Five free agent cornerbacks the Eagles should target after the NFL Draft

NFL: DEC 08 Chargers at Jaguars
JACKSONVILLE, FL – DECEMBER 08: Los Angeles Chargers Cornerback Casey Hayward (26) during the game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Jacksonville Jaguars on December 8, 2019 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Eagles walk away from the NFL Draft with nine shiny new players to develop, but only one cornerback. What was arguably the most prominent need on the entire roster went totally unaccounted for apart from the addition of Zech McPhearson, a slot cornerback out of Texas Tech.

The Eagles still have a dire short-term need for an outside corner. Howie Roseman mentioned that they don’t intend to stop building their roster anytime soon and hinted at dipping into the free agency pool. Here are five players who are currently still on the market and could be a fit in Philly.

Casey Hayward

Now 31-years-old, Casey Hayward is a few years removed from his back-to-back Pro Bowls. However, he remains a very viable CB2 candidate and someone who has previously worked with Eagles Head Coach Nick Sirianni. If there’s anyone who knows him well, it’s a coach who watched his players go up against him every single day of the Summers they spent.

Hayward is one of the lone corners still on the market who can fill a boundary role. He may no longer be the ballhawk he once was, but he’s a serviceable starter who can fill the void for a season before the Eagles presumably draft the long-term option.

Gareon Conley

A former first-round pick, Gareon Conley has fallen from grace for a multitude of reasons. He was traded to the Texans in 2019 and missed the entire 2020 campaign due to an ankle injury. Houston opted to let him test free agency waters and he’s been sailing them ever since.

He has 5 interceptions and 29 passes defensed to his name so far but is still only 25-years-old! In 2019, he allowed 35/65 passes thrown his way to be completed for 590 yards. That’s punching at a very similar weight to Casey Hayward, who allowed 594 yards in total on 69 targets.

For such a young corner, former Colts DB coach Jonathan Gannon would likely have a field day trying to get Conley back to his best. It’s the ultimate low-risk, high-reward signing.

Steven Nelson

Steven Nelson has been linked to the Eagles for quite some time now and remains unsigned. He is probably the most expensive option on the market and Nelson himself has even stated that he doesn’t want to settle for anything less than what he’s worth.

If it’s a big payday he’s chasing, then Philadelphia might not be the place for him. But if enough time passes and he decides that he wants a starting role with the chance to earn a bigger contract elsewhere next season, that’s when things get interesting.

Nelson’s two-year stint with the Steelers was strong. Allowing less than 50% of balls his way to be completed in 2020, he amassed 2 interceptions along with 10 pass breakups and 48 tackles. At 28-years-old, he’s in his prime and one of the better man-cover corners in the league. The problem is that the Eagles have now changed to a zonal defense and it may not be the best fit for his skill set.

Richard Sherman

The biggest name on this list by a country mile, Richard Sherman is now 33-years-old and is coming off of a three-year stint with the Niners. After being made a five-time Pro Bowler in 2019, Sherman missed 11 games in 2020 with a calf injury. One of the most eloquent and intuitive names off the field, Sherman could still provide a lot of upside on it for an interested team, but the question is just how much juice is there left to squeeze?

If we’re going off of his form in 2019, then plenty. He ranked as PFF’s top cornerback and first in coverage ratings. If we’re to go off 2020, he gave up 3 touchdowns in 5 games. The Eagles are also now moving away from what would’ve been a perfect cover-3 fit for the former Seahawk.

Sherman has reportedly spoke to several teams throughout the offseason, but the Eagles have not yet come up in conversation. Maybe the price-tag is too heavy, or the team want to retain their status of getting younger. I wouldn’t write Sherman off, as after all, he is one of the best corners of the past decade.

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Baushad Breeland

It is genuinely surprising that Breeland has not been signed yet. He did miss four games last season due to a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, but it’s not like he had a particularly down year. In fact, it was one of his better ones.

He boasts the best completion percentage allowed of all corners listed here, giving up 23 completions on 50 targets for just 327 yards. He started 11 games, picked off 2 passes, and broke up a further 7. Bleacher Report highlighted that over the last three seasons, those numbers haven’t dipped much at all. He’s allowed a 72.3 passer rating in that span along with a mere 50% completion rate.

While he’s a great man corner who can take away deep routes, he’s not exactly the most consistent corner on any routes underneath. For lack of a better comparison, think about a less-damaging Ronald Darby. Against short passes, Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar noted that he gave up 24 completions on 36 targets for 296 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. Not great for a defense moving to a cover-2.

Breeland’s last contract was a one-year deal worth $4.5M. He played far beyond that value, but with the free agency market so dry now, a contract of similar value could well be plausible. Breeland has proved his worth as an outside corner after a couple of topsy turvy stints in Green Bay and Washington. A return to the NFC east could both be logical and likely if the Eagles want to find a mid-term solution to their cornerback problem.

Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire