck signing big-name free agents at the cornerback position. The last two times they signed the biggest name on the market – Nnamdi Asomugha and Byron Maxwell – the move went up in flames. The argument could be made that neither was properly used to suit their strengths, but paying up as much money as they did for those two players should have yielded some small reward in return.
While the Eagles haven’t had luck at CB in free agency, they also haven’t drafted well. The Eagles have drafted five cornerbacks in the last two drafts. The only one of those cornerbacks who has recorded an interception in the NFL is currently a member of the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. In the two drafts before that, only one cornerback as taken – Jordan Poyer who has carved himself a niche in Cleveland as one of the Browns starting cornerbacks. Not exactly a history of excellence in the draft.
However, Howie Roseman did identify cornerback as one of the positions of strength in the 2017 NFL Draft. Perhaps the Eagles will finally land a name that will stick around in Philly. A number of cornerbacks have been mocked to the Eagles in the first round of this year’s draft. Florida’s Jalen Tabor is a name that comes up most frequently.
Tabor was a three-year starter as a Gator and has decided to declare for the draft as a junior. The 6-0, 200-pound corner has intercepted eight passes in his three years while returning three of them for touchdowns. He has also recorded 28 pass breakups, three fumble recoveries and one forced fumble in 37 career games. Tabor has some questions off the field, having been suspended for fighting a teammate, declining to take a drug test and tweeting that college football is a “modern form of slavery.” As mentioned previously, though, it seems that the Eagles don’t have any issues with drafting players with questionable pasts under this new regime.
Iowa’s Desmond King is another name that shows up a lot, mostly linked to the Eagles in the second round. King does not fall under the physical measurements of modern NFL cornerbacks, standing at 5-10 and weighing in at 206 pounds. His size and speed are some factors pushing him further down in the draft, as he will likely have trouble matching up against speed receivers at the NFL level. King finished his 2016 campaign with seven pass breakups and three interceptions. He was also very effective on special teams, averaging 27.8 yards on kick returns and 10.2 yards on punt returns.
This is another position the Eagles will likely address in multiple ways. Expect a cornerback by the end of day two, at the latest, and a name or two (preferably not the big ones) to pop up as free agent signings.
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