The Eagles have some hefty decisions to make at cornerback this offseason and the clock is officially ticking. Free agency opens on March 18th and the dynamic in the secondary could flip on its head in a heartbeat. Should the Eagles embrace this drastic change, or try to retain as many assets as they can?
It seems inevitable that Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are leaving the building as free agents, leaving Philly with a need for at least two outside starters. The dots connecting pending free agent Byron Jones to the Eagles are glistening and with reported interest in names like Chris Harris Jr. and Darius Slay, we can expect at least one cornerstone to arrive. But what about the rest of the band?
The truth is that Douglas has been one of the most mysterious draft picks in recent memory. On paper, he was a rangy cornerback that thrived at the catch-point and that was apparent whenever he was allowed onto the field during his first few years.
But there seemed to be a discrepancy between the coaching staff and front office. The defensive coaches clearly preferred just about every other corner to Sul, (let’s not forget that time in 2018 where they literally went out and signed Dexter McDougle off the street who proceeded to run into Jordan Hicks before being cut, before giving Douglas a shot) and despite a clear leap in his tackling ability and injuries to just about everyone else, he couldn’t show them enough to stay on the field.
Douglas would benefit from a change of scenery and it’s easy to see him thriving elsewhere. At this point, if the Eagles are going to rejuvenate their secondary, it makes sense to try and get value from as many areas as they can. Douglas is entering his final contracted year, so a deal-sweetening trade could be ideal here, as upsetting as it would be for fans to watch him leave.
Jones is in a similar spot to Douglas. Now in his contract year, the former second-round pick could be a valuable trade asset. The difference is that Jones has experienced a weird development arc. Hampered by injuries, throughout his career, Jones hit a point last year where he was called out by Doug Pederson and Malcolm Jenkins before being benched for five weeks. Upon his return, he made some of the biggest plays of the entire Eagles’ season.
Can Jones be relied on as a CB2 alongside a free agent for a year? You could roll the dice. In fact, it’s very tempting because of how many elite flashes Jones has exhibited since being drafted in 2017. It’s just a question of staying healthy and consistent. He’s less likely to be traded than Douglas, but it will be a do-or-die year.
Captain Cre’Von was given a new deal while recovering from his Lisfranc injury. He’ll be a lead candidate for the starting nickel job (providing Chris Harris Jr. isn’t arriving).
Maddox definitely experienced a step back in play from his exceptional rookie season and I think there could be a genuine chance that the Eagles experiment with a full-time move to Safety. It would free up the depth chart for new additions, keep a young, versatile talent on the roster, and fill a position of dire need given that Jenkins and McLeod could both be on their way out. It’s a reach, but Maddox played very well at Safety in 2018 having never played the spot before.
All of this would leave the Eagles depth chart looking like this:
CB2: Sidney Jones
CB3: Cre’Von LeBlanc
CB5: Craig James
It allows the Eagles to draft a developmental talent and sign the cornerstone that has been needed since the beginning of the Doug Pederson era. There’s a chance that more spaces free up, but given the magnitude of needs elsewhere, this seems like a plausible scenario.
How would you tackle the CB spot this offseason?