The Eagles finally added some serenity to their secondary yesterday by signing former Steelers CB Steven Nelson to a one-year deal. Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to look at the winners and losers from the move.
Winners from the Steven Nelson signing
There was naturally a lot of apprehension surrounding the Eagles secondary prior to yesterday’s move. Nobody really knew if Maddox was going to be competing for a spot on the outside again, or instead return to the slot where he previously looked his best.
The addition of Steven Nelson all but confirms that Maddox will be back in the slot, which is great news for the 5’9 corner who has all the requisite traits to shine there, but whose smaller frame was punished when left to play on the boundary.
Maddox gives the Eagles an experienced nickel corner who should easily provide a floor higher than that of Nickell Robey-Coleman, who struggled in Philadelphia last year.
Darius Slay wasn’t exceptional last year, but he was as solid as one could ask for outside of a few games. What really hurt the secondary was the fact that opposing quarterbacks would just rip it apart by targeting the receiver isn’t covering due to the blatant mismatch. Nelson’s presence should at least level the playing field in that regard, meaning that Slay will be given more opportunities to live up to his ‘big play’ reputation and that his efforts will no longer be all for nothing.
The DB specialist will start his first season as a defensive coordinator with a secondary that may well be the most stable (on paper) the Eagles have had in years. Darius Slay and Steven Nelson on the outside, Avonte Maddox in the slot, and the safety duo of Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris supporting over the top. It will be very interesting to watch how Gannon molds this group and watch its progression as the year goes on.
The Eagles GM caught a lot of heat this offseason, and understandably so, but let’s give credit where credit is due. In an offseason where the team were strapped for cap space, Roseman has been able to bring in a top-tier free agent CB to Philadelphia and that’s just the start.
Ryan Kerrigan is one of the best pass-rushers of the past decade.
Eric Wilson was among the top coverage linebackers on the market.
Joe Flacco has started games for every team he’s signed with, bringing valuable experience to the QB spot.
For a team that’s supposed to be rebuilding, they’ve been able to lure some high-profile names to the City of Brotherly Love on one-year prove it deals, and that has to be seen as a huge positive as far as Howie Roseman is concerned.
Losers from the signing
The NFC East
If there was one advantage every team in the division had over the Eagles, it was the WR vs CB matchups. Dallas has a scintillating corps that ripped the Eagles to pieces last year, Terry McLaurin’s presence alone is enough to command non-stop attention, and New York have a lot of depth including Kenny Golladay and rookie Kadarius Toney. Without a viable CB2, winning over 50% of games against those in the division felt like a lofty expectation due to a projected inability to stop the bleeding.
Steven Nelson will act as the bandaid in that regard, being able to take away those pesky speed options on the outside. A versatile corner who has a lot of twitch at his disposal, Nelson should at least be able to disrupt the timing of routes in man-coverage, forcing a QB to and give the pass rush ample time to do their job – something they’ve lacked over the last few years.
The CB2 crew
Believe it or not, I was actually looking forward to seeing the likes of Craig James, Michael Jacquet, and Kevon Seymour battle it out this offseason. If the team wasn’t going to be overly competitive this year, it made sense to see what you have in the young guys, pay attention to how well a new staff can potentially develop them, and then use a trio of first-round picks to invest into the position next offseason. There’s no doubting that the signing of Steven Nelson is a good one, but it does strip us of a chance to see what these underdogs have to offer.
Potential cap casualties
The Eagles are still yet to sign second-round rookie Landon Dickerson to a contract and while Steven Nelson’s contract isn’t the most expensive, they had around $3.7M in cap space before the signing, meaning that somehow, some way, they’re going to need Dickerson on their books as well as keeping some cap space in their back pocket. This means that we may end up seeing a potential cap casualty.
The most obvious names are Zach Ertz and Derek Barnett, who both carry cap hits over $8M and have their own reasons why a departure would make sense. The trade market for Ertz has been represented as rampant but in all reality has been anything but. If the Eagles are in desperate need of cap space to facilitate Dickerson’s contract, don’t be surprised to see either their once beloved TE or Derek Barnett shipped out.
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