Marcus Epps vs Tyrann Mathieu: It’s closer than you think for the Eagles

NFL: SEP 27 Bengals at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 27: Philadelphia Eagles safety Marcus Epps (22) looks on during the game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Philadelphia Eagles on September 27, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Time is ticking for Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles. If they want to sign Tyrann Mathieu, they’re going to have to act fast. Every day that passes allows for a team like New Orleans to pip them to the post. It’s safe to say that Roseman is acting on the side of caution, but why? If not Mathieu, then who?

Enter Marcus Epps.

Losing Rodney McLeod stings on the surface for the City as he was a proven veteran who grew into a fan favorite thanks to his selfless community work and leadership on the field. In terms of the bigger picture, things don’t exactly get much better….until you zoom out.

The rise of Marcus Epps

He’s not the most high-profile name on the roster. In fact, you probably associate ‘special teams’ with him more than actual defensive production, but that would be unfair. Epps has quietly climbed his way up the depth chart over the last two years and while he may not be a devout starter just yet, it’s impossible to ignore him.

PFF had Epps as the second-best safety in run defense last year at 88.9. With Anthony Harris primarily playing over the top, the Eagles will be prioritizing a strong tackler who can come down in the box and make plays. That’s what Epps does best, and is echoed by the fact he only missed 6.8% of tackles last year. For context, Tyrann Mathieu missed 9.5% – his second-best single-season rate.

Marcus Epps vs Tyrann Mathieu – head to head

At a very basic rate, Mathieu is a complete safety who is just as efficient playing deep as he is in the box.

In coverage, Mathieu allowed 69.2% of 36 targets to be completed for 414 yards and 3 touchdowns. Epps was targeted 28 times, allowing 78.6% to be completed for 280 yards and 2 touchdowns. While there’s a stark jump in completion percentage, it’s important to remember that Anthony Harris, who is back next season, posted a completion percentage allowed of just over 50%. He’s a far more efficient coverage safety and his presence would allow Epps the freedom to do what he does best – become a heat-seeking missile and make tackles in the open field.

Here comes the money

Then, there’s the monetary side of things. Epps is in his contract-year in Philadelphia and will cost the team under $1m. Tyrann Mathieu would likely cost the Eagles a fair chunk of guaranteed money. His most recent contract was with the Chiefs and was valued at $42M over three years. While he’s absolutely deserving of that money, does Howie Roseman want to pay a near-30-year-old somewhere in the region of $8-9M guaranteed over a year or two when he could simply draft a viable sucessor to Epps who won’t only keep costs down, but offer the Eagles long-term stability?

Is The Honey Badger the right guy for the job?

Mathieu is a three-time All-Pro. I get it. He’s a fantastic leader, a hard-hitter, and someone who would fit the Philadelphia attitude perfectly. But this isn’t the same Howie Roseman we’ve seen in year’s past. Nobody is expecting the Eagles to compete next year. If they were, Roseman would’ve used those three picks to leverage in trades for immediate difference-makers as opposed for more picks down the road.

The Eagles aren’t one player away from a Championship run and Marcus Epps has done more than enough to at least earn a shot to start next season and play his way to a long-term future. If it came between choosing to go after Tyrann Matheiu or using that $10M to invest in long-term contract moves for players who will be far more important to the long-term stability of the franchise such as:

Nate Herbig (2023 FA)
Isaac Seumalo (2023 FA)
Miles Sanders (2023 FA)
Javon Hargrave (2023 FA)

Then I choose Eppsy every single time.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire

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