Free agency is on the horizon and there’s no questioning that the Eagles will be surveying the field for potential help at numerous positions. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a deep dive to bring you realistic targets at each spot.
It’s easy to write an article and ramble off the top-five players set to enter free agency at each position, but the reality is that the Eagles have specific needs within each spot, and go after a very specific type of free agent.
The free-agent prototype
+ Between 28-30 years old
+ Could be lured into a prove-it contract while young talent develops behind
+ Ideally has familiarity in a similar scheme/ or members of coaching staff
+Coming off a down year/under-appreciated season (Cc: Patrick Robinson)
The cornerback free agent prototype
+ ‘Breakfast’ corner. Someone who thrives wrapping up ball-carriers, keeps play ahead of him and can win at the line of scrimmage.
+ A firm tackler
+ Has great recovery speed
+ Can handle zone responsibilities and position well.
If we’re to assume that the Eagles are going to let either/both of Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills go, the need for an outside corner is pressing. The issue is that the players they’re left with don’t scream long-term options just yet.
Rasul Douglas: Has struggled to get on the field under Jim Schwartz
Sidney Jones: Has been inconsistent but flashed elite potential
Avonte Maddox: Nickel CB but could move to safety (?)
Cre’Von LeBlanc: Nickel CB
It really doesn’t help then, that the majority of free agents who fit the Eagles mold are prominent nickel corners. There are exceptions to the rule, but here are five names who fit what the Eagles are looking for this upcoming offseason.
27-year old Byron Jones is easily this year’s most attractive free-agent cornerback and he’ll likely want to be paid like it. This is something Dallas probably won’t have the cap room to do, allowing their CB 1 to test free agent waters. But is he worth the price-tag?
A former first-round pick, Jones is built like the prototypical modern-day cornerback at 6’1, 200 lbs. He’s fast, rangy, and is an extremely secure tackler.
The one hole in his game has always been interceptions. Despite 44 passes defensed throughout his career, he’s only held on to two of them. The Eagles defense ranked 22nd in interceptions last year and has been terrible at forcing turnovers in the secondary. But should this deter them from paying big bucks at corner?
Per Pro Football Focus, Byron Jones allowed just 0.64 yards per coverage snap. Only Richard Sherman, Brian Poole (make a note of that name), and DJ Hayden allowed less…and they all saw more action.
Jones was fourth in the league in snaps per reception allowed, averaging 17.9. He allowed a 90.1 passer rating, 5.1 yards per target, and 10.6 yards per reception. Those are very, very respectable numbers and obviously a huge upgrade over the atrocity we’ve seen in Philadelphia.
Former Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli was committed to a 4-3 zone defense, similar to the Eagles, that focused on the defensive line’s ability to one gap. Jones, theoretically at least, fits what Schwartz wants in a cornerback and he’s undoubtedly among the best at the position right now. If there is ever a cornerback who is going to be paid handsomely and worth every penny, it’s Byron Jones.
At 27-years old, Poole enters the free agent market in the hopes of securing a slightly bigger bag than the $3M one the Jets gave him. Atlanta released him at the end of 2018 following his best season yet and it was arguably a big mistake.
Poole joined the Jets and had it not been for a late injury setback, would’ve ended the year as one of the defenses most important players. Poole is physical at the line of scrimmage and a willing run-defender, as well as garnering a 79 PFF grade in 2019, the seventh-highest of all CB’s.
Sticky in coverage, Poole only allowed a rating of 71.6 when targeted in 2019, thanks to his fluid hips and click-and-close ability.
It’s important to note that he is a nickel corner and it would mean having to push someone like Avonte Maddox to Safety in order to avoid congestion, but this move makes a tone of sense. Mainly because the defensive back coach who orchestrated that 2018 breakout, Marquand Manuel, would be coaching him again in Philadelphia.
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