Philadelphia Eagles

Why the Eagles need to build their secondary around Darius Slay

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The Eagles are set to undergo an offseason of change. The process is already well underway with a full coaching staff rebuild, but how much of that same mentality will extend to the players? In a recent article where he forecasts the future of each position, Brandon Lee Gowton stated that the Eagles should move on from Darius Slay. For whatever reason, this took off and caused a chaotic stream of discussion on social media. But what should the Eagles do with their current CB1?

The salary cap situation

With the new salary cap announced, the Eagles sit $53M in the red. That’s not ideal. Darius Slay, who is approaching the age of 31-years-old, will cost the team $15.75M next season. It’s easy to add 2+2 together…but there’s a chance you’ll end up with 5.

Slay may be the fifth-most expensive player on the roster, but that doesn’t mean he should be instantly discarded.

We know that the Eagles have invested a ton in their defensive front, with Malik Jackson taking a significant restructure already in order to make his contract more appetizing to trade suitors. If the Eagles were to part ways with Derek Barnett in his fifth-year, that would save them $10M.

On offense, we can assume DeSean Jackson ($10M) and Alshon Jeffery ($6M after restructure) will be handed an early exit. These three moves combined would negate half of that debt.

If we are to assume Zach Ertz is another Eagle facing an early departure, that’s at least another $4M off the books, potentially another $8.2M.

Marquise Goodwin is still on the roster at $4m. That probably won’t be the case for long.

It’s also probable that Roseman looks to restructure several contracts. Carson Wentz is first on the list, while Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson may also face a fluttering of eyelids from Howie Roseman. Fletcher Cox will cost a monumental $23M next year. I can’t see that being the case by the time the Draft arrives.

Sure, moving on from Darius Slay is a viable option, but so is putting peanut butter on a block of cheese and eating it whole.

Darius Slay wasn’t the problem

The other argument given was that Slay is ‘regressing’ and wasn’t exactly his best last year. From a ball-production standpoint, that’s absolutely true. But not a single Eagles CB has had a 5 interception season under Jim Schwartz. The scheme doesn’t lend itself to turnovers at the point of the catch. Instead, it banks on corners and safeties closing off deeper routes, forcing the QB to keep the ball in his hands longer and expose him to a rampant pass-rush.

If we subtract DK Metcalf’s 158-yard romp and Davante Adams’ 100-yard outing that came one week later, his season looks significantly better. He helped hold Terry McLaurin to just 28 yards, Jarvis Landry to 13, Michael Thomas to 33, and Juju Smith-Schuster to 11. Slay had only given up 50+ yards to a receiver twice this season and both came in those wildfire defeats. He also only allowed three touchdowns this year, with Davante Adams doing the damage on two.

Slay’s value came in shutting down big-name receivers, which is exactly what he was brought in to do. It’s not his fault that QB’s know he can blanket his top target, so just turns his eyes to the other side of the field where an array of nickel corners are being burned alive time and time again.

Without Slay, the Eagles quite literally have nothing in the secondary to stop minor bleeding turning into a traumatic injury.

The trade wasn’t even bad

The idea that the Eagles overpaid is a silly one. In dire need of CB help, the Eagles sought to part ways with draft capital and curate a shorter deal as opposed to paying for the big boy in Byron Jones. This was one of the very few moves that actually panned out for the Eagles, who at the time believed they were just a few pieces away from being a real contender. Howie then decided to blow that into oblivion, but isolating this trade as a mistake because of it just makes no sense.

Life after Darius Slay

Darius Slay isn’t the issue with the secondary. The Eagles needed a playmaker badly and it came down to Slay vs Byron Jones. The idea of trading for Slay could based on the premise that he holds the fort until a successor is developed. Given that we now know Avonte Maddox is definitely better suited to a nickel role, drafting a CB2 is likely, and the idea of landing a potential future CB1 who can learn under a secondary-orientated defensive coordinator in Gannon and a veteran leader in Darius Slay is enticing.

The Eagles can part ways with Darius Slay for $13.5M next offseason and there may even be a sneaky restructure this year. But to even suggest parting ways with him because the team isn’t in a ‘win-now’ mode makes no sense when without him, the team won’t be winning at all.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire

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Liam is a 25-year old sports journalist from the UK and founder of the Philly Sports Network. In just five years he turned a hobby into one of the fastest-growing Philadelphia sports sites in the world, amassing 7,000,000 views and writing over 3,000 articles. Drawing attention from the likes of CSN, NJ.Com and Bleacher Report in the process, Liam is set on changing the way Philadelphia sports teams are reported on forever.

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1 comment

  • Dave says:

    Unless Roseman pulls off a miracle and makes blockbuster trades and drafts like the Wizard we all know he isn’t, moving on from Slay would be insane and completely counterproductive. Let’s take your points one by one

    We know that the Eagles have invested a ton in their defensive front, with Malik Jackson taking a significant restructure already in order to make his contract more appetizing to trade suitors.

    This is a good thing, because this guy was supposed to be a monster playing next to Cox, and he was anything but. If they can get some good trade value….see ya. Maybe with Gagnon things will be better, but Jackson is on the wrong side of 30 and moving on for picks and/or a player makes a ton of sense

    If the Eagles were to part ways with Derek Barnett in his fifth-year, that would save them $10M.

    Barnett is serviceable as a rotational guy, so offer him years at a lower salary with an option to get out

    On offense, we can assume DeSean Jackson ($10M) and Alshon Jeffery ($6M after restructure) will be handed an early exit. These three moves combined would negate half of that debt.

    Absolutely no argument here, and if fact, I will hold the door for both of them…possibly all 3 if Barnett isn’t amenable to the restructure

    If we are to assume Zach Ertz is another Eagle facing an early departure, that’s at least another $4M off the books, potentially another $8.2M.

    Someone will trade for Ertz by looking at his previous production and the correlation of Wentz’s terrible year and he will bring value, even if it’s a mid to late round pick

    Marquise Goodwin is still on the roster at $4m. That probably won’t be the case for long.

    Marquise who?

    It’s also probable that Roseman looks to restructure several contracts. Carson Wentz is first on the list

    Wentz should absolutely first on the list. The Eagles need to save money and make this guy more tradeable. Every day that goes by with his silence…nothing about last season…nothing about the new staff….nothing about being excited to play in Philly next year tells me Wentz has checked out mentally.

    Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson may also face a fluttering of eyelids from Howie Roseman

    Brooks is beast, but lately the guy has been injured it seems more than he has been on the field. If you have a guy filling in for him for an entire year, you can just waive him with an injury settlement and save a ton of cap, and whether its Herbig or Driscoll who becomes the new RG, that is a ton of cap. I would love to have Brooks back, but, the guy has to stay on the field. He makes too much to be in the trainer’s room or on the DL

    Hopefully Johnson’s ankle surgery and rehab will have fixed his issue, but when a guy announces that his ankle is collapsing in on itself and he has already had 2 surgeries to fix it….it’s not a good sign. The Eagles really need OL help in this draft, or maybe swing a trade for someone. So far, it’s looking like Mailata, Seo, Kelce will be the left side….it just remains to be seen if Brooks and Johnson are back ready to go, or we move on

    Fletcher Cox will cost a monumental $23M next year. I can’t see that being the case by the time the Draft arrives.

    Cox is a great player, but not elite for the $ he is costing the Eagles. Yes, he faces double teams on almost every play, but so do a lot of other players. I realize there are only so many Aaron Donald’s in the league, but if it takes putting a Fletcher Cox next to Fletcher Cox for Cox to be really good, you start to wonder, is he really that good? He is a very solid player and in that rotation, you won’t find many DT’s better, but is he $23m good? ….is anybody $23m good? I think you give him a few years, with that phony extra year they tack on, give him a signing bonus in year 2 or 3 so the cap hit per year is lower, put in some contract incentives, and we have a really good DT for the next several years with a cap hit of around $15m vs $23m

    So, regarding Slay…he did have a couple of games where he was roasted, but a lot of that was scheme. Many people don’t understand how that works…they just see that player getting torched. Watch how other teams play, and how they bring S help over the top to double team that guy. The Eagles couldn’t, because McCloud was it, and the problem has always been the other side. When you face a team with 2 good wideouts, let’s take the Cowboys in particular….they have 3 really good receivers. We have 1 good CB. When you’re trotting out Grayland Arnold, and Rudy Ford and Michael Jacquet and Maddox and LeBlanc and Mills and Robey-Coleman….you’re not scaring anybody. Couple that with LB’s who are not stellar in coverage and Slay becomes the victim. If Slay’s assignment is the best guy on every team, then he’s the guy who looks bad. Metcalf and Adams averaged right around 100 yds. every game, so there were 15 other guys who had the same problem. Get an even decent # 2 CB, and the D will improve greatly

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